E-COMMERCE ENTREPRENEUR ABDEALI NAGARWALA

The Dawoodi Bohras are renowned worldwide as successful business leaders in a diverse range of industries. Entrepreneurialism and positively contributing to local economies is highly encouraged by the community’s leader, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. The term “Bohra,” in fact, traces its etymological roots to the Gujarati word vohrvu, meaning trader. 

The world of business has changed drastically with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brick-and-mortar stores have been among the most significantly impacted during this time, with many being forced to close down. Small businesses that previously relied on foot traffic have had to revise their business and marketing strategies to comply with stay-at-home orders. To combat this decline in patrons, more and more small businesses have turned to selling their goods and services online.

Online e-commerce had been a steadily growing market sector even before the pandemic, but now, as customers are discouraged from in-person shopping, the industry is booming.  Amazon generated 3 billion USD in revenue in 2004. Fifteen years later, that number grew to a whopping 280 billion USD in sales, and, according to eMarketer, that number will top 4.9 trillion USD in 2021. More recently, companies that used to be exclusively brick-and-mortar, such as Walmart, have also jumped on the online shopping bandwagon.

Various online websites that cater to small businesses have also sprung up in recent years. These websites give small businesses a platform on which to advertise and even open up stores. Other companies, such as eBay, Shopify, and even Facebook and Instagram have all opened up opportunities for small business owners to advertise their products and services.

Abdeali Nagarwala of Los Angeles has been in the e-commerce business for the past eight years. He was recently a guest speaker for an Entrepreneurship course at Los Angeles City College, in which he shared his expertise with students looking to start or expand their own businesses. 

Nagarwala began his presentation by emphasizing the importance of having an online presence. “If you are not looking into expanding your business online, you will be left behind in a competitive business environment,” he said. 

“However, the good news is that it’s never been easier to sell in newer sales channels and reach…an international market through an online e-commerce platform.”

He then gave an introduction to selling on Amazon, explained the two main plans Amazon offers to small business owners. Nagarwala also analyzed the general concept of “Dropshipping,” a method employed by Amazon and other online sellers as well, and detailed its pros and cons.

Then he moved on to sharing general knowledge that he had amassed over the years about deciding which products to sell, forecasting sales, mapping trajectories, and analyzing market trends of competitor products to predict the success of the product. He also shared cashflow statements, breaking down actual expenses to calculate the Break-Even point, a threshold which it is necessary to cross in order to make a profit. 

Nagarwala also gave a small demonstration on how to use Shopify, highlighting the ease with which a business owner can set up and customize an online shop.

The last topic Nagarwala spoke on was the benefits of marketing on social media to drive sales. According to recent statistics, some 78% of companies shun more traditional advertising methods, and instead choose to focus their efforts exclusively on social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok. He underscored the idea that these apps can be used to reach your target audience, and thus be effective in clinching sales and increasing revenue.  

The underlying theme of Nagarwala’s presentation was to understand the e-commerce medium as a potential market and participate in its growth from the get-go, since all trends indicate this marketplace is the future of business.