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Fairmart was founded in 2020 in Singapore. Through a combination of IoT and SEO, Fairmart supports SMB retailers by helping every store automatically digitize all their products using a smart barcode scanner and enable them for online search. Retailers simply scan the barcodes of their products and the details are published to their Fairmart page.
We caught up with Jan Gasparic, Co-founder and CEO of retail tech startup Fairmart to discuss the journey leading up to the creation of a startup, the e-commerce landscape in Singapore, how Fairmart supports local independent retailers in their digital transformation and Fairmart’s future plans.
RiA: Can you give us a background into your journey before launching Fairmart?
Jan: I co-founded Fairmart in the summer of 2020 with my business partner Daniil who is the company’s CTO. I have worked for 15 years in sales, BD, and marketing roles across Southeast Asia. Before launching Fairmart, I led DJIt’s North America BD, sales, and partnerships teams which pioneered the use of drones across a broad range of commercial applications.
Daniil has a background in software engineering. He previously led successful product and development teams for Shopback. Prior to that he was instrumental in launching Redmart’s marketplace which got thousands of retailers to sell online.
RiA: Did you join an incubator or accelerator program before launching your retail tech startup and how helpful was it?
Jan: Yes we did and it was really helpful! My co-founder, Daniil, and I met on the Entrepreneur First program in Singapore in 2020. A key tenet of the program is understanding and documenting the challenges your customers face in order to build a product that serves a vital need. This led us to see just how existing digital commerce solutions were such a poor fit for physical retail stores. We founded Fairmart to give every retailer a fair shot at having a successful digital business.
RiA: You have just raised S$2 million (US$1.5 million) in a seed funding round co-led by Quest Ventures and Entrepreneur First. How will you use this new capital?
Jan: Fairmart is actively expanding both our business and technology teams here in Singapore. We’re always on the lookout for individuals with skill sets in growth marketing, sales, and data engineering – and a passion to support our neighbourhood stores in their digitalisation journey.
RiA: The pandemic accelerated the adoption of e-commerce by consumers and businesses. The numbers of new internet users and digital consumers are soaring in Southeast Asia. According to Google’s e-Conomy SEA 2021, 20 million new digital consumers joined the internet economy in SEA in H1 2021 alone. However this brought new challenges for SME retailers that are not necessarily digitally mature. Can you elaborate on that?
Jan: The digitisation of retail has brought very serious challenges to traditional and independent retailers. In fact, they are losing over US$ 4.5 billion in sales to online competitors annually simply because shoppers can’t see the products they carry.
Shoppers are buying online because increasingly this is where their purchasing journeys start. Yet most retailers have no presence there when it comes to the products they carry, so they immediately lose out to online competitors.
Existing solutions are designed for e-commerce, where individual stores typically carry smaller selections of products (say ~200 SKUs). All this data is keyed in manually – there is no automation available at all. A typical SME retailer has over 2,000 SKUs, which equates to over 200 hours of manual data entry, meaning it just never gets done. Fairmart automates this process.
RiA: How does Fairmart help Singaporean retailers address these challenges?
Jan: Fairmart supports Singaporean retailers by helping every store automatically digitize all their products and enable them for online search. Retailers simply scan the barcodes of their products and the details are published to their Fairmart page.
Shoppers searching for specific products the store carries will then see them in relevant search results. They can then either go buy in store or purchase online.
Not only do we save retailers hundreds of hours of manual work, we also help them capture new customers that are searching for in-store options
Fairmart also helps local and independent retailers to maximise their local reach. We found out that 46 percent of all searches online are for local products and businesses. Making sure store inventory is visible online is critical to capitalising on these behaviours and driving foot traffic to local retail stores.
RiA: What’s the advantage for SME retailers of using Fairmart instead of having their own brand.com?
Jan: Fairmart aggregates product listings which are search engine optimised and updated on a daily basis. This gives us a major ranking advantage with Google vis-a-vis a standalone brand.com. At the same time, we keep individual store inventories separate, which reduces the price competition retailers would typically see when listing on a larger marketplace.
RiA: Can you tell us about your clients and the outcome of your partnership for them?
Jan: Today we are working with hundreds of retailers in Singapore. In addition to the time that we help them save, the other most tangible outcome is data. One of our clients was very surprised when we showed him that niche products in his inventory were attracting more new customers than what he thought were his ‘hero’ products. The data we provide empowers retailers to understand what customers are searching for and supports their assortment decisions.
RiA: What’s next for Fairmart?
Jan: The digitisation of retail has been progressing over the last three decades with several distinct phases. D2C E-commerce made up the first wave of digitised retail. The second wave has been the emergence of giant marketplaces such as Shopee and Lazada. Fairmart is the next wave where we take all the tools that the big players have, and make them available to every local and neighbourhood store out there.