Before starting Thailand-based fulfilment provider Sokochan, Benjaporn “May” Chaiburee was a small merchant selling children apparel on Facebook.
While operating the business online, she faced many challenges. Firstly, she had no way of telling if something is sold out. Each time a customer inquired about an item, she would have to check the inventory, which is based in her house, for availability.
Secondly, she would need to travel some six kilometres to the post office each time she gets an order.
There are fulfilment partners in the market, but many of these services like aCommerce for example, are more suitable for businesses with hundreds of orders a day.
Given budget constraints, small merchants like Chaiburee would have to do everything from packing to mailing the goods out to the customer. That takes time and energy away from the mere and important act of selling, which is presumably what these merchants are best at.
She then joined hands with Chayapak “Numfone” Sahachatiraklap, who heard many similar stories from friends, to start Sokochan, a solution that handles everything from storing goods to tracking inventory to packing and mailing goods out to customers.
To start with, merchants can ship their goods to the Sokochan warehouse for storage purposes.
For 100 THB (US$3) a month, merchants will be able to keep items in a 32 x 40 x 28 cm box, which can fit 50 soft drink cans. Every item will get tagged with a number code, which will help Sokochan pack and track goods at a later stage.
Additionally, it charges merchants a THB 8 to THB 24 (US$0.24 to US$0.70) box fee, which varies according to size, and a packing fee that starts at THB 10 for the first order, and THB 5 for each subsequent order. Packing fees cover standard materials like void fill and packing tape.
“We function like a remote warehouse for merchants,” said Chaiburee. “Whenever they get an order, they transmit it to Sokochan and our system and people take care of getting the purchases into their customer’s hands.”
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Then, merchants will send over orders through the Sokochan Merchant Dashboard on the web, which also allows them to take stock of inventory and keep track of orders and packages mailed.
By 1 P.M., Chaiburee and Sahachatiraklap will pack the orders and ship them by 5 P.M the same day. By using Thailand Post’s business services channel, Sokochan receives tracking codes in advance, allowing the business to require less lead time when sending out packages.
As a two-month-old startup, Sokochan is processing orders for five merchants with more than 2,500 SKUs stored in its warehouse. It is shipping neatly 200 items every day. 60 per cent of all orders come from outside the capital Bangkok.
“Volume is growing fast and in the first 10 days of this month, we shipped more than what we did for the whole of last month,” said Sahachatiraklap.
Chanachai Prucksachat, a merchant with Sokochan and owner of Sommai Shorts, said, “It’s been two months now working with Sokochan and I’ve managed to not only increase my sales but can now expand my product line as I don’t have to worry about the packing and sending to customers by myself. My customers are happier too since they get their orders quicker as well.”
Another merchant Amm Nongrax, who owns The Opening Closet by Nongrax, said that she has since doubled daily orders after using Sokochan. She attributed the increase in order numbers to having more time to handle customer queries.
Going forward, the bootstrapped startup will continue to bring on more merchants and look to double daily volumes within Q1 2015. There are also plans to roll out an API to better integrate with various e-commerce storefront platforms.