1. Please describe your job. What do you do as the founder?
My job as the founder is not very well defined. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say I do almost everything. Sometimes it’s about being the janitor, sometimes it’s becoming the CEO and thinking about the strategic roadmap, fundraising.
I started this business along with my wife. We started with 75 products in Montreal and today we have about 750 products across entire Canada. We went from a single warehouse (our home) to a warehouse which is about 10 times larger now.
Today I just focus on hiring the right people for roles like building the website, managing the orders, pricing, shipping, delivery etc. Earlier I would do these myself.
But Melissa (my wife and Co-founder) and I keep customer interaction with ourselves as we love to talk to the customer and understand their likes and dislikes.
The next thing that my role involves is always thinking about what should we do to grow faster. This includes but not limited to: people, funds, advisors, new products.
2. Tell us about a typical working day
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is spend time with the family. I have a 10 months old son and it’s a big job. I am learning that aspect as well. Post that I begin the business activity.
The first thing I do is answer customers (new or existing) queries on different platforms. This ensures they get a good service. Most customer queries revolve around:
1. Status of their order: Customers want to understand exactly where their order is
2. Special instructions: At times customers have a special instruction for the delivery person e.g. instructions around accessing the apartment entrance.
3. Additional products: A lot of our customers are regular customers and we get special requirements for the different products that they need, which are not already available.
Once I have answered all the customer queries, I plan the day: Service orders, work with the employees and give them targets for each day. It could be targets for delivery, customer responses and so on.
Finally, I spend time on strategy: The projects that we are working on for the long term goal of our company. Let’s take marketing, for example, this could involve discussion around ads, better SEO, co-marketing with other brands/blogs or just focus on our brand image.
3. What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Goals and KPIs:
- Sales and Profitability: The idea is to make sure that we are growing at a healthy pace.
- Repeat customers: For any eCommerce business this is the most important metric. Especially in the grocery business.
- Customer Service: Ensure all orders are completed, delivered on time. If something breaks (missed product, or late delivery) then we focus on why did this happen and build a process around it.
- Employee Satisfaction: We ensure everyone is happy at their work and if our employee needs something then we help them.
4. What do you love about Shopify? What made you pick Shopify over other options?
- When we began originally, we were clear we want to choose a tech platform that requires minimal effort in building things. I personally don’t come from a tech background. I am computer savvy but I can’t write code. So one of the things that was important was that the platform would meet our needs without any technical knowledge. There were a lot of other platforms but they needed a lot of dev effort.
- We really wanted a platform that was built for commerce. E.g. Squarespace is a great platform to build a website but not for commerce. Shopify is best for commerce, it has checkout, add to cart, menu, categories and so on.
- We wanted a platform where the platform itself would continuously improve and evolve. Shopify one was the biggest platform and continuously adding new features. So I knew that every 6 months I will have more capabilities.
And on all of these three fronts, Shopify has done a great job.
The only thing that’s missing is customer support, it has gone down a little bit compared to what it was 3 years ago.
5. What problems do you face in your daily routine related to work and how do you tackle it or plan to tackle it?
Demand: It can come from a variety of different directions. Specially supply and demand. It is tough to identify the demand for a product. Sometimes people buy the product once a month, sometimes its 10 times a month. In our business, everything is imported from India and hence this is a huge challenge as customer requirements continue to change. So we are always working to ensure we have things in stock. We use a variety of forecasting techniques. We also try to keep some stock in reserve.
Delivery: We use Canada Post for delivery all over Canada. In this case, the service quality is dictated by the way Canada post is delivering. Sometimes when we have to send huge packages to remote regions in Canada, it is difficult to ensure quality delivery. We work very meticulously to ensure we can serve a broad base of customers and not just specific customer and keep them all happy as well.
6.How do you keep yourself updated with what’s new in this business? Do you read or watch any content that is related to your business?
I am not a big listener of Podcasts.
I watch a lot of business videos. I read a lot of articles on platforms like medium, LinkedIn, news websites. In terms of interest, I like to keep myself updated with what’s happening in the startup world.
I listen to Scott Galloway and get business insights
In addition, I closely follow Ocado (a Grocery giant from the UK) to learn about what we should be doing in the grocery industry.
We also interact a lot with the business community within Canada. They may not be tech people but they have built valuable businesses with traditional business knowledge in depth.
7. What is your take on voice as a channel for Shopify store owners?
Voice commerce, for me, is an area that’s always been interesting, especially in the last 6 months to a year. Alexa has over 100M devices, so voice searches are skyrocketing. There is definitely is a large market and it’s on our roadmap to see how we can leverage voice as a channel. In some cases voice is very easy to use, for example, listening to the song, find out the weather but in some cases where it is more research focussed, then I wonder how the experience would be on voice compared to the web.
8. At what stage of the journey do you think Shopify store owners should consider using voice as a channel or what do you think will be great use cases for voice in eCommerce?
The biggest use case would be when I want to find out particular information about a product. Let’s say if I want to buy particular ice cream. I want to find out if a store has this ice cream. So if I can ask Alexa then I don’t need to pick up the phone or go to the website.
9. Any advice for people getting into eCommerce?
eCommerce is great but most importantly the person needs to think about their business model. Its easier than ever before to build a website but the website is not really the business. It’s only the storefront. You need to focus on all of the other things like logistics, supply, testing the ground, pricing, defining the product offering.
Keeping that in mind, even if it takes 6 months to 1 year, its defintely worth it.
Once you have things figured out, then you just need to focus on growth at scale.
Yatin Singal did a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology, where he graduated with First Class Honours in 2010. Shortly after graduation, he started working in various position in the Pharmaceutical industry, first in the United Kingdom and then in Switzerland, where his final title was Global Value Chain Manager at Novartis. He graduated from the McGill MBA in 2017 and did his summer internship at IBM as a Product Manager in Toronto. During his MBA, Yatin worked as a business consultant for several start-ups and started his e-commerce business Singals.ca with his wife Melissa. Established in Montreal, Singals.ca now delivers more than 750 products all over Canada.