Hai Nam Bui and Hai Long Bui developed a bookkeeping application for small Vietnamese retailers a few months back. It is called SoBanHang, or sales book. It would allow businesses that rely on paper ledgers to digitize their operations. It's similar to Khatabook (India) and BukuKas (Indonesia) and BukuWarung (Indonesia). Vietnam was hit by a new COVID-19 epidemic. SoBanHang was working with businesses that are often family-owned and employ less than five people. A hackathon was held to develop a product that retailers can use to manage their orders and create online shops. SoBanHangs hyper-local ecommerce platform has been used by almost 20,000 merchants since its launch three months ago. Many of these merchants are selling online for first time.
Today, the company announced that it raised $1.5million in seed financing. Investors included FEBE Ventures Class 5 and Kevin P. Ryan. Ryan is also the founder of Gilt Groupe and MongoDB.
Hai Nam Bui, who founded Datamart Solutions and held leadership positions at Lazada before launching SoBanHang. Hai Long Bui spent many years in management at Lazada before becoming the chief analytics officer and chief technology officer at Landers Superstore, an Philippines supermarket chain.
Hai Nam Bui, a Lazada t-shirt-wearing Hai Nam Bui, visited a grocery shop and sparked the idea for SoBanHang. When the shirt was discovered, the store owners asked Hai Nam Bui how they could sell online. He helped them create Shoppe accounts and upload product photos and descriptions.
Once everything was set up, Hai asked me how to ship the product. I replied that a third-party logistics provider would come to pick up the goods. They then asked me about the money. They were unsure of the process and didn't feel comfortable allowing third-party logistics providers to handle their goods.
The majority of ecommerce orders in Vietnam are paid by cash on delivery. Store owners were also curious about payment. Hai explained that the customer would give cash to the rider who would then give it back to Shoppe, who in turn would deposit it into Shopee's digital wallet.
They asked where was the wallet. Hai said that it was difficult to withdraw money from a bank account without an account. They find the systems too complicated.
Hai and his brothers began working on a digital accounting app for businesses to digitize their operations. But when the epidemic and lockdowns struck, it was imperative that they start selling online right away. According to SoBanHang's research, Vietnam has approximately 16 million small- and medium-sized businesses. Many of these businesses are local and can be reached within a few kilometers. Businesses on SoBanHang often deliver their goods on foot.
This was our second realization about retailers: they sell to their neighbors. Both sellers and buyers are within walking distance. Hai said that sellers can connect with buyers to make an order transaction. Then, retailers will deliver the goods and collect the money at customers' doorsteps. This means SoBanHang does not need to have complicated logistics or payment systems. Merchants can also use third-party delivery app that charges high commission fees.
Many clients of SoBanHangs used to manage their transactions mostly on paper. They didn't have a point of sale system or a laptop so this app marks the first time that they have digitalized their business. SoBanHang is available for all retailers. However, it was most popular among convenience and food stores during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Although the retailers are small enough to allow customers to message them, SoBanHang streamlines the ordering process and allows them more sales. An online storefront can also help retailers prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks in the future and to maintain good relationships with customers.
SoBanHang, for example, has a strategic partnership in place with Viettel, Vietnam's largest telecommunications company. They offer discounts SMS to businesses, so customers can still see special offers even though they don't have SoBanHangs application and don't get push notifications. A grocery store might want to sell their fresh fish stock and can send a text blast to customers.
Hai stated that SoBanHang could help small retailers compete against bigger players such as convenience stores and supermarket chains once lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Their advantage is their relationship with customers. They know their customers well and are patiently waiting for customers to arrive. We hope to transform that relationship into a new strategy for their sales.
SoBanHang will continue to work on its original bookkeeping app plans in the future. It plans to offer financial services such as working capital loans, which can be disbursed without the need for a bank account or digital wallet, just like other bookkeeping apps. The startup will help small retailers sell online in the near future.