LIKE many others before him, e-commerce solutions provider Anchanto's chief executive Vaibhav Dabhade mistook the Swiss multinational shoemaker Bata as a local company.
"When I came to Singapore 15 years ago, one of my biggest realisations was that Bata is not an Indian company," said Mr Dabhade, who was raised in a village in India.
He had the impression that Bata was a local company based on the shops and showrooms he saw. Yet, when he arrived in Singapore, he found out that this was also a common misperception held by Singaporeans as well as Malaysians.
"We want to be that 'Bata of software'," he said, stressing that the Singapore-based Anchanto is very much a home-grown company here.
"Everything, the content, the flow, is super localised for our customers, so they feel comfortable."
This is symbolic of the mindset that the seven-year-old company has adopted for its globalisation journey.
Now present in Singapore and 13 other countries, Anchanto offers two main forms of software-as-a-service platforms to clients.
The first is SelluSeller, a Web-based platform that enables retailers, distributors and other online sellers to manage listings, orders, promotions and payments across major marketplaces in Asia.
These marketplaces, which lists a wide range of goods, include Lazada, Qoo10, Amazon and RedMart.
The second is an e-commerce warehouse management system that helps logistics companies or distributors have 24/7 access to their inventories, orders and customer data.
For instance, it includes mobile apps that give live updates of delivery status and optimal route planning, as well as inbound inventory processes such as packing and quality control.
Since Anchanto launched these platforms last year, the number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and brands that use the platforms have risen from just a few hundred to more than 6,500 across the 14 countries today, said Mr Dabhade.
"There is a very clear opportunity for us to commercialise our technology outside Singapore. The amount of talent, cutting-edge technologies, and instrumentation available here can't be found elsewhere in South-east Asia."
To help facilitate expansion and localisation, the company has partnered overseas launch customers to learn more about the foreign markets and opportunities.
Mr Dabhade said: "I told them, 'Look, we do not know a lot about the specific logistics requirements in your country. Let us understand and experiment this, and we will build it (the platform) for you.'
"Of course we pass on certain discounts to them because they are helping us to build a great product."
For instance, in the Philippines, Anchanto teamed up with Great Deals Ecommerce Corporation, which is the official distributor for many fast-moving consumer goods.
Mr Dabhade realised that the challenges were different for the e-distributor. While labour was extremely cheap and abundant, Anchanto found problems with accuracy in online sales values and warehousing operations. "So we developed certain checks and balances in our software to improve accuracy."
Anchanto has also worked with Indonesian telco Telkom Indonesia.
In order to be successful in South-east Asia's largest economy, the launch companies in Indonesia told Mr Dabhade that he had to manage at least five warehouses instead of a single large warehouse due to the country's vastness.
"But handling the multi-warehousing was key in adapting our product for the Indonesia market," he said.
On top of its partnerships with launch customers, Anchanto has received help from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and statutory boards International Enterprise Singapore and Spring Singapore, which recently merged to form Enterprise Singapore.
Enterprise Singapore's director of ICT and Media & Digitalisation Lee Yee Fung said: "Through Enterprise Singapore's introduction and facilitation, Anchanto became fulfilment partners with local postal subsidiaries in two new markets, the Philippines and Vietnam."
He added that Anchanto's engagement with Enterprise Singapore has led the company to enter nine markets, including China and the US.
To decide on which country to enter, Anchanto said that the marketplaces integrated in its platforms must cover at least 85 per cent of the e-commerce volume in the country.
Less than 10 per cent of Anchanto's business volume comes from Singapore. The leading contributors are countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, said Mr Dabhade.
He explained that those markets are more fragmented and complicated, driving the need for his solutions.
"When you have to go on multiple channels and the market is fragmented, we become extremely relevant, and we believe that fragmentation will be present for a long time."
Anchanto targets more than 10,000 SMEs and brands to use its platforms by the end of 2018, added Mr Dabhade.
"E-commerce is blurring boundaries and you've got to cover wherever there is large consumption," he said.
"If you are not in there, you lose the business. We want to be sharing with the world the commercial possibility of e-commerce in the big markets outside Singapore."