“Bylane e-commerce surprise” (Browntape in Times of India)

This is what Times of India had to say about us ..

Even as Laxmikant Parsekar’s government struggles to boost investment and create employment, a small yet innovative e-commerce start-up has shown the way, just meters away from the chief minister’s secretariat office.

A stroll along the empty streets of the Journalist’s colony in Porvorim leads you to Browntape. Ask around and you discover that the company’s three offices are actually residential houses. At the main spread the scene is typical—young faces, spartan furniture, a very active coffee machine, stacked packets of instant noodles, and the soft hum of dozens of computers.

Browntape, the brainchild of Gurpreet Singh, Piyush Goel, and Ian Morgan, offers online retailers a platform to manage their e-commerce operations across multiple portals. Two types of services are on offer—one for established retailers who just need a tool to efficiently manage retail operations, the other an Enterprise Service Offering for retailers who don’t have the knowhow.

In the latter case, the client outsources the entire multichannel e-commerce to the company, which in turn creates accounts for the client across e-retail websites, builds catalogues, photographs products, and optimizes prices and sales, for which it charges a commission.

“We have quite a few clients in Goa who have been able to scale their e-commerce business,” says Singh, “The key thing is Goan entrepreneurs are selling all across India, are on an annualized run rate of multi-crore sales on e-commerce.”

The company to date has processed nearly 3 lakh orders of goods worth nearly $9 million. The platform boasts of 1,200-plus sellers.

So, how did Browntape take shape? In 2008, Goel and Morgan were in the UK, completing their PhDs in Artificial Intelligence. Short on cash and looking for a way to fund their bachelor lifestyles, they took to selling stuff online. When it became difficult to manage the ever-increasing orders and customers, they designed a programme to track orders and shipments. The tool, Scrobbld, gave birth to Browntape.

Singh, in the meantime, was in Goa, heading a web development team at a software company in Dona Paula; and like most who visit the state, was smitten. Fortuitously, Piyush joined his team. Itching to start something of their own, the two, along with Morgan, began to tinker with the idea of their own firm.

By April 2013, basic platform in place, they began touring the country, looking for funding. “The first couple of offers we got were more like traditional businesses where they (investors) would probably own more than half the business if they were investing,” recalls Goel. Singh throws light on the dilemma they contended with, “It is difficult to leave multi-crore offers on the table when you don’t have money to hire the next employee.”

That’s when they decided to enter GSF India’s Global Accelerator Program which is a 13-week intensive programme for internet-based start-ups. “GSF was more of an incubation kind of an investment and our first investor was Seedfund and with them K Ganesh joined,” says Singh.

Seedfund Advisors executive director Paula Mariwala says, “We basically liked the team; they had the technical knowhow as well as the passion, the drive to understand the nitty-gritty of e-commerce.”

Browntape’s choice of Goa, when tech start-ups usually head to Bengaluru, Hyderabad or Mumbai, was a worry. “We were very concerned whether they would get good employees in Goa, and initially we even put it in the clause that they would have to move to Mumbai if they wanted the funding,” says Mariwala.

Goel and Singh nod in unison on the misconstrued image most people from outside the state have of working in Goa equalling to soaking up some sun on the beach, beer in hand. “Luckily for Browntape, Goa doesn’t have a dearth of IT-savvy people,” says Mariwala, pointing out that 60 of the 100 employees are Goans. The rest “jumped at the chance to work in Goa”.

For the next few years, Browntape is looking to grow exponentially in a phase that Singh calls “land grab”—cornering a larger market share. Seedfund foresees revenue generation in the proximity of hundreds of crores. “E-commerce is definitely a hot field and there will be people eying them, so I am confident that there will be multiple acquisition or exit opportunities,” says Mariwala with a smile.

What are SKU Codes and How to Create Them

When it comes to keeping track of inventory, one of the most common methods employed is assignment of a Stock Keeping Unit, or SKU code to individual products. An SKU is a unique item, such as a product or a service, as it is offered for sale that embodies all the attributes connected with the item that distinguish it from other items. These attributes might include but are not limited to the brand, size, colour, manufacturer or warranty. Thus, a code that holds all this information about an item gives it a unique stature in your inventory, which means that tracking and recalling a particular item becomes easy. Also, since the code holds all the relevant information about the item, someone adept at reading the code can know everything about the item without having to go and check ‘the side of the box’.

There are a few other systems that incorporate codifying products for tracking purposes, like the Universal Product Code, or Global Trade Item Number, which utilize barcodes to identify with unique products in a database. The key factor with SKU is that a retailer gets the freedom to create his/her own SKU codes and incorporate them in the inventory system without having to adhere to a larger tracking scheme. With SKU, a retailer retains the flexibility of controlling the size of their inventory, changing manufacturers or wholesalers without the hassle of a system overhaul. Of course, the key here is that the SKU codes must be well created. That is, the user must be able to access all the relevant information about the product without confusion or misinterpretation through the code. So how does one go about creating good SKU codes? Let us find out through the 5 hard tips that follow.

How to Create Good SKU Codes

1. Make Your Own SKU Code

Try not to incorporate the manufacturer/wholesaler code within your SKU code. It might seem like a good idea to just pick up the manufacturer’s code and add a few prefixes/suffixes to create your own, but it’s a bad practice. In this case, you would have to completely overhaul your coding system in case you change your manufacturer or wholesaler. It’s too much hassle.

2. Decide What You Want Your Code to Say

Decide what information you want to access through the SKU code. There is no point loading the code with information you are never going to require. The main purpose for creating SKU codes is that you have an identifier with which you can visualize a unique product. Hence, use enough information for a successful identification of an item, but no more. For example, if the year of manufacture is irrelevant for a particular set of items, do not incorporate it in the code. It will just eat up space and would be prone to misinterpretation. Store this information under the product description tag, instead.

3. Use the Cascade Method

Create codes that are logically decipherable. For example, if you are planning to sell electronic equipment from different brands, first create a cascade chart for your information. How a cascade chart works is – start off by taking the largest set of information about your item first – in this case, ‘Electronic Equipment’ – and call it set ‘E’. Then you take the next most relevant subset, for example, ‘Laptops’. Let us call that set ‘L’. Then you ask, what brand does this laptop belong to? What model does it belong to? And so on. Keep adding attributes till you can uniquely identify that particular laptop in your warehouse using only the code. Stop adding the questions as soon as this unique identification is possible.

4. Fonts and Characters

Beware of confusing characters, or homoglyphs – O and 0, I and l, etc. It might sound trivial, but the font you use to print your codes play an important part in making sure that the reader is not confused. Our advice is to use bold, serif fonts that clearly define most characters without confusion. Try not to use symbols in your SKU codes. Even though it might seem like a good idea to use the ‘/’ to create breaks within your code, you don’t want Excel auto formatting the numbers, confusing them with a date. Other characters like $ and @ are too confusing and cause formatting errors all the time.

5. Use an Inventory Management System

Use an inventory management system to store and track your SKU codes. It’s just a better way of doing things. Most of your work becomes automated, your tasks are simplified and your formats are saved and notated for future reference. As compared to storing your codes on Excel files, which are prone to corruption, damage and confusion, inventory management systems give you a cleaner, more efficient perspective at the state of your warehouse.

Thus, we come to the end of our advice on SKU codes and how to create them. SKU codes are such an important part of your inventory management that you have to take proactive steps to create them efficiently. For further queries and assistance, get in touch with Browntape. We are India’s leading online inventory management system providers, and are always happy to help. Good luck with your sales!

6 Reasons Why Spreadsheets Are Killing Your Online Business

Although a traditional favourite, using spreadsheets to manage online sales can be mind boggling and excruciatingly painful. Well It is partly true that in theory, you can’t really go wrong with a spreadsheet. It is a permanent account of your incoming and outgoing inventory, is easy to edit and store. Before the advent of computers (and online shopping, of course), business owners managed their inventory using handwritten ledgers, which obviously became obsolete with the birth of MS office. You really can’t blame the sellers too. Who could manage a library of 100 physical books of records and a growing stock and business. But the best part was that, with digital records it became extremely easy to search and track a particular inventory article as compared to its physical counterpart. Perfect solution right? Well yes, for that time. It is now time you graduate from excel sheets too, just the way you moved on from physical ledgers, and for the same reason – technology.

Still not convinced? We will give you 6 hard reasons why Spreadsheets are no more the best inventory management solution for your online business:

1. Spreadsheets are Two Dimensional

You have an x and a y axis to a spreadsheet, in other words, a set of rows and columns. You would have to fix a few different variables for different columns and rows, for the spreadsheet to make sense. But then, how does this model look when your operation gains complexity? As a multi-channel seller, you would either have to use multiple spreadsheets to track your orders, and then consolidate the key variables from each into one master spreadsheet which can tell your total product demand and supply. Just thinking about that could give someone a headache. How many times have you prayed for a solution that made more sense than a dozen excel sheets? Looks like your prayers have been answered. Cutting edge inventory management systems are taking the market by storm, tailor made for the needs of a growing ecommerce business. With these multi-channel inventory management systems, you can integrate all your orders through different sales channel into one portal, automatically and let the software do all the dirty work like tracking your AWB numbers, printing your labels, and a lot more.

2. Spreadsheets Make Data Outdated

As a business owner, keeping records has two purposes – 1. keep track of demand supply information for accurate accounting of your business. 2. observe trends and patterns from past date that help you extrapolate and strategize your business. For example, looking at the annual demand supply pattern from last 2 years, you can estimate the demand for certain products during certain seasons, peak months or holidays. This becomes difficult with spreadsheets because there is very less version control. Soon enough you find yourself sifting monthly files through the crevices of your computer and trying to piece them together. An inventory management system on the other hand can give you all the trends, by time periods, channels, regions, and other demographic parameters with just a click of a button.

3. Spreadsheets are Unsafe

Considering they are essentially small, virtually unprotected files, spreadsheets are liable to get corrupted. How many times has it happened to you that have you opened a really old Excel file to find just gibberish inside. Also, spreadsheets, usually are open programs that can be manipulated by any user that has access to it. Your inventory data is precious, leaving it unprotected shouldn’t even be an option for a growing business. Inventory management softwares are usually incorruptible and password protected, which means that only you and your trusted employees can view and edit these documents.

4. Spreadsheets are Difficult to Share

One of the worst problems with spreadsheets is that they are extremely difficult to share and edit within a group. A file edited on a particular system cannot be synced into other systems that it exists in. While google spreadsheets and other cloud sharing methods sort this to an extent, it is not as feature rich as desktop spreadsheets like Excel. This means stale, inconsistent data and the problems that come along with it. As opposed to this, an inventory management system has a single entry point that can be accessible through multi user login. This means that the data within your inventory can be edited and made accessible to a group of your choice, hassle free.

5. Spreadsheets Do Not Provide Analytics

Sure, there are ways to extract analytics within spreadsheets, but they involve writing complex formulae and feeding them into the system. It also means manual effort into picturizing that data according to your needs and then commencing analysis. Inventory management systems have pre-existing mechanisms with which you can extract valuable analytics with a mouse click. Not only can you get insightful visualization of your data, but you can also exploit valuable strategic suggestions for sales, inventory and stock management that the system offers you.

6. Spreadsheets are Prone to Mistakes

Spreadsheets, especially the complex ones, tend to be pretty unreliable at a mass scale. On one hand, spreadsheets like Excel give you freedom to create your own formulae, conversion systems and in’s-and-out’s, but the same freedom can cause the downfall of your data. Trivial mistakes in feeding data, formulae or conversion units can lead to potential disasters. A common blunder is defining too few rows for a formula. With inventory and sales management systems this is not an issue. These are software specifically designed to fulfill your stock and inventory tracking needs. Hence, however complex your data size is, a good inventory management system is adept at handling it, no mistakes.

To sum it up, while spreadsheets have their advantages, there are actually better ways to handle your online business. Convinced yet but don’t know where to start? Get in touch with Browntape today to know more about running an online business, hassle free with a cutting edge inventory management system. Browntape is the leading multi-channel inventory management service in India, coming from a team with years of experience and expertise in the field of making your online sales enterprise successful.

 

5 Things to Look for in a Cloud-based Inventory Management System

Whether you are an enterprise selling your products online, or an individual business owner trying to use the various online selling platforms to make a profit, an inventory management system is a must for you. Here are a few tips on how to choose the right inventory management system for your needs.

What is an inventory management system?

An inventory management system is anything that helps your selling process to run efficiently, right from the moment a customer orders your product, to the time when it delivered to their doorstep. This means keeping track of all the orders, their locations, timings, pricing, matching the right product with the right order, labelling and dispatching. As you can see, this is an extensive process, and a lot can be done to optimize it. A simple pen-and-paper or an excel sheet can also be your inventory management system, where you can track your basic orders and deliveries, but that is very rudimentary, time-consuming, and is prone to human errors. As your business grows, you need what is known as an inventory management or inventory control software. There are many of these in the market, but it might be difficult to choose between them, especially in India where these systems have recently been introduced. So how do you choose which one is right for you? Here’s how.

Choosing the Right Inventory Management Software

1. Go for a Multi-Channel Inventory Management System

This is a must if you are an online seller. The great thing about the internet is that you can showcase your product on a lot of websites and get customers from around the world. In India, eBay, Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, Shopify, etc. are some of the major online selling portals. Now, tracking orders is a time consuming job on its own. Doing the same for multiple online portals can be extremely inefficient. Thus, the multi-channel order management system. It automatically fetches and consolidates all your online orders, from various sources including your website, to a single panel, so that you can easily track them. When a product sells on any one of your online sites, the inventory on the rest of the sites gets updated automatically with the new reduced quantity. If you are an online seller being faced by the problem of handling multiple selling channels, go for a multi-channel order management system. If you are selling on a single site, going for it might incentivize you to increase your online selling presence, because it makes things so easy!

2. Efficiency and Customizability

You need a system that allows you to play with your product data as you like. Importing and exporting product information into the system and out it for offline use should be available and simple enough to do in a couple of clicks. Moreover, you should be able to create product barcodes for you to put on your items so that at the time of shipping you can simply scan the items when picking them from the warehouse. It should allow you to automatically send an email to your customers on receipt of the order, automatically prints the bill, creates a shipping barcode and processes shipping labels saves so much of your time and resources. What you have to look for is a customizable product – one that lets you choose which of these services you want to exploit and how. One that lets you create a system of management that is comfortable to you and assists you through it.

3. Inventory Alerts & Analytics

Go for a software that alerts you of the items that are low on stock, out of stock and that are committed for pending orders at any given time. It should allow you to order your products with ease when required. Furthermore, a system that provides you with detailed analytics of your online transactions is very important because now you not only have a software that assists you in inventory management, but you have one that can help you out with business strategy too. It can arm you with valuable data, for example the online channel, location and region wise order densities, order timings and product pairings. All this gives you a better perspective of your business and helps you strategize for more profit.

4. Pricing and Security

Only pay for what you get; no more, no less. Many inventory management system providers provide the basic services as freeware and then charge you as your inventory/business tends to grow, depending upon the amount of channels you want to sell from or the amount of orders you get per month. Look for scalability, because you do not want to change your pre-established systems if your provider cannot handle the amount of incoming orders. Since this is a portal through which you would do virtually all your online transactions, make sure that the software is tested and certified to be secure from malware and hacks. Safety first.

5. Try the Software

Ask your prospective Inventory management software vendor if they can provide you with a trial run. Get a feel of the software – is the UI cluttered or is it clean and sharp? Are the tracking and management systems well designed? Is there potential for inefficiency? Are there any known bugs? Go through the whole process of inventory management, starting from the incoming order to the code allotment to the final dispatch. Make sure that you are comfortable with what you are getting into.

Get in touch with us at Browntape to get assistance in getting and setting up a great inventory management system, specifically designed for ecommerce sellers in India. We will help you make the most efficient use of your resources and make the most of your online business. You can also try our 30-day free trial of Browntape’s Multi-channel Online Inventory Management.