HipVan is an online furniture retailer turning the industry on its head. Co-founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur Shobhit Datta, the Singapore-based design and e-commerce brand is now an online behemoth with over 300,000 monthly unique visitors and an expansion into Malaysia. So how do you keep an ecosystem of digital orders, customers and teams in sync without breaking the budget?

Anyone who has furnished a new pad from scratch would know it’s a harsh juggling act. The never-ending compromise between price and design leaves any prospective decorator with a bitter taste in their mouth, from your university share-house all the way through to your first apartment.

Tired of the lack of furnishing options made available to them (plus the flat pack alternatives), HipVan was created to bring beautiful, affordable design directly into the home; sold online and delivered directly to younger, aesthetically-driven dwellers.  

“Our Mission is to make beautiful homes accessible to everyone”

HipVan is unique in that it sells and delivers directly to customers without the need for middle-men. With the volume of Stock Keeping Unit’s (SKUs) 10x the industry average, the logistical challenge of a digital design/purchase/delivery ecosystem meant their teams need to be in constant sync. Having used Dropbox “since day one”, Danny recalls they automated their business processes to keep teams constantly connected and operating costs low (transferring the saving onto the consumer).

“Traditional retail is our biggest competitor, but we have a better core structure. Without something like Dropbox Business, it would be hard for us to operate at a low cost in an expensive city like Singapore. Especially in a startup, where we’re growing so quickly, everything is shared as a central repository so there’s no one working in silos.”

A solution for every team

It starts from the moment someone orders a product, where orders are sent online to their international warehouse.

“We have a production team in the Philippines. Their job is to do product uploads; check the information, (process the order), make sure the specs are good. But even though they’re still based in the Philippines we can easily stay on the same page, and they can upload their work directly to Dropbox.”

With these orders made available across the business, staff in head office are able to use this data to inform future products and buying patterns to create simple financial records: “All our merchandising information is shared with factories and vendors and stored in Dropbox so we can browse what we’ve ordered in the past.”

“We bookmark the Dropbox app to see what’s going out for the day. We can view customer invoices, inbound shipments, then we can scan and upload everything so we have a record of all our invoices. It makes the audit process MUCH quicker, having everything electronic within Dropbox.”

Making it pop!

Making your product look good is an imperative for any design-led company. For HipVan, it takes an internal graphic design team working collaboratively to produce creative campaigns that relate to the core audience.

“Our designers don’t email a banner and ask for feedback, they just do everything through Dropbox. It holds a record of everything that we’ve done in the past so we can easily look back at previous campaigns. (It’s an) easy reference for all our graphic assets.”

Not just different, but better.

Start-ups are tough work, and require as many cost and productivity-savers as possible to ensure growth while staying on top of debts.

“(When starting out) we cared mostly about sharing, and we needed something that would grow with us. We started by using Dropbox organically (syncing photos from our iPhones), where we eventually upgraded to a business account. Most of our employees are in their mid-late 20s, so there was no problem learning how to use it and we could start straight away.”

“Dropbox Business has really helped in reducing email. We don’t have to email every little thing or create attachments. For growing companies, when there’s not enough time or resources to go around, Dropbox Business is perfect. It helps you grow and prioritise.”  

With a significant volume of company data uploaded into the cloud, it’s also important HipVan felt their data was secure. “If an employee moves on we can wipe their account, which means their account is disabled and we have the option to delete the files. It keeps our company information secure.”

“In terms of saving time, we’re saving a lot.”