BuyHive enables global buyers to find products and suppliers with enhanced trust, transparency and decision making. It has processed more than US $200 million in product requests for PPE for schools, hospitals, & governments, and is growing fast to continue making sourcing easy for buyers through our Virtual Sourcing and Turnkey Sourcing services. BuyHive (TheBuyHive.com) was launched in November 2019. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Minesh Pore, CEO and Co-Founder, BuyHive.
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Please share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: BuyHive (TheBuyHive.com) is a B2B tech-enabled sourcing platform that connects buyers and suppliers using the world’s best sourcing experts and technology. BuyHive integrates the advantages of e-commerce with specialized, tailored sourcing services, through its vast network of professional sourcing experts spread throughout Asia.
BuyHive’s cofounders have each spent two decades in the sourcing business. While discussing the industry’s challenges in early 2019, they realized that the dominant (sourcing) solutions available in the market were inadequate to meet the changing needs of buyers worldwide.
To take one example, popular online sourcing platforms (like Alibaba.com) limit themselves to helping buyers discover new suppliers, but the buyer must subsequently fend for himself after he finds a supplier. The failure rates are high – shipments with wrong goods, delayed or even missing shipments is far too often the outcome.
Then we have traditional sourcing agents and trading companies that continue to operate on a high-cost and opaque service model, which has not evolved with the buyers and their changing needs.
Finally, the retail industry is today increasingly dominated by online eCommerce platforms like Amazon.com. While the hundreds of thousands of independent sellers on these platforms know how to sell, often they don’t know how to buy – especially directly from overseas suppliers.
BuyHive was conceived to fill these clear gaps in the market by leveraging technology and gig economy principles to provide a transparent and efficient global sourcing solution that better suits the needs of today’s medium and smaller-sized buyers.
The problem is indeed big enough to attract our focus and attention – BuyHive sits at the intersection of four well-established and inter-related markets: e-commerce, turnkey sourcing solutions, sourcing as a service and global retail sourcing. While the eCommerce market opportunity itself is estimated at $6.6 Trillion (source: eMarketer), as an aggregate, these four markets are worth $10 trillion as per various analyst estimates.
Q.: Please tell us about the founders
Ans: BuyHive has three cofounders: Minesh Pore, Brent Barnes, and Michael Hung. Each of them have decades of experience with sourcing, trade shows, manufacturing, compliance, and supply chain management across Asia, Europe, and the Americas, meaning that BuyHive customers are being served by some of the best experts in the business.
Minesh, Brent and Michael have all known each other professionally and socially for nearly two decades in Hong Kong. They started working on the business plan for BuyHive in March of 2019, which culminated with the incorporation of the startup in November 2019.
Minesh acts as CEO and manages the sales, business development, marketing, and finance functions for the startup. Brent is the COO and manages administration, HR, legal, partnerships, product development and investor matters. Michael acts as CSO (Chief Sourcing Officer) and manages sourcing operations, including the merchandising team, supplier vetting, production, QC (Quality Control)/inspection/audit, and is driving the rollout of the Expert-Assisted Shortlisting solution in India and around the world.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time.
Ans: The BuyHive core team is comprised of Minesh Pore, Brent Barnes, Michael Hung and Pranav Shah, the Chief Technology Officer.
Minesh has led sales and business development for more than two decades under global brands including Tata, Pico, Global Sources, and Intertek. He brings to BuyHive extensive experience in managing buyer-supplier relationships, along with his close connections with major firms along the length of the global supply chain, including manufacturers, compliance agencies, and logistics providers.
Brent has spent nearly 20 years in leadership at Global Sources, where he helped global top-250 retailers and top Amazon sellers to source successfully through the organization’s trade show and online platforms and he led the rollout of the industry’s first supplier verification program on a sourcing platform. As COO, he helped to manage the sale of the company to Blackstone and the management transition that followed, , so he brings the same level of professionalism and accountability to BuyHive’s operations.
Michael grew up in the trading business, and now leads his family’s 40-year-old firm, Headwind Group, which designs and manufactures products for retail heavyweights such as Target, Walmart, Polyconcept, and Hit Promotional Products. At BuyHive, tapping into his expertise in production oversight and experience working with global brands, Michael works to ensure our customers are receiving goods of the highest quality.
Pranav is the solutions architect behind BuyHive’s technological products. For 20 years he has led strategic product design and implemented enterprise-grade integration tech. He has ensured responsive design and scalable data integration at companies such as Accenture, Cognizant, and Aptus.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: BuyHive (TheBuyHive.com) is a tech-enabled B2B sourcing platform that connects buyers and suppliers using the world’s best sourcing experts and technology. BuyHive integrates the advantages of e-commerce with specialized, tailored sourcing services, through its vast network of professional sourcing experts spread throughout Asia. Unlike other B2B e-commerce platforms, BuyHive carefully vets and qualifies suppliers before they can list on its platform. It also offers sourcing consultancy to global manufacturers and retailers.
In late 2019, we launched our initial POC for the Expert-Assisted Shortlisting solution, and had big plans to send our freelancers to the leading sourcing trade shows in Greater China on behalf of global buyers. Then the pandemic hit, and all these shows were cancelled. Taking advantage of our core team’s skillsets and experience, we quickly pivoted to offer a turnkey sourcing solution in which our team would directly manage the sourcing projects on behalf of overseas buyers, and PPE and pandemic-related health and hygiene orders got most of our attention in 2020 due to overwhelming demand.
To help us manage more efficiently the incoming buyer leads and order process, in the second half of 2020 we built the eCommerce solution, and in mid-2021 we took our learning from two POCs and started to build the Expert-Assisted Shortlisting solution online.
Today, BuyHive has a community of over 60,000 buyers and suppliers across the US, UK, Europe, India, Greater China, and Southeast Asia.
BuyHive got its first customer by word of mouth through the founders’ existing professional networks.
For the turnkey sourcing solution there was no time for market fit testing, so we jumped directly into the fire and used our skills developed during decades of sourcing to help buyers get what they needed during the pandemic. For the expert-assisted shortlisting solution, we did two proofs of concept: the first in late 2020 involved sending freelancer sourcing experts into a big food industry trade show in Bangkok (THAIFEX-Anuga Asia) on behalf of overseas buyers who couldn’t attend in person, and the second POC in mid-2021 involved using freelancers to leverage their own networks to recommend suitable suppliers to buyers across a wide range of consumer products. Both of these POCs gave us greater insight into the needs and expectations of buyers and freelancers, as well as an understanding of where technology could create advantages.
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: BuyHive is the first company in the world to digitalize global sourcing by using a proprietary technology platform that marries the efficiencies of an online eCommerce solution and the reliability and accountability of an old-school offline sourcing agency. We are not only digitalizing sourcing, but also democratizing it by enlisting a vast network of independent sourcing experts spread throughout the world.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: At the outset we assumed that we could build a freelancer network, sell access to the freelancers to buyers worldwide and then deploy the freelancers across the major Asian sourcing industry trade shows on behalf of buyers. But the pandemic had other plans and we were only able to test our hypothesis in a small way. For the turnkey sourcing solution, which was never planned, we learned that adding an online eCommerce front end made the process much more efficient and user friendly for both the buyers and for BuyHive. And building this solution opened our eyes to a bigger opportunity, whereby the future expert-assisted shortlisting solution could accelerate our growth by feeding new suppliers into the turnkey sourcing solution and by upselling a certain percentage of buyers who have in hand a shortlist of suppliers recommended by a freelancer and would then need our turnkey sourcing solution to help them work with one supplier to get their products made.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: During our first year, we learned first-hand the risks of trusting the wrong supplier, a mistake which cost us two big deals and some legal headaches. This experience reminded us of the great importance of due diligence and strong contracts, and that it’s never wise to have too many eggs in one basket.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? Explain your thought process.
Ans: For our eCommerce platform, we charge the buyers a flat service fee for each order placed with us. For our Expert-Assisted Shortlisting solution, we charge the buyers a man-day rate for each project completed by a freelancer and, just like Fiverr or Upwork, we make our money on a percentage of the fees charged. Unlike the leading online sourcing platforms such as Alibaba.com, we deliberately do not charge suppliers a listing fee for inclusion on our platform so as to avoid the bias that’s inherent in advertising models. We charge the buyer a service fee and focus our solutions on serving the best interests of the buyer.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: BuyHive as of today is a bootstrapped startup funded entirely by the cofounders and the profits generated by the business to date.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: In 2020, BuyHive competed with much bigger, older, and well-established players to bid for, and win a large contract from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Everybody told us that winning such a big contract would be impossible, but we still went ahead and did it. Later, one of our biggest challenges was to get the PPE and medical product orders completed and delivered amidst the massive pandemic-fueled supply chain disruptions. Our team came through with this challenge as well.
Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in detail.
Ans: BuyHive has already completed over US$17 million worth of transactions on its platform. The platform has a community of approximately 60,000 registered users, and works with over 1,000 carefully-vetted suppliers, primarily from Greater China, India and rest of Asia. When comparing FY2021 to 2020, we expect our top line to grow by at least 50%, while our buyer customer count should also nearly double.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: BuyHive was founded with the vision to democratize specialized sourcing – which has historically been accessible only to the largest buyers and brands worldwide – by digitalizing it. The platform’s e-commerce solution allows buyers access to products across many popular categories from the world’s best manufacturers and suppliers. Additionally, BuyHive’s sourcing experts help global buyers of all sizes find the best suppliers for their specific procurement needs throughout Asia and rest of the world.
Our long-term goal is become the most trusted and reliable sourcing partner for all businesses in India and around the globe. Further, we are aiming to help the best Indian manufacturers and suppliers in a range of categories grow their business by matching them with buyers from around the world.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: BuyHive’s innovative business and operating model means that we currently have no direct competition. However, we compete indirectly with online e-commerce based B2B sourcing platforms like Alibaba on one hand, and large traditional global trading and sourcing firms like Li & Fung on the other.
Technology, a steadily growing network of freelancer sourcing experts, and the fact that we take responsibility for buyers’ orders are our biggest differentiators.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months? Any other information you would like to share?
Ans: Our goal for the next six months is to build and launch the Expert-Assisted Sourcing solution in India and Greater China, and we are now working to expand our network of independent sourcing experts to better serve the needs of our global clients. Simultaneously, we are also looking to invest in technology, marketing and people to scale our business. Towards this end, we are looking to raise external capital.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: Embrace the pivot! Don’t be afraid to reorient your solution to adapt to changing conditions or to incorporate what you’ve learned from failing along the way.
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