The beauty of the ecommerce industry is that anyone with a good product/service and just Internet can start their business. Indian Online Seller has shared several inspiring seller stories, which highlights how men/women started their online journey all by themselves. It’s easy for those too who sell online exclusively via marketplaces, like this article spells out.
But as the business grows, one needs more hands to scale up faster and match ecommerce industry’s pace. For the same, let’s try to understand the factors that you need to keep in mind while building the core team of your business.
1. Keep your team lean
Unless you have a bigger goal and wish to join the league of Jabong, Flipkart, BigBasket and Urban Ladder, it is wise to keep your team lean. Most of the online sellers have less than 10 team members, even those with over 5 years of online selling experience.
Lakshmi Chaturvedi, owner of Vibhuti – The Saree Lounge that promotes Indian weavers shared with IOS, “Over the last two years we have expanded our footprints both in terms of procurement and association with weavers. Having been a start up a while ago, we realize the difficulties for any fresh startup. As of now, our team is very lean with three full time employees and two contractors.”
2. Set a target before you hire your first employee
The target can be the number of customers, number of orders, revenue earned or working hours that you have to touch before you start hiring external staff. The goal is to determine for how long you choose to be self-reliable while being productive. For example, your target can be that the day your working hours exceed 12-14 hours per day or number of orders cross 150 per month, you’ll hire your first employee.
Take the case of Just Jhumka, an online jewellery store. “We were a team of two [co-founders] at the beginning. Our intent was to get our first 1,000 paying customers before we built a team. We hired staff only after we were cash flow positive for a continuous period of 12-months. We hired staff when their skills were complementary to what the co-founders already brought in. For example: As co-founders we were good at technology, marketing, and procurement. What we lacked were in the administrative and finance functions and we have now brought in key people to handle these functions,” revealed Vinaya H S, co-founder of Just Jhumka.
3. Over-staffing is a sin, so is under-staffing
Let’s assume that in an 8-hour shift one person can pack 50 simple packages or 20 bulky ones on an average. Expecting one person to pack 100 packages in the same amount of time would account as under-staffing. This can up the risk of damage during transit due to substandard packing and ultimately high returns.
Similarly, hiring 2-3 full-time employees for a task that can be managed by one will account as over-staffing, which is equally damaging as your over-heads will rise but not the revenue.
If you sell private label clothing, then your core team would require creative experts to develop new designs, graphics and engaging content. But if you are a licensed dealer of branded home appliances then you need administrative & packaging staff and can easily skip content and design experts. If you sell through your own website, then an IT expert is much needed. If you sell only through marketplaces, then someone to keep track of inventory is desirable than a website developer.
Vinaya shared, “Forming a core team that has complementary skills with clear demarcation of responsibilities is super tough. It doesn’t work if all co-founders are good in technology and no one’s good at business.” So focus on finding the right blend of your core team.
4. Hiring young guns for marketing
So your business calls for people who can handle basic level of business development marketing and social media but your budget is too tight for hiring experienced staff? That’s when interns and freshers come in handy. Fresh pass-outs and those looking for work experience before finishing their degree can be great assets. But be ready to pay respectable remuneration for quality work.
“I did get a lot of support for this (marketing) from the young enterprising freshers who readily helped as interns to market our sarees and also manage any backend tasks in the administration section,” said Chaturvedi.
5. Look around, look close for helpers
Hiring and training someone for an ecommerce business can be challenging since it is relatively a new industry in India compared to other industries. Plus, workload is unpredictable. So it’s a task to find someone for couple of hours of work. Just Jhumka’s co-founders found a very practical solution for this concern.
“We have employees to handle packing and shipping. We started small by up-skilling the maids who work at our homes and office. This gave them a good second source of income and they continue to get up-skilled and will soon move on to handle few administrative tasks. We’ve also automated a large number of processes and tasks that we initially used to do manually and which used to consume most of our business time. Thanks to our small but expert technical team,” disclosed Vinaya.
6. Scale faster or slower, completely your choice
The potential number of orders one can receive via marketplaces can be mind-boggling. And it is tempting to scale at the same speed as top etailers. But if it leaves you with an unbalanced book of accounts due to impulsive hiring, it is better to slow down and gauge the ideal speed for your business.
“Since we intend to always remain cash flow positive we look for the right talent at the right price that our business can sustain – even if it means we need to go a bit slow on scale. That’s worked incredibly well for us,” asserted Vinaya.
Dear online sellers, how did you build your core team? Any tips for others to keep in mind while hiring employees? Please do share your valuable insights.