GoECart’s CEO Manish Chowdhary recently sat down with Gregory Skidmore and David Lehn — co-hosts of Greenwich Entrepreneurs Talk Show and WGCH radio program — to discuss current trends in ecommerce and online retail. Mr. Chowdhary spoke about how GoECart helps growing small businesses and middle market companies to break through “growth choke points” and drive online sales in today’s competitive ecommerce climate.
Click here to listen to the full interview!
In speaking about important trends for online businesses, Chowdhary pointed to the importance of cloud computing, where shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility. As an on-demand ecommerce platform provider, GoECart is at the center of the cloud computing storm, providing merchants with the seamless interconnected set of the applications on demand that they need to be successful on the web. These include:
- Affiliate Marketing and CRM
- Comparison Shopping
- Customer Service
- Ecommerce Marketplace
- Financial applications
- Fulfillment and Shipping
- Networking and Infrastructure
- Internet Marketing and Advertising
- Payment Solutions
- Rich Media
- Sales Tax Management & Compliance
- Security and Compliance
- Web Monitoring and Analytics
- Website Testing and Optimization
Regarding GoECart’s ability to adapt to the staggering pace of change in ecommerce, Chowdhary said, “We have to adapt to any shifts that are happening the internet space. Ultimately, our clients are successful when people buy online from one of the stores that we power. “We have to keep an eye on everything. It is our responsibility to be forward thinking, to be progressive, keeping our clients on that innovative edge but being realistic about what trends are meaningful what trends should we follow and what are fads we should avoid. Because at the end of the day, it’s about generating revenue and profit.”
Manish Chowdhary is CEO of GoECart and the visionary behind GoECart’s best-in-class software as a service (SaaS) ecommerce platform designed to help merchants Sell more™ on the web. He is regularly quoted in the media on topics concerning ecommerce and is a much sought after speaker for industry tradeshows and events.
Gregory Skidmore is the President of Belray Asset Management, which uses the asset allocation techniques of university endowments and pension funds to focus on serving their clients’ best interests. This institutional investment process seeks to: reduce conflicts of interest, lower fees, improve communication, decrease volatility, fund future needs, and increase predictability of returns.
David Lehn is a Managing Director at Withers Bergman, which has been advising individuals, companies, and charities for over a hundred years. They are an international commercial law firm with offices in London, Milan, Geneva, New Haven, New York and Greenwich.
GREG: Good morning and welcome to Greenwich Entrepreneurs. I’m Greg Skidmore, President of Belray Asset Management. I’m here with my co-host, David Lehn of Withers Bergman; he’s the managing director. Good morning, David. You’re the boss this morning. This could be your radio name “The Boss.”
GREG: Okay. Anyway, our entrepreneur this morning is Manish Chowdhary. Did I say that right?
MANISH: You got it right the second time. You’re getting better.
GREG: There are many options on how to say his name. So anyway, he is the CEO and founder of GoECart, which is a company that, I believe, helps businesses develop and manage their ecommerce solutions. Is that about right?
MANISH: That is correct.
GREG: Oh, good. So anyway, why don’t you start off and tell us a little bit about your business and then we’ll find out more about you.
MANISH: Perfect, Greg. GoECart, we are an ecommerce solutions provider, so we help small and medium-sized businesses sell online. Not only sell, but the goal is to really help them sell more and keep more of that profit back into their pocket.
GREG: So what type of company will come to you? Is it service providers or people that are selling a specific product? Are you often their first stop when they’re trying to figure out how to sell online, or they come to you after they’ve tried eBay or something?
MANISH: Well, generally, the companies that come to GoECart have had some sort of ecommerce presence in the past. They have taken a stab at ecommerce and they’re hitting some growth choke points and they want to break through and really start driving significant sales and upside. That’s when they begin to look for a superior next-generation ecommerce solution. That’s generally speaking, but we’re not restricted to only working with people who are doing ecommerce before, but anyone who is starting out as well but thinking strategically could be someone that we’ll be interested in working with.
GREG: I like that “choke points.” So what are choke points that people typically hit as they’re developing their online sales?
MANISH: Well, I mean, I think as you may have read the “Crossing the Chasm” by Jeffrey Moore, David. Everyone, you know, you start out, no matter what you do, whether you want to lose ten pounds or you want to learn how to swim, it’s a process. So you’ll start out and you’ll get some early success, and you’ll think that there’s no end to the world and you’re going to be at the top of it. Then you’re going to start hitting some resistance. It’s more likely at that point that things are going to get a little worse before they get better, as Seth Godin describes as “the dip.”
MANISH: So, it’s easy to just simply have a presence online and get some initial success, but as you start to drive volume, as you start to drive a lot of sales, you need all the expertise like marketing, SEO, usability, conversion – all the things that are necessary to scale that business – and that’s where technology can play a big role. That is what we help businesses do at GoECart. Help businesses that have had some success and that want to really take that to the next level can use GoECart platform to build their solution from that point on.
DAVID: So you have a great website. Is developing websites for businesses part of what you do? Is that like one of the first steps or is that something that’s already happening and you need to take that to the next level?
MANISH: So website is such a broad term today, right? I mean, everyone has a website, right? TD Ameritrade is a website. E-Trade is a website, if you speak. Yahoo is a website. Google is a website. Right? What’s happening is the web applications, is the software being delivered on the web. That’s the new terminology, as they have Software as a Service. So pretty much, everything is a website.
So if you’re referring to having content and ecommerce, GoECart provides both. You can build your content, whether it’s your static informational pages like About Us, Contact Us, that kind of stuff. But then you can also put all your product catalog, the checkout, the payment processing, shipping and fulfillment and all that.
DAVID: And that’s part of what GoECart does?
MANISH: Yes, the GoECart is a complete platform. So say you want to set up and start selling online, you would come to GoECart and put your branding, put your logo, put your color scheme, design your site. It’s all done through the web through a very easy to use back-end interface, where you can put your content in. So you don’t have to worry about installing a software, managing a server, backup, security, or “How do I connect to this bank? How do I connect to UPS?” All those tools are built in so you can focus solely on sales and marketing.
GREG: Now, what trends are you seeing within medium to small businesses? I mean, if you go back a few years, that type of product offering perhaps was only available to big companies. They could build the infrastructure themselves. A little bit what you’ve done is you package the infrastructure and you can sell it in smaller chunks so that it’s more affordable for business owners. Are you seeing smaller and smaller businesses do more sophisticated things on the web? What trends are you seeing within business owners and how they’re selling?
MANISH: Well, there’s some major shift and changes happening on the internet. In fact, one of the latest buzzwords out there is something called “cloud computing.” Now, people are professing the idea of “corporation of one,” meaning you could be an entrepreneur with an idea and you can possibly and potentially outsource every function you can think of, including your infrastructure.
There are providers like Google and Microsoft and SalesForce.com. These are people that are providing from entire servers and infrastructure. The beauty of it is previously, you had to shell out a lot of money to avail this top-tier infrastructure, but now, it’s become a concept or what they call “utility computing,” meaning you pay only for what you use. It’s almost synonymous with your electric outlets, you know. You plug when you need to power your appliances and you pay for what you use.
That’s really a radical shift that’s happening, and it’s empowering all kinds of people. You can pretty much outsource your software development, your testing, and your hosting. You could be a single person and run a multi-million dollar corporation, and it is absolutely possible.
GREG: The thing that’s interesting is you actually, in a way, are employing perhaps a big group of people and resources. It’s just that you’re sharing those resources with other people like yourself, and that makes them more affordable. Rather than hiring a full-time web designer or an ecommerce person, they’re using your resources and other people use them too. It makes them more affordable.
MANISH: Absolutely. The concept of shared resources, I mean, is similar to the time-sharing world back of the IBM days, you know. You can’t afford to buy a super computer but you can rent a portion of the utility power as and when you need. So we combine all our resources at GoECart and we’re able to offer and package all of this at a very, very affordable fee.
GREG: So what’s the competition like for you? I mean, this is an area that, at least as an outsider, appears to be growing. So you must be adapting really quickly, because I’m sure your company today is providing different solutions than it was three years ago. So what has this process been like for you as things are rapidly changing?
MANISH: Well, at GoECart, we are almost at the center of activity. As an ecommerce solution and a platform provider, we have to pretty much adapt to any shifts that are happening in the internet space, because ultimately, our clients are successful when people buy online from one of the stores that we power.
Consumers are influenced by everything that goes around, whether it’s Google or Amazon. For example, Apple launches an i-Pad and that’s creating a mobile revolution. Over time, consumers are going to expect that your website is going to work on mobile devices. We have to naturally adapt to the consumer demand that starts to develop, so we have to keep an eye on everything. You’re 100% right.
When they come to somebody like GoECart, it becomes our responsibility to be forward thinking, to be progressive in keeping our clients on that innovative edge but being realistic as to what trends are meaningful, what trends we should follow and what fads we should avoid, because at the end of the day, it’s about generating revenue and profit.
GREG: Well, let’s take a quick break, and when we come back, I want to get into you personally. You know, I think you came over from India at a young age, or relatively young – you weren’t a baby – and I always love hearing stories like that.
So anyway, let’s take a quick break. This is Greenwich Entrepreneurs, and this is 1490 WGCH. We’ll be back in a second.
GREG: Welcome back to Greenwich Entrepreneurs. I’m Greg Skidmore, President of Belray Asset Management, and I’m here with my co-host, David Lehn, who’s the managing director of Withers Bergman here in Greenwich. Our entrepreneur this morning is Manish Chowdhary who is the CEO of GoECart.
You, guys, were talking off the air and I heard “dorm room.” Whenever dorm room gets involved in a business, it’s a good story. So where were you, guys?
DAVID: Well, we were talking about how the business started, I’ll let you start with it, but you were in school, the University of Bridgeport in 2000. Why don’t you pick it up from there?
MANISH: Well, David, first of all, I was very pleased to know that you are a UB alumni as well, so that’s a great privilege. Well, I was very lucky-
DAVID: Well, technically, alumni of the UB Basketball ***. It was a great place to go back in the 60s and 70s.
MANISH: Well, I think it’s still very good. I was very blessed that UB gave me a very generous scholarship and that attracted me to UB. I couldn’t be more thankful. That allowed me the flexibility to explore my entrepreneurial spirits early on and founded the company at the University of Bridgeport when I was a sophomore there. Since then, I’ve moved on. They wouldn’t let me stay for ten years on campus.
DAVID: So you had that entrepreneurial bug.
MANISH: Yes, I did. It was something that I think I was born with. I come from a family of business people and entrepreneurs, and it was something that came very naturally to me.
GREG: So is there a family business that you grew up around?
MANISH: Yes. My dad has a salt manufacturing plant. Basically, it’s a family of entrepreneurs – my uncles and everyone – so right from the beginning, we were pretty much inculcated in the school of business.
DAVID: So now you’re majoring in engineering-
DAVID: -you’re starting your own business while you’re in school, and as you graduate from school – let’s pick it up where you go- I’m assuming this is not enough financially to support you when UB says “You graduate. We can’t keep you in the dorm room forever.” So you have to go pay for your own place to live and you have to get a “real job” for a little while?
MANISH: Yes. Back in 2000, that’s when I graduated; I mean, it was the height of the dot.com. Every kid graduating, that had an entrepreneurial bug type thought they could pretty much be the next Google or Yahoo or some other large corporation, and I was inspired. Internet had just come in and it was shaping the way how things were being done, Priceline.com and all these new business models that were evolving.
We wanted to do something big and we came up with our idea. We actually patented the idea as well. We finally received a patent for our innovation a couple of years back. So, it was a very exciting time. Then, we got into doing the routine software development consulting to pay our bills.
GREG: So you were developing software. So how did you migrate? It sounds like your skills are kind of building, probably your entrepreneurial skills as well as your technical skills, while this is going on. Is this kind of correct? Talk about the progress towards what would ultimately become GoECart.
MANISH: Yes. So we started out with this big dream of creating the next big thing. Obviously, the stock market tanked; then we had the 9/11. At that time, there wasn’t any funding for any idea, good or bad. You know, I really wasn’t big on funding; that wasn’t my forte. I didn’t go to school for Finance, so I went back to what I knew, which is building solutions for people, and that’s how we got into software services. We were helping build other ecommerce websites for our clients.
Then eventually, in a couple of years, we decided that “Why don’t we use that expertise and build a product?” because that’s what we’re really good at: innovation and creating next generation of products. That’s how GoECart came into being. We were supporting the product development from our services revenue, and over time, GoECart became self-supporting and we let go of the services business.
GREG: That’s interesting. So you really transitioned from really a service business to more of a product business almost.
MANISH: That is correct.
GREG: Now why would you do that? Was the web consumer more comfortable with purchasing a package solution, versus a sort paying by the hour to get you to do something? Why did you evolve that way?
MANISH: Right. As industries mature, you know, there are shifts that happen. For example, 1993 or early 90s, when CRM became a big thing – Customer Relationship Management – everyone rushed out to build their own CRM systems. Everyone was developing their own custom application and everyone had their own methodology. But as the discipline matured, people start realizing that it doesn’t make sense to build those systems and invest hundred thousand or million dollars or more in trying to keep up and maintain and manage.
That similar shift happened in the ecommerce base and people got more comfortable standardizing on platforms like GoECart. That’s why it made natural sense for us to move to a platform, as opposed to continue building these biz bulk custom solutions.
GREG: So, you now manage 12 people. That’s probably changed. It sounds like you’re a real company with real revenue now. What’s it like running the company now versus when you started it?
MANISH: Well, I mean, there’s been a huge change. When you start out – as in my case, I did not have an MBA or I didn’t have the ten-plus years of corporate grooming – so you make a lot of mistakes. I made every mistake that every entrepreneur can ever make.
GREG: All right. Give us detail. What were a few of the mistakes that you found to be good learning experiences?
MANISH: Well, for example, when you start out as an entrepreneur, you think every revenue is good revenue. That is not true. There’s a difference between strategic or strategy and there’s tactic. You tend to follow whatever opportunity comes around. You’re not as laser-sharp focused and you’re driving something to an exit to a strategy to a well-defined plan. Most entrepreneurs lose their way, they kind of focus in too many areas, and we did that as well. I mean, that was one of the many mistakes.
Hiring or recruitment – I mean, what kind of people to hire, how you manage them, what systems and processes to put in place. I mean, whether you’re running a tiny business of one person or two people, or you’re running a company of thousand people, believe it or not, I mean, certain things ought to operate in a very similar way.
Recently, I read a book by Michael Grover, the “E Myth”. He goes on to explain, you know-
GREG: That’s a great book.
MANISH: -how you should run your company, whether it’s a corporation of one or corporation of one thousand.
GREG: It’s very true. I think business owners out there would benefit from reading his book. It basically says in building an org chart, even if you fit in two-thirds of the buckets, because they’ll give you an idea of who you need to hire to replace what you’re doing as you grow. Have you literally done that – build an org chart?
MANISH: Yes, and in our company, as we learned and grew and evolved, we have a well-defined org chart. We have functions and departments. Whether the same person is fitting into all departments, we know that the departments exist and our functional responsibilities, so that as we bring on new people, we can place them in one of those boxes, and things work smoothly.
GREG: You’re beginning to do business overseas, correct? Or maybe you have been doing it for a while?
MANISH: Yeah, we’ve always been a global corporation. I mean, we’ve had clients abroad. We had an outsourcing relationship abroad. Now, it’s pretty much in the world of freelance, you know. If you need, say, a logo design, you can go on freelance websites and you have people from around the world bidding on your projects.
GREG: You know, one of the things that’s interesting is David’s firm works with a lot of business owners that have or do business overseas, and that makes things more complicated. One of the things I think we’ve seen in interviewing people is one of the ways business owners, especially small business owners, are growing right now is getting revenue from overseas versus it all used to be domestic. I mean, David, what are you seeing with your clients and the people that you work with, in terms of how they’ve adjusted and adapted to the recession?
DAVID: Well, I think, like you were saying with GoECart, that it’s no longer just a local market. The idea and opportunity to be able to go and expand your market worldwide just creates so much more opportunity. You obviously have issues about how you structure your off-shore corporation if you’re going to do that, and there are tax issues involved with that. But ultimately, it’s just a huge source of revenue.
To do what you were talking about, which I really love, the idea of being laser-sharp about what type of revenue you really want. If you’re in a much smaller market without so much in the way of opportunity because there just aren’t enough potential customers for what you want to do, you kind of limit what you can get in the way of good revenue and you end up taking some bad revenue, I guess you would call it.
To do this worldwide just creates an opportunity to allow you to do exactly what you want to do. It makes running a business probably that much easier on the one hand, because you get to do what you want to do, but on the other hand, you have to understand different parts of the world and what’s going on and how to generate business in those parts of the world.
GREG: I have a question for you. You have seen a lot of data; I mean, you see things being bought and sold. What sales trends – obviously, your clients’ data is proprietary – but in general, what sales trends have you seen over the last year? And have they changed at all?
MANISH: Well, I mean, consumers are going more and more to the search engines. That has been true for a while now. People are starting their search or inquiry at a search engine, so it’s very important that if you’re running an online business of any kind, having online marketing as one of your core competencies is very important.
DAVID: And how has the economy over the last three years affected what you do? Do you see the trends of the economy going down and coming back? Do you think an ecommerce space is headed a curve? Do you think it’s not as affected as much by the rest of the economy?
MANISH: Well, that’s an excellent question. I mean, no space is totally shielded from the downturn. Although online, what’s happening is the channel is shifting. If you have a big snowstorm, people are not going to the store. They can very easily make that same purchase online. However, it’s a general shift now with mobile computing, internet being more ubiquitous. Internet and online businesses are benefiting from that shift and the transition of offline channel to online. So while retail sales might have not done as well, online retail in fourth quarter last year was up 3% year-over-year, and they’re expecting a pretty robust growth in 2010 and 2011, almost double digits.
I mean, I personally think that there’s a lot of innovation that’s happening online. Consumers are adapting, more and more consumers are getting online, they’re getting more comfortable, they’re spending more time email. So, I think online is going to be a growing market for a while now.
GREG: One of the parts of your business is the sale, and there’s the distribution of product. One of the things I’ve seen is like Diapers.com or Staples, they seem to have built a web presence first and then they improved their distribution so that they could deliver the product a lot quicker. Because if I can get a product same day, which I can from Staples in some instance, I mean, why would I make the drive? What are you seeing in terms of the distribution of products? It used to be you wait eight days for it to get shipped across the country, but that’s changing.
MANISH: Well, you’re 100% right, Greg. The companies are finding ways to optimize their fulfillment. In fact, our patent, coincidentally, the one that I own, is in the ecommerce optimization space. Companies like Staples that have such a wide and large geographic distribution centers, they can afford to do it, but it comes at a very high price, because of the cost of stocking the product and so on. Our vision at GoECart and with our patent is to allow any merchant to do that, and internet provides that potential.
GREG: That’s pretty cool. Well, anyway, Manish, thank you so much for being here today. It was fun talking to you and kind of hearing what’s going on with business over the web. I enjoyed your company.
MANISH: Thank you for the opportunity, Greg.
GREG: Absolutely. Visit goecart.com to learn more about his business. David, as always, I enjoy your company.
DAVID: It’s a good day.
GREG: You can learn more about Withers Bergman at withersworldwide.com. This has been Greenwich Entrepreneurs. We will see you again next week, 1490 WGCH.