Episode 77 Transcript

We have another great interview for you today
it's a second time around with the founder of
Click Apporter, Harjeet Grewal and in this episode we talk about how Click Apporter has fared during
coronavirus we talk about his marketing and logistics
we talk about new markets that have
opened up since the last interview including amazon united states we talk about his plans for the rest of 2020 and we also talk about uh some initiatives that may be coming soon including uh being able to export
products from morocco to the EU or other countries around the world so stay tuned it's a great episode and you'll learn a lot
all right welcome to episode 77 of the Business in Morocco Podcast we have a special guest with us today it's Harjeet Grewal, from Click
Apporter, now Harjeet has been on the podcast in
episode 33 so if you want to hear more about his background and the founding of Click Apporter
i encourage you to go back and listen to that episode but Harjeet grew up in tanzania he studied in the states and in europe
worked in europe and came to morocco in
2011 with a multinational
but went into entrepreneurship in 2016
and he's
stayed and settled here he launched
in 2019 just last year is that right
actually uh 2018.
okay in 2018 could you remind our
just a brief intro to what Click Apporter
certainly, Click Apporter is basically
i would call it it's more of a service
company so what we do is we allow people
to to shop international websites and
pay in local currency and
we then manage the importation the
customs clearance all the authorizations
and the last mile delivery to their home
so we we give people access to
goods that they would not otherwise have
access to for
various reasons either because the the
e-commerce player that they want to buy
from doesn't deliver tomorrow
because they don't have an international
credit card because they don't know how
to do the importation or get the
necessary authorizations to bring
their products in so in a nutshell
that's what click uploader does
okay so you've got your your slogan is
you want it we get it so hassle free i
can order something from
different marketplaces i can pay in
dirhams i don't have to worry about
and you bring it right to my door i can
sleep easy knowing you're taking care of
correct correct absolutely that's that's
the idea that's the idea
we make you know during the the lockdown
and coronavirus how has this impacted
click apporti in your business um
i'd say overall in terms of you know top
line and we've done
we've done very well our volumes have
have gone up but we've seen we've seen
about a 300
increase in growing uh since the
lockdown so
you know in terms of that's great so
we've done
we've done well from the sense that you
know people have been at home have had
time to
to look at our product more time than
they would have previously had
to test our services so in that sense we
were very we're very optimistic about
the future uh given what's been
happening people people are now
beginning to talk about us and to use
our services on a more regular basis
obviously that that has come with its
own set of challenges partly linked to
to the growth and the volume but they
linked to you know the logistical issues
that we've had to overcome given the
globally at the moment we're we're
sourcing mainly
france and the us um
france historically uh you know we moved
to road shipments so we would do a
weekly consignment uh
my warehouse in in paris and ship it by
road to morocco
when the initial lockdowns and the
closure of international borders
obviously we were impacted just like
everybody else so we very quickly had to
from the existing uh transport and
logistics partner that we had
we started moving shipments to coming by
air obviously at a significantly higher
cost to us which we didn't pass on to
the final consumer
and then we we started putting in place
alternative delivery routes again by
in fact what would happen is the smaller
vehicles had been blocked so you know
in the past we were using uh you know
large vans
we had to shift to to trucks so we were
getting space on trucks and
and booking that so the whole logistics
side became
far more complex we had to plan in
advance we had to
we had to take the impact of higher
logistics costs transport
additional sanitary measures to make
sure that everything was disinfected and
handled correctly
and that was a challenge that was a
challenge um but i think one that we
have overcome
relatively well rapidly uh and
and we've managed to put in place uh
logistics systems that i think are going
to endure even
following the lifting of these
restrictions simply because they are now
so well managed that the old system and
given the increased volume obviously the
smaller bands are no longer relevant
well yeah that's great so you've
diversified your supply chain you've
built relationships with
air carrier with larger transport
carriers and so they
they shut down all the ferries that were
bringing cars over but they were still
doing transport trucks the whole time
yeah well obviously yes the larger
uh carry much higher volumes they're
easier to to
to control easier to disinfect and
monitor so
cargo was being allowed but passengers i
the first couple of weeks obviously
there was disruption in that as well but
that was that was quickly resolved
okay so when we talked last time um you
only operating with amazon and europe
um but now you're saying that amazon
united states is active
can you talk to us a little bit about um
how you turn that on and what
clearly i don't think it's taking a boat
right so you're flying those goods
from the states can you talk a little
bit about uh about that
um so we we basically activated uh
shopping from from uh from amazon in the
we have a logistics center in delaware
where we consolidate uh all our orders
and then we do shipments by by courier
okay so we've negotiated rates with the
large courier companies
and we basically consolidate and ship
once a week so the customs clearance
process once it arrives here is the same
what is different is the remote
transport we're predominantly using what
exclusively using air from from the us
our volumes are now getting to the point
where we are
able to negotiate air freight as opposed
express shipments which hopefully is
going to bring our
our delivery costs down if you have a
service you'll see that the delivery
costs from us
for the moment are significantly higher
so the prices from the us
are more competitive the the logistics
charges associated with that do tend to
push the prices higher
but with volume you know i think the key
to to any of these businesses is volume
once you have
volume you're able to negotiate you know
better logistics costs customs clearance
uh fees you know all of that comes down
as a proportion of your sales and when
we talked last time you were looking at
about a 10-day two-week delivery time
from europe can you talk about what i
can expect as a customer in terms of
now um in these two locations
um so it's it's two weeks from when we
the item and that's a very you know very
important point because often
people will order something that takes
three weeks to deliver
to us so it's okay you know clearly if
it takes three weeks to get to us
it's not gonna be with you in two weeks
look in terms of delivery times the
initial month month and a half our
delivery times went from from two weeks
to to three weeks
uh some things even hit a month you know
as we were trying to deal with the
logistical challenges that we had
we've addressed the majority of those
and we are back down
to having that too weak and sometimes
even less
we do we do a shipment every friday so
the truck travels over the weekend it's
here monday we initiate customs
clearance procedures usually by the end
of the week it's out and the following
week is being delivered to your
home so you can get through customs in
about a week
or a little bit less most products are
are cleared in under a week
uh anything that needs a specific
authorization either from the anrt
or any of the other regulatory bodies
does take a couple of days longer
but otherwise i would say four days five
working days we can we can clear most
most of our arrivals
so when you when you look at this growth
and getting a lot of new customers
on the platform do you find that the
source of business is repeat customers
that once somebody has created
an account and they've they're familiar
with the process that they
do repeated orders or do you find you
just need to spread and grow the numbers
because people do a lot of once and then
you never hear from them again
okay well i can talk to both of those in
fact we find that our
higher value customers tend to be people
who purchased in the past had a good
and then they come back and repeat uh
repeat purchase and in fact
the value of their orders tends to go up
uh over time
more comfortable with the service right
but we obviously do need you know new
users all the time and
you know the only way to grow and keep
growing is to have new people coming on
the platform trying it
um you know there's obviously people who
will come in and do a one-off order
for a particular item that they require
and i've we found this to be the case
for example with a
a spare part or a you know a phone cover
or something that somebody needs
once but we've also found a tendency of
once that first delivery happens repeat
purchase usually follows
yeah that's great because then when
you're you know you think about the
beginning of the confinement where
you were using air freight and not
passing on that added cost to the
customer you're taking a bit of a hit
but there's a hopeful return on
investment as these
customers become long-term customers and
their value orders go up
absolutely absolutely during our last
interview you
talked a little bit about your use of
social media
to get new customers you also mentioned
that you were starting
google adwords can you talk about your
experience using google
as a form of customer acquisition
actually we didn't go to google adwords
we made the decision to stay
on um on instagram facebook
uh predominantly and that was that was
mainly because
you know given the increase in the
inactivity we
all our resources were focused on making
sure that we were processing orders
and managing logistics even even the
people in our marketing team
had to become customer service agents or
logistics agents
so there was very little time uh to
focus on on
the social media and the uh and google
adwords for example so
this is something that we are now coming
back to and we are
we're growing our team so we have uh two
new people joining us uh
in july which will hopefully allow us
then to hand over some of the
logistical and the client management
tool to those people so we can go back
actually communicating on our on our
um i will say though you know we've had
a very good
business coming from referrals so word
of mouth and and recommendations
and at the end of the day that's really
in my view what you want to see is
people talking about you people
recommending you to their friends
we get a lot of messages saying you know
my friend what from you and recommended
that i
talk to you can you tell me about your
services you know
and that tends to that tends to snowball
and do you still have the program
available where if you refer somebody
you get a little bit of a
a discount on your next order or
something you had a program like that
yes that's still there that's still
active uh
having said that not many people use it
huh okay so there's a missed opportunity
for the customer there really is it
really is um
and i think it's also to some extent
it's it's it's our fault for not
communicating enough
on the referral program and that's
something we're going to be driving a
little bit more now because
you know it is it is uh it is a benefit
to people to be able to
refer a friend and then get rewarded for
that friends business so at this point
instagram facebook ads and then uh
referrals are your primary
sources of finding new customers
you mentioned last interview the types
of products people were buying
electronics fashion has that changed has
evolved over time we did see a very
big interest in health related products
clearly you know uh sanitation equipment
vitamins um you know those kind of
things a lot of
safety gear until the
ban on the importer masks were put in
place we also had people trying to
import masks
um so there was a peak in interest in in
sort of health related
purchases there was also a big spike in
in fitness equipment obviously with
people staying home
they they wanted to to still be able to
a lot of you know yoga mats and you know
those exercise bands and trxes and
people were even buying
weights weight tracks bench
benches for bench presses we saw the
smith machine so
there was a huge range of fitness
items that were actually being sold on
our site
wow wow yeah that's a that's incredible
to think about ordering a big uh
purchase like that from from overseas to
have it shipped hopefully you uh
didn't have to air freight something
like that that came by road
that was hundreds of kilos and then that
came back
so the other thing we talked about in
the last interview was
uh your desire to open up the platform
to other
marketplaces at this point you're
dealing with amazon france
amazon us can you talk a little bit
about your efforts to
add other platforms certainly
we have what we call custom orders so we
allow you to buy from
pretty much any site in the us and
what we do there is we we ask you to
send us the links to the articles that
you want to buy
we'll run a quotation for you and push
that to you through the app
if you agree to it you validate and then
you make your payment
and there it's processed like uh like
any other order
you'll get shipping updates and
everything else now we're moving to
automate that as well
uh so hopefully in the next month or two
you'll actually be able to cut and paste
links to products
uh into our apps uh and then our app
will generate a quote for you
uh automatically now obviously there's a
little bit of monitoring in that to make
sure that you've you know input the
right price
that we make sure that you know we get
the right color or size for
whatever it is you're buying so it's a
little bit more manual
but it does allow us to see in which
direction people are moving so are they
for one site fairly frequently in which
case we then move for the integration of
that site into our platform
oh yeah that's a great way to gather
information that's brilliant
so that's that's what we're looking at
and we have seen uh
certain fashion sites that are that are
in high demand
okay so these are probably going to be
the next uh the next that are going into
yeah that's a great way to gather
customer feedback if if people are
continuously requesting
items that are unavailable on on amazon
and you can think okay i need to
approach this marketplace we need to
and integrate with them because they're
ryan and i have talked recently a lot
about e-commerce
about morocco specifically about online
um you know bringing the economy out of
a cash-based economy into
sort of the 21st century one of the
questions i want to ask you i'm very
interested in
given that you receive all of your
payments in durham's
what are the challenges you face in
terms of making these payments to
overseas providers
in in their local currency is is it easy
to work with your bank
in terms of getting those payments do
they take a huge cut
when it comes to the the foreign
exchange can you talk to us a little bit
about that
um so all our importations are
you know they follow the normal
importation process so we we create an
importation engagement we do the
declaration of the merchandise
uh and based on that once his customs
cleared the customs authorities gives
the green light to the bank
to to make the payment for the
particular invoice
the way we do it is because we
consolidate we have we have a supplier
that will be the billing to us so
there'll be consolidation of the
shipment to ship it to us
and obviously invoice us for that
shipment on a weekly basis
payments so far has been relatively
smooth uh
we haven't faced any major challenge
obviously the bank does take the
commission for uh
for making that payment uh you have we
have to manage
currency very closely because obviously
you know if we're buying at one exchange
and making the payment only a few weeks
later uh
at a different currency rate but so far
we've seen it you know it tends to
it tends to balance out uh over time
and we are obviously updating our our
exchange rates on
on a fairly regular basis so we haven't
yet had a major
uh major impact of currency say you know
losing losing
too much on any particular order so
we've been able to manage that
relatively well
banks are at least the bank i work with
over time has gotten used to the process
uh and and i'd say
the process for for domiciliation of the
of the invoice which used to take two
days is now a matter of hours you know
we create the engagement in a few hours
later it's almost also
with time with experience obviously it's
been easier for us and easier for them
and are you actively exchanging currency
like as your volumes increase
and you're you're shifting more and more
money into us dollars or into euros
are you watching the exchange rates and
even in advance
shifting money between nations in order
to just take advantage of
currency fluctuations none of them not
we're not big enough to do that uh and
and generally you know we're collecting
payments from the customer in advance
and then
you know paying a bit later once the
goods arrive and we have the invoice for
paying at that point
but we are nowhere near big enough to
actually start hedging or
playing currency at all so we you know
invoice settlement uh and but we do
watch exchange rates and we do
you know we do uh we do try and make
sure that we're not you know we're not
too far above or below
the market right yeah and i'm sure
there's transactions you win some you
lose some but
it balances out at this point
now so far uh click apporte has been
a purely importing businesses in a sense
like i buy
products from overseas and i get them
here in morocco
what are your thoughts on uh making it a
two-way street
in the sense that opening up the
products that are made here in morocco
and offering them to customers overseas
look we've studied that we've actually
been looking at it quite uh
quite closely in fact before the
lockdown we actually had a team
of of students from alabama university
who were trying to help us set this up
um so they came back with their
we obviously have a few people who are
interested in looking at the routes
and i think it's a great idea look i
think if we can actually use
the existing logistics infrastructure
that we put in place
you know in terms of costs it's fairly
good because you know the truck then
goes back with cargo
we have the we have the customs
clearance process and the agents already
in place so it's a it's a good idea
in practice uh there are still some
questions that i think are
are open in terms of you know the
regulations uh
duties and all the rest of it so we
don't have a team
in france for example or the us for
inbound logistics
at the moment but this is this is
something we're studying and i'm hopeful
in the next month or so we'll actually
we'll start looking at that did that
team look at any
particular industries or types of
products or was it just
a general assessment of the ability to
from morocco to these other places it
was more of a general it was more of a
general analysis it was
it was literally analysis of our
logistics uh
logistics infrastructure uh our ability
to clear
the goods into into europe for example
because we were looking specifically at
uh at france
and actually selling on amazon fronts um
we went a little bit deeper on several
product categories so we did we did look
a little bit at food we did look a
little bit at cosmetics
and you know all the registration
requirements behind those
we also looked at the financials i mean
what would we
need to do with our partner in the eu
to make sure that you know we were able
to to pay the taxes
the vat what were the trigger points for
the various
tax liabilities we would have how would
we manage returns
returns was another another aspect that
we we haven't yet resolved fully
you know if somebody buys on amazon
funds what what do we do
in the case that they decide to return
the product so
let's say we're about 80 of the way
um but as i say the devil is in the
details and the last 20
is uh is a bit tricky
when we spoke nine months ago you talked
about how you were
self-funding this this startup but that
it's possible you would look for
partners and investors
in the future can you tell us about that
has that
uh are you still self-funding or are you
looking to to raise
funds at some point look we are
self-funded i will almost go further and
say we are client-funded
you know we we take our payments in
advance from the clients
sure the duration is very short
but it does allow us to manage our
but yes we are looking at funding we're
looking at funding specifically
in order to grow the team size in order
to invest
more in marketing in logistics in
labeling packaging
uh our our returns are still being
handled manually
with a small team and that's something
that you know we want to be able to
much faster and much more efficiently so
you know at some point you run up
against the limits of your
capacity to invest to take the business
to where you want to take it and at that
point you know you need to start looking
for somebody with with the pockets in
the stomach to to take uh take a journey
with you
i'd say we are now a viable
business we are
we're growing very very quickly i would
say we are now beginning to make money
at least on order basis uh if not
if not yet covering all our costs uh but
we're not far
we're not far so that's
this is that's fantastic yes thank you
yeah congratulations i'm sure that you
know that huge growth that came
during the confinement has given you a
great boost and now
yeah you're much more marketable to it
to a potential investor so that's
really exciting now on you know one
caveat uh
obviously is we've had the boost from
the shutdown
how sustainable is that and i think that
would be probably a question that you
know it's one we're asking ourselves
uh and this one any investor would
probably ask how sustainable is this
business going forward
uh once you can find my hands and
personally i believe it is
um you know with obviously improvements
in in logistics costs in delivery lead
uh we think we are we are
on to a winner here now you've you are
pretty much uh
uh b2c meaning you you're servicing the
final customer
for for most of your orders is that
correct have you explored an idea of
servicing businesses
meaning using your supply chain to allow
other businesses to
buy overseas and bring in larger
quantities of goods to
to for them to sell or to distribute
uh in their own businesses yes and in
fact we have
let's see between 30 and 40 companies
that are currently purchasing with us
wow we are doing we are doing b2b we've
actually got dedicated business accounts
um and so that we can actually be in
conformity with uh
with local legislation so you know you
have to have the ice number
of the company that's buying from you on
the invoice uh
in order to allow them to reclaim the
vat on their on their purchases
so all of that is being done um we
manage our business clients a little bit
more closely
obviously because their their
requirements are more specific
uh we do make sure that you know before
we allow them to make a purchase that we
we can customs clear the goods that they
want to order i mean if a client orders
you know 20 30 the risk is is smaller
whereas if a business places an order
for a significant
number of items you know if we get
blocked and then
that's going to hit our bottom line you
manage the
business customs customers more closely
but i would say obviously uh their
volumes are
significant and uh and i think we'll
continue to grow
and is it is it only places from europe
that they can buy or you have you
asia can you service customers that want
to buy things from
from asia for the moment no
we're not we're not we're not looking at
uh asian sourcing we are
we are predominantly looking at eu uh so
so outside of france as well i mean we
have some customers who
who asked us to manage orders from from
germany for example
from the uk and we manage those
and from the u.s obviously so those
those are those are working fairly well
you know we have the logistics in place
uh moving to to open a business for a
particular client in
an asian country i think for the moment
is a little bit outside our
our scope of activities
you have any indication what is the
selling feature of your service is it
that customers can
purchase internationally but pay in
dirhams is it that they can get
products they can't find in the country
or is it that there's no hassles in the
delivery and they don't have to deal
with logistics it just shows up at their
what are the really key selling features
that that bring people to you
i think it depends on on the customers
but it is all of those three okay some
customers is simply you know
the convenience i can shop and i know
somebody's following up on my order and
it's going to make sure that it gets to
if if there's a damaged product or wrong
wrong item that's being delivered i can
return it so it's really the convenience
of the safety that comes with making a
on our platform uh for some clients it's
it's the hassle uh they don't know how
to use
uh you know the online port the online
tools for for system but there are
they don't want to hire a transit uh an
agent a customers clearing agent
there's a lot of costs associated for a
small business setting up
uh to be able to customs clear an
importation you have to have some
registrations and so on and so forth you
need to go to whatever ministry
then is responsible for authorizing the
importation of your items so
all that work because we do it on a
daily basis for other customers
it's you know it's relatively relatively
easier for us than it would be for them
just the convenience of all of it and
then for others it's simply the fact
that you know they can
they can pay in local currency uh
and and then keep their their uh their
donation for
for traveling as opposed to spending it
on online purchases
and how do you acquire more b2b
customers i mean
i wouldn't think that advertising on
instagram is going to bring in a
business to use your services so how do
you market to other businesses
it's mainly referrals uh businesses are
many referrals
and you know initially we had a few
businesses that signed up
uh and used our our service but it tends
to be
our our uh b2c customers
who then will recommend our service to
whatever company they're employed in
so they'll say this has worked why don't
we order whatever item it is
you know through so uh i can tell you
for example there's there's been some
some uh
companies that do for example pc
assembling uh
you know the individual the individual
who recommended us to his company was
buying small parts for his computer
uh it worked and then he went to his uh
management and said look it's worked for
me let's give it a try
wow okay that's great there's a customer
who should definitely try to get into
affiliate commission incentive package
that you're offering especially if a
business is making large orders
absolutely you mentioned you have uh
two new team members starting in july
can you talk about
what your goals are for the rest of the
what would you like to see the situation
be in december
certainly uh okay
i think we're working on on several
so one of them is is automation there
for example several processes that we're
managing manually or sending manually at
the moment
that we can with relative ease we can we
can automate so one of them for example
is uh is labeling you know the products
come here
we do the customs clearance and then we
have to label it
for last mile delivery in in morocco
so the system integration between us and
the last mile delivery partners
uh you know right now we're using csv
files or excel sheets and
you know or system extracts to do that
and i think that can actually be done
programmatically so that
a package is scanned label is printed
it's fixed and off it goes
you know so that's one of the things
that we we're looking at and i think we
gain a lot of time
and we cut down human error by doing
this is something we're absolutely
working on the second
is actually our internal processes i
talked to you about the fact that you
our marketing team for example at the
moment is jumping in and doing
you know after sales service and
speaking with clients or
or sometimes working to make sure that
you know particular shipment leaving
from the states or
france goes in time so much more
clarity in terms of the segregation of
duties and who's doing what
so we want to move from a sort of
slightly fire fighting
mode of of of working now to having a
much more structured operation
which then allows people to develop
expertise in a particular area and
we'll benefits that that that brings us
so those are the yeah you hear the
stories of
of amazon in the early days everybody's
on the floor
packaging christmas orders getting books
out the door
it's common for a startup you have to be
willing to do a bit of everything
absolutely yeah i can see as your as
your volume increases you want to
specialize and get people focusing in
their areas of expertise
absolutely that's i think that's where
we're going to be able to manage
higher levels of volume uh bring
delivery lead times down bring prices
specialization obviously comes with a
lot of advantages if you can get it
and similarly sort of automation
yeah that's great well harjeet thank you
so much for coming on the podcast again
um always love to talk to entrepreneurs
entrepreneurs who are trying to solve
very difficult
problems like the one that you're uh
you're going after
we're very happy to hear that you've had
a great increase
in sales over these last few months and
hope that is not temporary we hope that
uh it is scalable and then continues to
um so we wish you the best of luck this
summer and uh
through the end of the year and uh
yeah maybe we'll uh talk sometime next
year about
uh your exporting efforts or uh bringing
on new partners
thank you that would be great i
appreciate the time
yeah congratulations again thanks rj
thanks rick
thanks ryan sorry see you
well another great interview with uh an
entrepreneur here in morocco
uh what a great business really tough
business so many moving parts
having to make adjustments during
it is a story that all of our listeners
and viewers should remember is that
entrepreneurship is hard it's all about
solving problems it's getting up in the
morning and
seeing a problem and solving it whether
it's a problem with your current system
or it's a problem
about developing a new system you know a
and uh you know harjita's solved the
problem uh the logistics problem
the technology problem and
i'm so happy to hear that uh that a lot
of moroccans are taking advantage of of
what he's offering yeah
yeah you're exactly right if if you're
trained to avoid
problems it's really going to limit your
success as an entrepreneur
the harder the problems are that you
solve the greater potential for
significant reward and the the more
difficult the problems are that harjeet
the the bigger the protection he has
around his business for any other
competitor to try to come in and steal
market share
they also have to solve those extremely
difficult problems so
every obstacle he gets over distances
him from his competition so
he's an amazing example he's worked very
very hard and it's
really encouraging to see e-commerce
picking up and the growth they've
experienced during confinement so yeah
we congratulate them and uh looking
forward to seeing continued growth with
quick apple t
yeah if uh for our listeners if you
haven't checked it out just go to
the app store uh for apple or for
android and just search click appertae
download the app and just see what's
there may be a bunch of products out
there that you didn't even know
you had access to um whether it's on
amazon or or
these other platforms that was something
new from this interview
was that you can basically go to any us
website and and send click up or
hey look i want these items so go ahead
and order them have them delete
delivered to delaware and then you get
them here in morocco so
i heard that and now i have a bunch of
ideas in my head
of what i can order in the united states
and have delivered here to morocco so
um that's a very valuable service yeah
yeah and if you you don't want to
download the app
uh it's also available in a chrome
extension so you can use your
your pc and shop shop there
and you can do that in french or english
so great service that's being offered

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