How Onex Switched from a Tiny Startup to a Successful Business

onex

So, who is Onex for?

Samvel: Onex allows purchasing products from abroad and receiving them in Armenia. There are a lot of e-commerce websites that do not provide shipping services to Armenia or the shipping takes too long and is too costly. So, in order to solve these problems, we came up with the idea of online express – Onex.

We provide our users with addresses in different countries. While making the purchases, our users indicate those addresses as their own. Onex then manages the shipping of item to Armenia quickly and cost-effectively

So, does Onex only allow importing items?

Samvel: No, it has grown into a multi service company. We also provide export services. We are the authorized representative of the Russian Pony Express since 2016. This allows us to provide shipping services to Russia and CIS countries.

We are soon launching another project known as Onex Global. People living in Russia and CIS countries will be able to purchase products from abroad and have those products shipped to their homes. In other words, we are expanding our services and are trying to hit global markets.

And, most importantly, the work is being managed from here, Yerevan. The support team will be working from Yerevan, too.

What inspired you to start it? And when did you start?

Samvel: It was May 2015 when we found out a company offering shipping services in Georgia. We got inspired by their example and decided to do something similar in Armenia. There was no such service here at that time.

Onex
Samvel Martirosyan, CEO & Co-Founder of Onex | Photo by Anna Aria

What other services are you planning to add to the existing ones?

Samvel: Apart from Onex Global, we have another project – Onex Market. It is the Armenian eBay I would say. This is a platform where the Armenian small businesses get the opportunity to sell their products abroad. There are over 1000 products currently displayed on the e-commerce website. We cooperate with over 40 manufacturing businesses that make those products.

Also, another innovation will make Onex more available to our users. We are collaborating with Rostelecom Armenia to take shipping services to the next level. Soon, our users will be able to choose the location they want their items to be shipped to (any Rostelecom Armenia office). Onex will ship the items to the Rostelecom Armenia office indicated by the user free of charge. And our users will not have to wait in long lines to receive their packages.

How do you reach out to your potential customers?

Samvel: As you can guess, we do not use TV ads, because most of our users are online. So, we reach out to them online via Facebook and Instagram. From time to time we add some creative ideas to our daily social media marketing. For example, you will soon see a video where we deliver our customer’s order with the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle.

We have around 33K users. And we had more than 90K items shipped through Onex during these two years of its life.

We have an open review system on Facebook. Anyone can review our services since we care for each customer feedback. Around 500 users have reviewed Onex and we proudly note that we score 4.6/5 and we are constantly working on improving the quality of our services.

How did Onex get to where it is today?

Samvel: Onex was initially a small startup based on an innovative idea. It is all about automation and making people’s life easier through technology. We have invested minimal resources into Onex and we were a really small team: me, my two friends, and my wife.

But now Onex has become quite large: it has its own departments, each of which is doing a certain set of tasks.

Working mode on | Photo by Anna Aria

What kind of events does your team like to take part in?

Samvel: We have participated in Sevan Startup Summit with a part of our team lately. We held a campfire talk with the potential entrepreneurs, shared our experience and also provided one of the teams with a prize. Our team loves networking events like this. We are eager to get to know new people and share ideas.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Samvel: I have tried a lot of things in my life: I have done other projects and I have also failed a few times. You cannot succeed all the time. I am a developer by profession and I have worked as one for years. Before there was Onex, I have co-founded MyNotebook chain of computer shops and I have tried different other business ideas in Armenia and in Georgia as well. I think I would not have changed anything in my career.

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

Samvel: I stick to it until I realize it’s not worth going on with that idea. Usually, it depends. I use my intuition to determine whether I need to keep on trying or it’s time to move on to another thing. It’s important to be flexible and ready for challenges.

How do you generate new ideas?

Samvel: We are three co-founders. And we usually brainstorm together. But we never discuss new ideas during day hours: evening hours work best for us. And there are no fixed dates to do that. Nearly every day we have something to discuss or a new idea to share.

I use a mobile application to arrange my to-do list. For example, I schedule my daily tasks, meetings and everything else. It helps get things done in a timely manner and to get some free time for brainstorming.

When you have tasks to do and you do not write them down, you might forget some of them. So, if you create a to-do list for yourself and you check every task that you complete, you get things done quickly and you also get that feeling of fulfillment.

So, I assume you have other apps that help you organize things.

Samvel: Yes, I have an app that helps control my personal finances and expenditure. (Shows me the app – iSpending).

How to find the best co-founders for a startup?

Samvel: It is important that everyone in the team knows what they are there for. It’s all about determining everyone’s responsibilities. For example, we have shared the responsibilities based on our skills i.e. who can do what. And, of course, we help one another with advice. For example, I am managing Onex, Eduard manages one of our projects Onex Market, Harutyun manages Onex Global.

How many hours do you work a day on average? Describe/outline your typical day.

Samvel: My working day starts at night when our US market wakes up. Every day there arise problems that need urgent solutions. Then in the morning (around 5 am Yerevan time), China wakes up and we need to get problems resolved there. Then come Russia and the UK. A lot of tasks that I am currently doing need more automation which we are trying to implement. But before that, we are doing it all on our own and with love.

My wife is also a part of the team, so she understands me perfectly. This makes things go easier and more smoothly.

What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

Samvel: There are people who like to take risks and be the decision-makers. And there are people who just want to live a more peaceful life if I could say so. I think it’s a matter of determining which one you want for yourself, which one is closer to your heart.

An entrepreneur should be business savvy and should have the ability to take risks, to communicate/network perfectly with nearly everyone.

Are there any particular publications, magazines or influencers you read/follow?

I have recently read Elon Musk’s “Tesla, SpaceX, and the quest for a fantastic future” book. Musk’s name is associated with such global companies as PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity. In this book, he describes his difficult journey from the rough upbringing in the South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world.

The book is not only interesting for reading but also inspirational, as it provides the real example of dreams that came true thanks to hard work, sense of purpose and ability to prioritize.

Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

Samvel: ggTaxi is the startup I admire. When Onex was just entering the game, ggTaxi was already in the market and was successfully paving its way through it. So, we were inspired by them. We are now friends with ggTaxi’s co-founders and we learn from them a lot.

And lastly, what 5 pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Samvel:

#1 It is important to find the right co-founders and team members. You should not choose people randomly. Instead, try to see who can give core values to the project. And it is important to hire the right people. Team leads, customer service managers are key employees that need to be chosen carefully.

#2 Do not wait until you have a lot of money/investment to get started. You can do a minimal product with a minimal budget and then you can expand it all. Use your own resources. Maybe your resources include code writing, then go for it, write your own code and make it work for your own good.

#3 After you have started, you need to be flexible enough. Time changes and things change and you need to adapt to them to be able to succeed. You can never say what will happen in some 5 years. Instead, you should work hard and be ready for changes.

#4 Your idea does not necessarily need to be something revolutionary. You cannot reinvent the wheel. Just do your research, take an idea, localize it for your market, add new features to it and there you go.  

#5 It’s important to write down ideas and/or problems. If you really want to come up with something innovative and you really want to get it done quickly and effectively, then you should write it down, make drafts and plan things.

Armen Margarian

Armen Margarian is an attorney with The Margarian Law Firm.

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