Star Tech: Women duo powers 
e-commerce consultancy for SMEs, family offices

Shraddha Barot-Amariei and Ayshwarya Chari are the founders of Arabian Gulf’s first e-commerce consultancy for small and medium enterprises

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Sun 3 Apr 2022, 12:03 AM

Last updated: Mon 4 Apr 2022, 3:57 PM

Shraddha Barot-Amariei and Ayshwarya Chari launched 1115 Inc — the Arabian Gulf’s first e-commerce consultancy for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and family offices — in October 2020.

As per new analysis from Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UAE retail e-commerce market reached a record $3.9 (Dh14.32) billion in 2020, a 53 per cent year-on-year increase driven by the Covid-19-led digital shift.

Data shows that e-commerce accounted for a 8 per cent share of the retail market during the same year. The raging viral outbreak triggered an idea among the two that e-commerce is here to stay and it’s imperative to get into that space at the earliest.

A survey report illustrates that the retail sector is likely to report stupendous growth over the coming years. It is likely to reach $63.8 (Dh234.34) billion by 2023 and retail e-commerce forecast to grow by 78 per cent between 2018 and 2023.

The family businesses in the region have ventured out by diversifying their investment portfolio via investing in innovations and startups.

1115 Inc provides services such as assisting with market research, technology consultancy, build and project management, branding, packaging & printing, funding & investment advice to all SMEs who need business and e-commerce advisory. With over 25 years combined multifaceted business expertise, the consultancy is well equipped to produce solutions in the e-commerce and business space that many SMEs and homegrown family businesses struggle to resolve.

The founders aim to navigate each area of the e-commerce space, from ideation, creation, tech implementation, launch and further, while helping SMEs to grow and stand apart in the market regardless of their business size or their needs. Since its launch, 1115 Inc has worked on projects ranging from wellness grocery, luxury furniture and jewellery, to activewear, and is also working on a complex pharmaceutical project. One of their most in-demand services is advising entrepreneurs to take their seed idea for an online launch, seamless transition from physical stores to online, which many business owners find daunting and overwhelming.

Barot-Amarie and Chari spoke about the women-power behind their unique venture.

“For us, supporting women is very important. As two working mothers we are also normalising the work cultures among our traditional family and corporate clients wherein they see that sometimes we may step out for school picks or are not in the office if we are looking after a sick child, but it has zero effect on our productivity or our level of expertise. Women are multi-taskers, and we work long hours if we need to meet deadlines,” she said.

Chari echoed those thoughts.  “As a company, we are proudly an all-female leadership team and hire women regardless of their personal journeys. Our recent hire is a new mother who has just returned to work after a few years of maternity break caring for the young second child. We are also well aware that technology is a male-dominated industry, and most of the vast teams we work with are senior men who are not necessarily used to seeing two women in such senior leadership roles advising some of the largest businesses in the region, and that’s exactly the change we want to bring to the industry and the regional landscape,” she said.

A different kind of end-to-end solutions provider

1115 Inc is a commerce and digitisation advisory offering end-to-end support and outsourced leadership to digital businesses; the first of its kind firm in the region that offers an incubation approach to an advisory. The startup has capabilities that range from branding and due diligence to project management and architecture design and building of technology platforms.

The founders have over 25 years of experience in e-commerce and marketing. They have been serial entrepreneurs in the region and realised that the UAE is home to some of the largest global consulting firms that provide similar services to 1115 Inc, but their fee structure is unaffordable for SMEs and family businesses. “There is no one out there guiding the homegrown, local businesses and family offices through their digital adoption and supporting them through their messy launch and growth phases,” said Chari.

So, what was the guiding thought behind setting up the consultancy?

“As a consultancy that offers end-to-end advisory from starting up to scaling up, we want to offer every digital business a fighting chance. The co-founders, who have been small business owners are able to bring their extensive experience to every business under the portfolio. We genuinely believe our homegrown brands and businesses have the potential to go global if they are advised and directed in a strategic manner. Due to our diverse portfolio of businesses, we have our pulse on the market and can advise on strategies and tricks, and tips that arm David to face the market Goliaths,” said Barot-Amariei.

Understanding business sentiments in the post Covid-19 era

“In the post Covid-19 pandemic there is a definite shift in mindsets toward online business. The contagion drove home the fact to business owners that having an online presence isn’t optional anymore. Now, it’s essential. Several govt-initiatives have also been announced to support e-commerce in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  This is a key factor that has spurred investments by smaller investors into the sector accelerating its adoption. Ease of setup and access to funding go a long way, and there is now a real potential to exit or attract additional rounds of funding, so digital growth can be explosive if approached strategically,” said Barot-Amariei.

Chari, too, weighed in. “The challenge for businesses is being able to execute the digital business model so that it can compete and scale in the aggressive online environment. This is where we step in and help by setting up technology, processes, and systems to achieve operational efficiency and create a model that can scale. We tell business owners that business is an execution game – the last (and most important) piece of the puzzle is technology, but there is a lot of groundwork to be done even before one line of code is written,” she added.

Global plans

1115 Inc has ambitious global expansion plans. “The UAE is home to us, and this is where we have started. We’re grateful that we’ve had an explosive start and are already opening new territories and have plans to also offer ancillary services to support our clients. We plan to start operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Qatar later this year,” said Barot-Amariei.

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