Crucial Service

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With a lot of enterprises emerging on social media and the lockdown preventing consumers from moving around too much, Kashmir threw up space for a start-up that can deliver products and bridge the gap between the seller and the buyer. Khalid Bashir Gura profiles one such initiative that says it is performing better than expected

Samiullah and Abid Rashid, the co-founders of FastBeetle, a courier and door to door supplier, in their Srinagar office. KL Image: Special Arrangement

If you an entrepreneur struggling to reach your customers, are you require a credible courier who can deliver your products to your customers, there is a solution. Apparently the product of the shutdown and lockdown, FastBeetle is an online and offline courier service that does all this for you – from delivering documents to physically handing over surprise gifts, and even pharmacy. The start-up requires a clear address and a service charge.

“It is called Fast because it is fast,” said Sheikh Samiullah, 28, an MBA who co-founded the initiative with his friend, Abid Rashid. “It  is Beetle because it small, so it is fast and small.”

The FastBeetle provide pickup and delivery services for the local new age small entrepreneurs and start-ups. “Our logistics platform is for businesses ranging from online grocers, offline and online retail commerce, pharmacies, and individuals,” said Samiullah. “We provide door-to-door delivery service and meet all courier needs of our clients, no matter how big or small they may be.” He personally handles the logistics and operations. Abid takes care of the IT part of the operations.

Of late, Kashmir is witnessing a boom in the small online businesses with a lot of young women entrepreneurs, mostly selling clothes and other merchandise using Facebook and Instagram. All these enterprises, mostly operating from home, faced a crisis when the internet services were snapped in August 2019. FastBeetle also was frozen in time owing to internet issues. After the low-speed internet was restored, most of them resumed working. The start-up resumed work in February 2020.  However, they started facing problems because of the lockdown. Almost all of them were facing a crisis in delivering the products at home. This is where the FastBeetle emerged as a solution to their daily logistic issue.

“We filled the space not only for them but many clients of ours who were facing similar problems and thus we acted as a bridge between the merchants and customers” asserts Samiullah.

Samiullah took a lot of time in making a choice of his decision. He studied the online presence of businesses and the consumers and detected the crisis. And then he came up with the idea to launch and start Logistics Company. At the personal level, he said, he had some experience as he had worked in big e-commerce companies outside the state after completing his MBA. “I knew people struggling to sell their products for the lack of logistics.”

FastBeetle decided to work with the disadvantaged – the small startups with whom no major logistics company can work. This created a new chain of a business that usually would not have taken place at all. Or it might have been too small to take note of. 

“There are a number of courier services operating in Srinagar, but they all work for the big e-commerce giants like AmazonFlipkart and others,” Samiullah said. “There is no one to handle the delivery of these small local online businesses.”

In e-business, courier service is vital.

Implementing the idea has its own story. “After launching the initiative, we used social media services to reach entrepreneurs to make them aware that we are offering pickup and delivery services in Srinagar only,” said Samiullah. “The response was impressive.”

With each day orders grew from to 2 to 4 to almost 800 and this all happened within three months. From a one delivery boy at the start, we have 10 and we are adding more as we expand. So we are a 12 member team now.”

They had always in mind that somebody with a better idea can always take over them. Srinagar has an abundance of the courier services and some have more than 100 individuals on their rolls. The two friends sat and did a brutal SWOT analysis. Finally, they set up a web portal to ease access and create accounts for our clients. This was based on the feedback from their clients.

Now, more than 250 merchants are working with the start-up, of whom 220 are women entrepreneurs. Its website says the company has delivered products to the customer’s worth Rs 30 crore, so far. “We actually blended our logistical services with technology which proved helpful for us as well as our clients,” added Saimullah. “The customers are constantly communicated about the shipment and orders as they get SMS and a link wherein they get the cell phone number of a delivery boy in case they want to delay orders or avail any other option.”

Abid who handles the backend of the company website created a user-friendly dashboard, which can be operated by a client directly. The order management system (OMS) is robust and once the order completes the staff gets a copy and the process starts. “The process became easy for all. We merely act as a bridge,” said Samiullah who is happy about being an entrepreneur and someone who helps in empowering people especially women. It now has a mobile app also.

Earlier Fast Beetle was delivering within Srinagar but now they have expanded to Anantnag, Sopore and Ganderbal towns also. “We want to first expand our services across Kashmir,” Samiullah said. “For delivering outside Kashmir, they have a tie-up with First Flight.”

For surviving in a highly competitive market, the start-up has an added advantage. “We have no shipping delays, we guarantee the safety of the material and we do it at the lowest charges.”

In pandemic as people stayed restricted to their homes, we intensified our activities by converting the crisis into an opportunity and a service,” Abid said. “We delivered essentials to peoples doorsteps like PPE kits, pharmacies, and bakery especially on the eve of Eid, and delivered more than seven tones of apple.”

Besides, it used its four load carriers managed by eight delivery boys to help farmers get their products directly to the customers. They are seriously considering getting into the food delivery and organic sector to MSMEs.

The operation apple was a change maker. The apple that was stored in the controlled atmosphere store units in Lassipora and could not be transported to the outside markets was driven to Srinagar and sold in retail through the FastBeetle and a chain of upmarket malls across Kashmir. Though it was a small quantity the experiment was rewarding to the farmers and other companies associated with the exercise.

About Author

A Mass Communication and Journalism postgraduate from the University of Kashmir, Khalid is a writer by choice and a journalist by chance.

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