Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Customer Service Matters..(even for eCommerce)

At takas.lk we recently did a customer survey to figure out what we have been doing right and what we have been doing wrong. Bill Gates once said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” As a start-up we firmly believe in what he said. From the word go,we at takas.lk have strived to provide our customers with three core services. Firstly, great customer service, secondly convenience and thirdly choice. According to our customers’ responses it seems that we have done well in all three areas, and our customers have responded very positively to these three priorities. What they have now asked us to do is to provide them with better pricing, and this is exactly what we intend on doing in the future. I wish to share with you some of the positives from our survey, and lessons learned.

Our survey comprised of 10 questions aimed at evaluating customer satisfaction.

In regards to the question of ‘How happy are you with takas.lk?’ 70% of the respondents said that they were either extremely happy or very happy and none of the respondents stated that they were not happy.

In regards to the question of ‘How convenient is our website to use?’ 82.5% of the respondents stated that the site is extremely or very convenient to use. In regards to the question of ‘How responsive is our service team to your needs?’ 81% of those who responded stated that the takas.lk team was either extremely responsive or very responsive to their needs.

Needless to say we were very heartened by what we heard back from our customers.

We attribute our current success to doing a few things right in regards to servicing our customers, and here are some of the practices that may help you build up your business.

11.)    Be honest- never try to make a sale, but try to win a customer. We are at times under extreme pressure to hit targets/make sales and are at times forced to bend the truth. Try to avoid doing this, be honest with your customers. Once a customer can trust you they will keep coming back to you for more business. You break that trust you may lose the customer forever.
22.)    Never make promises you can’t keep- sometimes a customer will call and ask if we can deliver the goods on the same day. While it’s tempting to say yes in order to make a sale, we are always honest about the time frame that they can expect a product delivered. This helps build trust between the customer and yourself and you avoid disappointments.
33.)    Always listen to the customer and deal with their complaints- my father always says:“The customer is the king/queen. So treat the customer as such. They can be our greatest source of learning.”
44.)    Take that extra step- smile on the phone when you talk to a customer, even though they can never see your face they will always know. When making deliveries be friendly and helpful.
55.)    Finally TRUST your customer! There are always a few bad apples in the world, but this doesn’t mean everyone is out to get you. So don’t make business decisions on the few who can cause you some harm on the expense of the many good people out there. For instance, takas.lk was the first to introduce Cash on Delivery (COD) in SL. Most of the eCommerce companies in SL thought it was too ‘risky’. We chose to trust our customer’s right form the onset and they have not disappointed us. And everyone else followed us after.

I wanted to write this piece on from the human angle of business since lately much of the conversation revolves around the technological aspects. At the end of the day we are providing services to people, the human angle should always be kept in mind.

The writer is the CEO of takas.lk and holds a BA from the University of Maryland, and a Masters from the University of Queensland, Australia.

Monday, October 7, 2013

3D Printing comes to Sri Lanka

3D Concept Studios will be the first Sri Lankan company to bring 3D printers to Sri Lanka for public use. Before 3D Concept Studios came along there was only one known 3D printer in Sri Lanka at the University of Moratuwa, which is fairly advanced in terms of quality of the end product but was only available at the premium price. The price factor and the availability of just one 3D printer limited the use of the technology. However, bringing down a more cost effective printing machine will translate in to science fiction will become science fact in days to come.

What is 3D printing? The process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes; or simply put, going from design to an actual product in a matter of hours.
While 3D printing has been used by industry for more than 30 years, it’s only in the last few years that it has been accessible to the wider population. Furthermore, its technology has improved to such a degree that human body parts are now grown using 3D technology. Anything from your ears to a spare kidney can now be printed in a lab. But it is expected real use of this technology for medical purposes taking at least another decade or so. Furthermore, if we are to believe the predictions given by the 3D guru’s of our time, we will expect 3D printers in the homes of people, where we will be simply printing whatever we want which will even include what we will eat.

All this said, what type of 3D printing will be available in Sri Lanka? You will be able to do both single colour and double colour modeling with the printers that are being brought down. This means that you will be able to create pretty much any design in plastic within a certain size limit (generally a shoe box). This will be invaluable for students and firms who wish to see their designs come to life for a fraction of the cost and time it would take to build it themselves. It will also be great for the average user to build hard-to-find parts, anything from a vent for your refrigerator to a part to run your classic car.
3D printing has been the biggest break through since the advent of printing itself. There is no other way to put it. 3D printing being commercially available in Sri Lanka is bound to increase the productivity and ingenuity of Sri Lankans. Now the only limitation to creating the impossible is ones imagination.

The 3D Concept Studio will be holding some workshops where the general public will be able to partake in weeks to come.You can find out more about the events and how to register at www.takas.lk

The writer is the CEO of takas.lk.He holds a BA from the University of Maryland and an MA from the University of Queensland. He can be reached for comments on lahiru@takas.lk

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why e-commerce will explode in SL in the very near future!

I have been asked the question of if e commerce will work in SL. My answer have always been that e commerce will explode in SL in the very near future and here is why. The number of internet users in Sri Lanka has grown exponentially in the last few years, at present 4 million Sri Lankans have online access. Sri Lankans using the internet to purchase online is also on the increase. The current retail market in Sri Lanka stands at approximately USD 7 billion, while the e-commerce market has a smaller share, or USD 25 million. However, if we expect the same growth patterns e-commerce has experienced in India to transpire here, Sri Lanka should expect phenomenal growth in this area. The total e-commerce market in 5 years will be close to USD 700 million.

Looking at the Indian e-commerce growth story, what is to come will be very exciting. Indian e-commerce grew at 100% year on year from 2012 -13, largely fuelled by major players like Flipkart investing heavily in the area. The industry is expected to grow at 60% for the next 5 years and be one of the fastest growing markets in Asia. We can expect the same here in Sri Lanka, and it’s a bit strange that our growth has not exploded already. Internet penetration in SL is higher than in India, furthermore the average income of Sri Lankans is higher than that of India. For instance the average order value for an e-commerce company in India is approximately LKR 4000, while from our experience at takas.lk the order value is twice that amount.

Furthermore, e-commerce just makes sense. Why? At takas.lk we have more than 3,000 products under one roof, but we don’t warehouse anything, and unlike many other ‘e-commerce’ companies in SL we don’t have a retail space, which means we save a lot of money on expensive real-estate. With growing internet penetration e-commerce companies will also have a much larger reach than traditional retail business. For instance we regularly deliver to places like Galle and Trincomalee where customers don’t have access to the same range of products. In time these fundamentals will also affect the more brick and mortar retailers, as customers demand lower cost products. This will leave e-commerce as one of the most viable alternatives to keep costs low and reach a very large customer base.

Thus to sum up, traditional retailers will have to start thinking about investing in e-commerce very soon, if they have not already, in order to survive in the retail sector in the future. The ones who master the e-commerce space will master the retail space in years to come. 

The Writer is the CEO of www.takas.lk which is Sri Lanka's Largest Online Electronics Mall

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and why NOW in Sri Lanka?

Recently the World Bank Office in Sri Lanka arranged for a FaceBook Discussion on ICT industries in Sri Lanka where the public had the opportunity of speaking of young entrepreneur in the tech industry. As a part discussion I wrote a blog piece on the question on the impact of ICT at the ground level on day to day problem solving from Micro to Macro. These are my reflections on it.
Just over a year ago we wanted to set up Sri Lanka’s Largest Electronics Mall (takas.lk). We decided to embark on this since we firmly believed that there was space for an e commerce player to come in to cater to customer who was tech savvy and wanted to buy electronics online. We archived this goal literally overnight. When takas.lk came out as a site we were the largest! Under a traditional retail model with the level of funding we had becoming Sri Lanka’s largest electronics mall would have been near impossible! Why? It would have required huge levels if funds to buy and store goods, and hundreds of people would have been needed to be employed to sell goods, to work on stores. Thus ICT helped us in leapfrogging traditional retail on reaching a benchmark which aids both us and the end user. Anyone with access to the internet can now log on to takas.lk to compare prices from nearly 2000 electronics products.

However, is the success story of takas.lk the only reason for embracing ICT for industry? Certainly not! It’s not even the tip of the Iceberg. What ICT allows anyone to do is that it helps us save time and money. ICT makes business more adaptable, and efficient. It also helps the end user. For instance, while takas.lk is the largest online store, we are also really fast about updating our stock levels. So customers generally know what items are in stock and not. There is also a wealth of information at any customer’s fingers tips, from the weight of an item to how much power it consumes.

In regards to macro level implications this is what I have to say. I know the term globalization does not get used much these days, but one of the major reasons globalization has quickened its pace and continues to do so, is because of ICT. ICT helps people communicate faster and cheaper than ever before. This also means that people now have more information at their fingertips than in anytime of human history. Just the other day I heard that an average person has more access to information than the President of the United States did back in 1995, and that’s only 13 years ago.
A problem can be defined as something that is difficult to achieve or accomplish, ICT in the broadest sense, helps in creating solutions every moment of everyday.  What ICT does is help us find solutions faster, either through helping us dig for solutions already out there or helping us communicate to find answers together.

The costs associated with ICT have come down dramatically. Technology in the field has grown and left every other industry in the Stone Age. For instance, had the combustion engine technology kept up with the ICT industry since the 1960’s, 4 liters of fuel would suffice to take us around the world!
Thus to sum I would say this. Embracing the ICT field is a must in meeting the future needs of the country and the world. Nothing is as accessible as technology nor comes at a cheaper rate. The technologies and the service sector that is developed in the ICT field will create jobs and be the engine that powers the economy for many years to come.