It’s always heartwarming to read, hear, or come upon an inspiring story that shows us the arc of a struggling business on the path to success. Most, if not all, brands that started with virtually no base have a great story that gives us the inspiration to forge on with our lives and become better. The beginning of one such story is that of Shaikh Sanweer, from Kolkata, whose personal hardships and intrepid spirit make for a narrative worth discussing. We (Paytm) had a chat with Shaikh about his work and his entire journey of ongoing growth and success.
Stepping stones to massive dreams
“My father was a person who made a daily wage, and he wasn’t posted at a good position in that as well. You could consider us as people below the lower middle class who had to struggle hard to survive”, says Shaikh. “Despite our financial issues, my parents made sure I got a basic education, and I’m incredibly thankful to them for that. I studied in the Gwalior district as a child, and as I grew up and learnt how things worked in the financial world, my interest in starting my own business piqued. But our financial situation being what it was, made it difficult for me to seek further education or start my own business. This is when I sought part-time work in 2007.”
Working part-time was perhaps not part of Shaikh’s plan but the desire to learn with the people he saw as his mentors and the determination to grow as a businessman made sure he never backed down. Soon enough, a trusted mentor offered him the opportunity to begin work on a small contract business. But the hitch here was capital. Starting a business without capital is quite difficult.
“I didn’t even have Rs. 5,000, so I went to my mother and asked her if we could make ends meet. It is a painful memory to recount. Having to sell your jewelry is not something a woman ever wants to do. Yet she did.
This is the amount of faith my parents have in me, and I cannot tell you how deeply touched I am by their gesture, even today. Well, that is how they financed my first ever business, Aces Enterprises, a company that took up contracting work in security.”
However, educational and financial restraints wouldn’t stop the 19-year-old Shaikh from heading towards his dream with a clear goal in mind. With the help of his mentor, Shaikh ran Aces Enterprises and received a fair bit of success. “Though we had a humble beginning, soon we began dealing with many International companies like LnT, Honeywell, etc. It was thanks to the opportunities with them that we grew our business. We ran that business for a few successful months. Aces Enterprises was an eye-opener for me and gave me exposure to start my own business. So with a heavy heart, I had to move on to start something I could call my own.”
“With the little capital I had, I then went on to start my own company, Federate E-Commerce India Private Limited, in Kolkata, 2010. We provided services to people and had a trading business in fire and security. This is a business that we still run today and is part of our website.”
“That’s where I started seeing returns. Where earlier I worked in the service sector, now we were contractors. It made me feel proud. In 2013 We got massive contracts! We had to install Fire and Security measures at Kolkata airport and Mumbai airport. For someone like us, it was a big opportunity to service massive clients like that! We got orders that individually ranged from 2–3 crores. If I look back, I don’t think I ever saw myself going this far ahead so soon.”
In a turn of events, the local stores also began taking an interest in Shaikh’s business. “Shops started asking us if we had cameras for security, fire extinguishers for emergencies. We had already built a niche in the fire and security space in our City. It’s good to remember that there wasn’t any competition back in the day. So whoever wanted to get fire and security equipment was directed to my company. That’s how we started helping local businesses and services grow. 2013 was indeed a big year for Federate E-Commerce. It launched Shaikh and his team to success with over 10000 happy customers who are with them even today.
“In this e-commerce business that we’ve had for 10 years, we have now started catering to every need. Whether it is electronic goods, food products, and soon even fashion and footwear; we aim to deliver.”
“Our objective is to make shopping online an easy experience so that the customer doesn’t feel hampered or held back. We’ve always been obsessed with keeping people happy, and that starts with our customers,” he further adds.
UME and new beginnings:
“I planned to start a new business in 2016 that was friendly, memorable, and short enough for customers to remember me. We registered UME as a domain name back in 2016 and onboarded it by 2017. We went from offline to online in 2017. Running an offline business was tough, so we had to start thinking differently.” Says Shaikh.
“We wanted to grow our business chain. I wished for people with every need to find something of value and felt a need to log into our website. So we decided to diversify our business. We’re expanding slowly but steadily. We have gone from home security to delivering on every front. We don’t want people to log in only if they want CCTVs. We want them to log in whenever they want, even if it is the most ordinary mundane item. The fact that we also only operate in 4 pincodes. So it makes it easier for us to deliver anything to anyone in 60 minutes.”
“Nowadays, fire and security equipment is more necessary than ever. Safety is a major issue in many parts of the world, including India. So we decided to grow in that space exponentially, first. Child security is a major focus for us today. Some issues that plague society today involve many unspeakable crimes. We are driven to make sure there is more than enough security to keep people, especially kids, safe to avoid incidents like those. We are now coming up with a device that can be worn on the wrists by kids to let parents monitor their location at all times. This is nothing noticeable. Just a small bracelet that is inconspicuous.” Shaikh gives us an insight into the expansion of his business.
When asked about the massive competition that is awaiting his attention he just tells us that the comparison is not fair with him and his company. “I just make sure that I give my customers a better, more consistent service. I just want customers to come to me and buy my products which they can get in 60 minutes. It’s almost like if someone orders a product from us, it should be there by the time they get their daily chores done. That’s the least my customers can ask for, and that’s what I like to deliver on. Customer satisfaction is a key focus. There are many e-commerce companies out there who do the same thing as we do, but it’s always about surpassing them by doing something worthwhile and new. Everyone has a mobile now. People today want to buy everything with the tap of a button. Nowadays, if you purchase something online, it feels like there can always be some improvement.”
How Paytm spun things around?
When the business began in 2017, the business didn’t quite get any response or marketing as much as Shaikh’s expectations. “We had many losses to recover from. We had to keep trying. So we tried again next year, in 2018. We had a lot of difficulties in just getting on board onto a new e-commerce platform. It isn’t easy. The entire website, its design, etc., I had to do all of that with myself and my team. No third parties were involved.”
“Earlier, when we were offline, we had a lot of customers. But we started losing a few. We had a lot of positive feedback, but that didn’t last very long. We faced complaints mostly due to payments. They were the center of all problems. Either failed, unaccounted or unmonitored didn’t matter. We just saw the money go by us very fast. It was unrecoverable and difficult for us to cope with. So we saw 2019 also crumble before our eyes. No good business at all.”
“This led to delivery issues and Payment Gateway issues as well.” Shaikh expands on his thought.
“We had a lot of difficulties with other payment gateways. Other gateways didn’t provide us funding or the ability to track our funds. For example, If I had something hand-delivered to a person, they would attempt to pay, but the payout would be received very late or every week or sometimes even never.”
This is why it was fascinating to see his face light up as we mentioned Paytm for Business. “I have used Paytm for quite a few years now for personal purposes. The app is available to everyone and is easy to use. After receiving the recommendation from one of our customers, I searched online for business.paytm.com and sent them a mail. Within 24 hours, I got a response, and we began the process of onboarding a payment gateway on my website. We began with a trial quite recently this year, and we’ve seen an increase in turnover quite early. So it’s natural that we’re projecting a spike in our business’s growth quite soon. I feel proud to say that.”
“It’s like everyone here says, “Sir aap Paytm se payment lete ho kya?” That is the driving force for us to have it installed and keep it front and center as the main payment option on our site. Look at most other sites. They give you so many confusing options at first glance. So many logins, so many registrations, and sign-ups. It seems dicey for Customers. Paytm is already trusted by the people, and your customers can pay in one click! It is so easy and so simple,” he adds.
Shaikh further goes on to express his kind gratitude, “I love the integration. The support team is incredible, very responsive. I haven’t experienced a single delay!” Other payment gateway providers wanted to send me physical paperwork and that takes 10 days at a time for verification of my business. Our business faced major delays, customer payments lagged even after completed deliveries. But when we onboarded Paytm All-in-One Payment Gateway, we were able to do it in just 24 hours, with minimum paperwork, and all online!”
“With Paytm, this isn’t the case! With Paytm Payment Gateway, I get the payment immediately or by the next day Within 24 hours. If everything works together like a well-oiled machine, all the parts have to work smoothly; deliveries must be on time, payouts on time, and customer payments and patent tracking should be on time as well. Our company today has over 3 crores of turnover. Our first business now even goes beyond our borders and serves other countries too!”
The company has primarily built itself during the pandemic. They’ve seemingly faced many losses, but that did not deter Shaikh from supporting his workforce. With about 35 employees on payroll and 60–65 employees off the payroll, Shaikh made sure he paid his employees and kept them afloat even during the lockdowns. “Our company has suffered a few losses, but we’re slowly and steadily coming back up on our feet. Our customers faced a lot of problems with payments and blockages or trying to avoid payments. We needed a solution for that and Paytm Payment Gateway helped with that.” He says, looking to a brighter and better future for his business now that the situation has eased.
As a sendoff, we asked about how he feels about his business today and what it would perhaps feel like in a few years. Shaikh responded with, “I feel like there’s no limit to how much we can grow. I feel like I’ve risen from nowhere today, and that’s possible for anyone to do. We’ve had so many people grow with us. We’ve made sure that we don’t hold back our employees from growing in different opportunities. I’m just glad we found Paytm All-In-One Payment Gateway when we did, a lot of our growth is projected with having it on our side. It’s incredible to see how we’ve found so much growth in such little time, it amazes me and my employees, Thanks Paytm.”