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Retail Disruption: It All Started with Streetwear

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Saad Siddiqui Bonsai

We talked to Saad Siddiqui, CEO, and founder of Bonsai, about the only end-to-end commerce platform for publishers and here is what he said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Saad Siddiqui: Thank you for asking! My family and I have been fortunate enough to stay healthy throughout the past year. 

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bonsai.

Saad Siddiqui: I started Bonsai when I was in college. Growing up, I loved streetwear, so I decided to develop an app to pursue this passion. I set up the app to be part-blog and part-marketplace and had an incredible team that helped build technology to make the UX smooth for users. After a few short months of the site being live, it began to catch merchants and publishers’ attention. Merchants were curious why customers were seeking to shop from our app instead of directly from them.

On the other hand, publishers wanted the technology as it was a solution to solve some of the industry’s biggest pain points, such as diluted revenue from affiliate links. Through these conversations with both sides, we recognized an opportunity to completely reshape what Bonsai was from a niche upstart lifestyle app to an industry-leading commerce enablement platform. We made both major merchants and publishers our partners and have created millions of dollars of revenue opportunities since. 

How does Bonsai innovate? 

Saad Siddiqui: As a company, we always try to be forward-looking and forward-thinking in order to innovate our product. Analyzing the behavior of how consumers are interacting with eCommerce and publishers gives us key insights on where we need to innovate in order to meet the future needs of our clientele. We are constantly finding ways to iterate on what we have already built in order to better serve our customer base. 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Saad Siddiqui: Bonsai is a B2B company, and because of that, our business was not directly impacted, but our partners were. We work with retailers and quickly recognized that they would likely face supply chain issues that could impact the availability of products. 

Bonsai has been a key resource to publishers who lost a chunk of their revenue due to advertisers pulling spend at the beginning of the pandemic. Bonsai’s eCommerce technology provides publishers with an alternative revenue stream to paid advertisements and affiliate links, so we have been a strong partner to publishers throughout the pandemic and helping them adjust their revenue strategy.  

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Saad Siddiqui: Like most startups, we have to assume the availability of venture capital to fund our rapid growth needs. In the context of COVID, this was not an easy assumption. When the entire world paused, we had to plan for every scenario and assume that the venture markets would dry up completely. This affected our roadmap, our hiring strategy and even required us to consider significant layoffs. It has always been a priority that we do not lay off anyone, and thankfully, we were able to navigate the uncertainty without a single layoff. As the venture markets resume full steam ahead, Bonsai has an amazing trajectory. 

What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?

Saad Siddiqui: Tools that help our team stay connected in a remote environment such as Slack and Zoom have been integral to sustaining our great company culture even when we cannot physically be together. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Saad Siddiqui: We stay in the game by creating our own lane. We do not have any direct competitors, but as we provide the tech behind an end-to-end consumer online shopping experience, we operate in the same space as various companies that handle marketplaces, payments, logistics, and customer service. 

At Bonsai, we strive to anticipate our customers’ needs before they express them so that our product is continually exceeding their expectations. We always have our finger on the pulse of where the future of eCommerce is heading, so we can innovate our product accordingly and provide an exceptional experience for our customers. 

Your website?

Shopbonsai.ca

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