Meet Samrat Sengupta, the visionary mind behind Socialee. With over a decade of experience shaping the ecommerce landscape across continents, Samrat’s journey is a testament to innovation and leadership. From pioneering new ecommerce ventures to founding Socialee, his passion for transforming the way we shop and empowering creators has driven him to the forefront of the industry.
As the Founder and CEO of Socialee, Samrat’s commitment to merging video commerce with influencer marketing is reshaping consumer engagement and creator monetization, ushering in a new era of ecommerce possibilities. His relentless pursuit of bridging the gap between technology and consumer needs positions him as a key influencer in the future of digital commerce.
Could you share a brief overview of your career journey, including key milestones and transitions?
I have over a decade of experience working with the largest ecommerce players across four continents. I began my career with Rocket Internet, a German startup incubator and venture capital firm. During my five years there, I established multiple ecommerce businesses from the ground up, including Fabfurnish & Jabong (which were later sold to Flipkart) in India, Daraz (acquired by Alibaba) in Bangladesh, and Jumia (listed on the NYSE in 2019) in Africa. As a member of Rocket Internet’s venture development team, I gained a comprehensive understanding of effective ecommerce operations.
After my time with Rocket Internet, I led the fintech division at Tokopedia, Indonesia’s largest ecommerce player, backed by Alibaba. Following that, I briefly worked with Southeast Asia’s prominent ecommerce platform, Shopee, where I established their Shopee Mall and Premium businesses across Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
In 2019, I relocated to Dubai to assist in establishing the MENA office for American decacorn Pattern. Later, I joined GMG to oversee their omnichannel and ecommerce ventures, which include Sun and Sand Sports, Nike, and other brands.
Since last December, my focus has shifted to promoting fair compensation for creators and nano-influencers in the region. This endeavor led to the creation of Socialee, which we launched just last month, beginning with the UAE.
How has your education influenced your career choices and success in this industry?
I hold an MBA from IIM Calcutta, recognized as India’s top business school, which provided me with the opportunity to connect with some of the brightest minds I’ve ever encountered. My entry into the realm of ecommerce through Rocket Internet occurred when a senior friend convinced me to join, leading me to decline a job offer from McKinsey that I had secured on campus. Since then, I’ve never looked back, as I developed a deep passion for the continuously expanding digital landscape.
How do you tackle challenges in your field amidst changing market dynamics and technological advancements? How did that influence you into building Socialee.
Given the nature of my industry and my current role as a founder, it’s imperative for me to remain up-to-date with the latest technological breakthroughs worldwide. Socialee came into existence due to my recognition, based on my previous positions, of the significance of influencer marketing and the emerging creator economy. While there are over 300 million creators globally, only a select few at the top are able to generate substantial earnings. With the creator economy poised to double within the next five years, this issue is only set to intensify.
Any proficient P&L (Profit and Loss) manager would attest that nano creators—individuals with a social media following ranging from 7,000 to 20,000—yield the most favorable results. However, it may come as a surprise that a staggering 61% of these creators do not earn any income. This is the challenge we aim to address, utilizing my expertise in the field of ecommerce.
Which emerging trends is Socialee tapping into?
The most significant transformation in commerce is unfolding right before our eyes. What I often refer to as Commerce 3.0—namely, video commerce—is taking center stage. A growing number of consumers are now seeking out product tutorials and influencer recommendations online prior to making their purchasing choices. In the GCC region alone, a staggering 800 years’ worth of videos with the title ‘product review’ were viewed on YouTube in 2022. Evidently, video commerce has solidified its presence, and this forms the core foundation of Socialee.
Additionally, we are actively addressing the issue of eroding consumer trust in brand-influencer collaborations. Our focus is on constructing a candid and authentic platform that provides a voice to genuine individuals and credible creators. Essentially, our goal is to democratize the concept of creator-preneurship by entrusting consumers with the authority to sell, thereby assisting them in monetizing their content.
What are your future plans or goals for your career and company?
My aspiration is to ensure that Socialee becomes the catalyst for revolutionizing the creator economy, initially within the region and eventually on a global scale. I aim to establish a business that leaves a lasting impact on people’s lives for generations to come. Envision a world where anyone can step into the role of a consumer goods entrepreneur, with Socialee as the gateway. Our platform will empower individuals to seamlessly create, manufacture, distribute, and market their products. This vision encapsulates both my personal ambition and the ultimate objective of our company.
What valuable lessons have you learned throughout your career?
In my view, the most crucial lesson I’ve learned is that a captain’s effectiveness is intricately tied to their team. A leader’s primary, and perhaps sole, responsibility is to inspire and guide individuals, fostering their professional and personal development, all the while directing their attention towards a common goal – that unchanging guiding light. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with exceptional leaders. My intention is to follow in their footsteps, passing on the wisdom and insights I’ve gained along the way.
How do you differentiate Socialee from competitors in the current market?
Socialee occupies a distinctive niche within the GCC, even though there are formidable players in other markets.
We embody the fusion of Amazon and TikTok within the realm of beauty, albeit with a unique twist. Our platform presents curated content spanning various categories such as makeup, skincare, haircare, and fragrances. This content is often elusive on conventional social media platforms, and if available, it’s often buried amid the abundance of content. Our commerce experience is exclusively video-based, setting us apart from traditional ecommerce players that primarily rely on search functions. This approach is exceptionally effective for segments like beauty, where consumers seek expert guidance on product usage, ingredients, and benefits. Essentially, we function as a video-driven discovery and shopping platform. In more advanced markets like China and the US, video commerce already constitutes a significant portion—around a quarter—of total ecommerce sales.
Another major distinguishing factor lies in our creator monetization platform. Nowhere else can creators with 10-20k followers monetize their content from the very beginning. Our aim mirrors what Spotify achieved for musicians: bestowing enduring financial rewards upon creators every time their content is viewed, engaged with, or leads to purchases.
How has your company effectively navigated and capitalized on emerging global market trends or shifts in consumer behavior?
Consumers are gravitating towards video commerce, and our goal is to introduce this trend to the region. We’ve also integrated a machine learning recommendation algorithm to enhance personalization for users, recognizing that in today’s landscape, consumers anticipate businesses to understand them and cater to their preferences.
In your opinion, what are the most crucial qualities or skills that newcomers should nurture in order to excel in this industry?
I firmly believe that the most vital skillset for individuals embarking on their journey, regardless of the industry, includes ambition and a hunger for learning. I consistently urge my entire team to engage in a multitude of experiences as swiftly as possible, allowing them to learn from their missteps. As leaders, it’s imperative for us to cultivate a culture that accepts failure, but encourages rapid recovery. One of my mentors once imparted, “You’ve achieved nothing if you’ve made no mistakes; however, you’ve gained nothing if you repeat the same mistake twice.”