From Niche Logistics to eCommerce for Everyone
By Heather Romito
Think back to the early days of online services offerings. A company either had something unique to contribute to the marketplace, or their e-bubble burst fast and unceremoniously. It’s safe to say that Riz Kermalli, founder and CEO of eShipper, had something – a love for logistics and entrepreneurialism in his blood.
In the late 1990s, Riz started Canada Worldwide Services – a logistics company providing critical air freight services. The company was shipping live organs, blood, exam papers in a very secure fashion as well as providing support services to global carriers for their critical services. Canada Worldwide Services also offered niche services. For example, credit card companies could hire them to put someone on a plane and replace a credit card, hand delivered to the client who had lost theirs while on vacation in the Bahamas.
The birth of eShipper
According to Imtiaz Kermali, eShipper’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, “It was around 2005, and the internet was becoming more accessible and user-friendly for individuals and small businesses. At the time, shipping often involved waybills being written up by hand and a courier being called to come and pick up a package for delivery. The internet offered the opportunity to simplify and automate the shipping process.”
The company had a vision to develop superior software that would allow users to quickly and easily view shipping rates, print labels, and schedule pick-ups…all on one shipping platform. They made that vision a reality, and the newly branded eShipper platform became the first to complete an online shipment in Canada that year.
Today, the platform hosts all the major carriers and supports over 20,000 businesses in Canada, from first-time eCommerce entrepreneurs to the likes of Roots Canada. eShipper provides their services out of three offices and three warehouses, with the support of more than 150 employees and a fulfillment network that spans the country.
Evolving from niche services to end-to-end provider
Through its multiple service offerings, eShipper has become more than just a leading online shipping platform. eShipper Plus is an eCommerce-based warehousing and fulfillment entity specifically targeting eCommerce businesses that have outgrown their current means of product storage. Per Imtiaz, “These companies are trying to become more sales and management-based so they can keep progressing on their product development, and they want to get rid of their logistics.”
AMZ Prep Canada is another eShipper business, which was formed through a partnership with a Wilfrid Laurier University student who created the service. This arm of the business directly aligns with eShipper’s dedication to educating small to medium eCommerce businesses. AMZ Prep helps its clients prepare and ship their products to Fulfillment by Amazon, also known as Amazon FBA, which has very strict guidelines for its sellers.
And just to ensure that they cover all aspects of logistics for their customers, eShipper offers SmarteFreight for large freight and supply chain logistics.
In the words of Imtiaz, “eShipper is now, a one-stop-shop for import, final mile delivery, world-wide distribution, warehousing and fulfillment, and marketplace enablement. We have made the US market more accessible to Canadian retailers through our partnership with Pitney Bowes, one of the largest shipping software companies in the world, and we have newly formed partnerships with Walmart Marketplace and Google Shopping.”
The company also has the distinct honour of being the first non-Crown Corporation to partner with Export Development Canada (EDC).
Entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs
Clear to clients and partners alike, eShipper is a family of entrepreneurs first and foremost. In fact, the organization credits a tight-knit corporate culture for getting them through business challenges. So, it isn’t surprising that a family of entrepreneurs would want to help other entrepreneurs in times of crisis.
Deemed an essential service at the onset of the pandemic, eShipper took their role very seriously and put a lot of effort and innovation into taking care of other entrepreneurs through the ShopHERE program.
Together with the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, Digital Main Street, and Google, eShipper set out to educate small to medium brick and mortar businesses on how to digitize their products, fulfill online orders, and keep things up and running while their doors are closed to the public.
“It’s all about coming together as a community and helping them to actually progress once they are online. It isn’t about throwing money at them. We want to see them embark on that journey and give them the capability to do it really well. This level of care and family ethos and the ability to teach and share are key to the success of the program. It’s important to remember that they didn’t choose to be online. They were forced.”
Educators for eCommerce success
From the very beginning, eShipper has focused on supporting small business and taking a genuine interest in the growth of their clients. Their commitment to educating small businesses and giving them the eCommerce tools to allow them to scale has helped position the company as a thought leader in the logistics industry and within the Canadian entrepreneurial community.
Says Imtiaz, “We have provided many educational workshops, some with Arlene Dickinson’s investment business called District Ventures. We have also led university and college workshops for new Canadians wanting to learn how logistics work, and we host and participate in live online events with EDC, Clearbanc, and Startup Canada.”
This is what sets eShipper apart from its competitors – a drive to innovate, a love of knowledge sharing, and a commitment to providing clients with the support to survive in a tough economy. Next on the agenda for eShipper? Global coverage. Or perhaps a global shipping solution that will allow the company to take their brand of altruistic business sense to companies around the world.