Antuan Angelov: There are new opportunities for e-commerce in the cloud

from 11/02/2016

An interview with Antuan Angelov, Business Development Manager of Cloud and Mobile Hosting Services at Kontrax JSC. Co-founder of the electronic trading platform eHub

1. Tell us the story of when and how the idea of creating an electronic trading platform eHub came to life?

The topic I currently deal with, ecommerce, is not only interesting but also very close and familiar. Most importantly, it has a potential for future development. There is room for improvement and implementation of know-how. Over the years, the word “Internet” changed its meaning. Cloud services subscriptions (Software as a Service – SaaS in particular) on virtual servers established themselves as a global solution for outsourcing of IT services. Today, cloud services are one of the fastest growing online segments and their convenience, accessibility and ease of use ensure their growth in the upcoming years. Countless hosting companies with pre-installed Open Source electronic stores have emerged and have become a nice alternative to actual retail network. This way, over time, participants of all kinds (suppliers and manufacturers) discovered the advantages of e-commerce: No products are kept in stock - the dropship service is increasingly gaining momentum in Bulgaria; no investment is made in long-term rental agreements; the physical location of the store is irrelevant; there are no problems with landlords - raising the rent, etc.; there is no cash register; there are no problems with the staff - recruitment, supervision, etc., there is no need for insurance, security, SOT, security cameras and the accompanying expenses, thefts, etc.; other operational issues related to the management of a real chain of stores.

The crisis in the economy over the past years finally established the online sales as force we should recon with- on the one hand, the stores and, on the other hand, the distributors - dealers, retailers and manufacturers. So, over the years, the part of the sales to end users via electronic market grew bigger and bigger. End users, on the other hand, were immediately convinced of the benefits of online shopping and today we see that the user prefers to order online, taking into account the fact that prices and conditions are not less favorable. As a result of which, many large chain stores, importers and representatives had to revise their distribution policies. A new word appeared in the English business dictionary: e-tail or e-retail.

The solution turned up at the right moment. Creating an innovative platform that provides connectivity and unified interface for communication between online retailers, on the one hand, and suppliers of technology products, on the other hand. A cloud platform without any restrictions on the market and without any restrictions in the products/services.
The idea of creating a platform for e-commerce is not new. Four years ago, in our search for new distribution ideas and following the latest trends, in Lancom Bulgaria we noticed a niche in the field of product distribution. I shared my vision for such a platform with the owners. I did a short survey and then I presented a business plan. The proposal was approved for funding by Mr. Yordan Yordanov, the main shareholder in the KONTRAX group. It was decided to first implement and integrate eHub with the ERP system in Lancom Bulgaria and to test its benefits and come up with a comfortable, open solution for all partners of the company to easily and quickly receive the products synchronized and ready for e-sale. In 2013, we started working on the project and the first results came fast.
I have been working with the KONTRAX group since 2005, and I have held the Business Development Manager of Cloud and Mobile Hosting Services position at Kontrax JSC for six months. I am an active person and I like creating a new know-how and improve the field I work in and the activities I engage in. eHub is an idea in which we saw development potential and prospects for the future. For me, introducing innovation in business processes relevant to today is a new challenge and an opportunity. At the time the idea was born (2012), it was not yet the time for the emergence of eHub. The market for online sales was establishing itself and it was developing. With the establishment of in 2012-2013 in Bulgaria, the need for became apparent. The original idea for eHub to be a flexible modular system for the management of an electronic distribution channel was confirmed. An instrument that imposes rules on communication between market participants on the electronic market and makes its participants more free to choose. Thanks to eHub, all participants can save time and investment to be included in the online market (ecommerce market) or to make an online store. Today, a large part of the marketplace partners of use exactly those features available in eHub.
2. What are the main features and development opportunities of online commerce?

The first reviews are very positive and we expect, in the coming months, the interest in the platform to grow. Online commerce does not work by itself. It is like any other system - it has components and deals mostly with sensitive data that must be up-to-date at any particular time. If the manufacturer has products in its retail network, they should also allocate a warehouse with available products for the online marketing.
The eHub trading platform is a cloud b2b service for complete management of commercial processes between e-commerce market participants. And eHub is the core of a kind of a general online market in which, on the one hand, there are companies with their production (products and services), and, on the other hand, there are companies willing to distribute or sell to the end user. The platform facilitates the transfer of information (prices, photos, information on delivery, orders, promotions, etc.) between participants on a commercial basis - the supplier approves the store with which they want to be partners and the specific products to which they are provided access. Each participant creates their TP (trading platform) and a role - Supplier or Shop. ehub is completely open to all participants and has published documentation (API) which can be used in the creation of links (connectors and extensions) to existing ERP systems, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to the famous e-commerce platforms (electronic and online stores) such as: PrestaShop, Magento, osCommerce, OpenCart, the Bulgarian platform SummerCart, eBay, Amazon marketplace, eMAG marketplace (, Taobao and other platforms for sales to end users (b2c) or marketing platforms - such as , with which the price comparison is made, or, with which one can participate in auctions, etc. Each operation in the TP can be made both via SSL web access and UI and via an integrated connector (application) written with the API of the TP.
3. What are the specific benefits of inclusion in the eHub trading platform?

An important advantage of the platform is that it offers an opportunity for free development and programming of additional applications with API (Application Programming Interface), which can be used for its further development, completion or connection to various other systems - ERP or cloud platforms. This makes it easily integrated with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions of our partners, such as: Microsoft Dynamics or Pantheon, provided by Kontrax JSC, as well as other types of business management systems, various database accounting programs, for example: Microinvest, as well as with some of the most popular free e-commerce platforms like PrestaShop, Magento, osCommerce, OpenCart and SummerCart, or paid platforms, such as: Shopify. The trading platform is also easily integrated with leading world platforms for online sales such as eBay and Amazon, China’s Taobao and others.
Using the TP, ehub can be transferred, created, edited, it can store a database and carry out any commercial transaction - order, delivery, bidding and other functions such as marketing statistics etc. It provides a fully autonomous and automated link between e-commerce portals and suppliers. It provides connectivity and unified interface (via an open API documentation) for communication between retailers, on the one hand - companies with e-shops and retail platforms, and, on the other hand - suppliers with various product lists, which must reach the end user using the database in its information system (ERP) in a fully automated manner. Developers (software companies) themselves are completely free to create connectors and to complement the functionality by publishing in the eHub store and leasing to other participants.
The trading platform places and imposes a standard for the communication between participants in the e-commerce. A supplier, no matter whether an ICT distributor or shoe manufacturer, who has made a single platform integration, does not have to make subsequent integration to publish their products to a new partner. The manufacturer makes a single integration through an already existing connector within hours. In most cases, there is already a ready connector for connecting to their system, which can be used to carry out the integration with eHub. The situation with online stores wishing to receive product information from as many suppliers as possible is the same. Instead of making countless integrations for each specific supplier and for each different system separately, it is sufficient to join eHub.
Among the advantages of e-Hub are the two-way transmission of information between participants, the high degree of security (using SSL requests and certificates), its independence and non-alignment with a particular company or platform, which allows the serving of companies from all sectors, industries and regions. Moreover, it is easy to use, entirely open and it can involve all interested companies without any restrictions.
Another benefit may be to facilitate migration from one web store to another by supporting a structure with an unlimited number of stores, suppliers, products and markets. If a business customer has an online store, they can easily transfer it completely to a new online store without any complications. Of course, this does not exhaust all benefits.

4. From your experience so far, can you summarize which sectors benefit from the services of the platform? Can you tell us whether there are any, and if so, what are the specifics of the various actors in the inclusion in the platform?

eHub can be used as a basis for enhancing the effectiveness of each ERP or each accounting and warehouse system. It can also be used completely independently, as it allows you to manually enter your products There are virtually no marketing restrictions. It was not made for a specific product or market. Currently, the platform is used by suppliers from different sectors - fashion, IT, book market, sports, etc. In eHub, each participant chooses their role in the inclusion in the platform, such as:
Supplier (goods and services). The supplier is an importer, manufacturer, through which the TP Provider contacts the TP Store type to provide and exchange market information such as: Prices, orders, deliveries, service or other marketing information.
Store. TP for online sales to end users. The TP Store type distributes products and services of the TP Supplier to the end user.
Developer. Usually a software company that creates connectors for the respective trading platforms used by suppliers and stores. The developer can create and lease their connectors to other participants.
Each of the specified participants registers their trading platform depending on their role.
5. What are the future plans for development of the platform and in what ways do you intend to develop the other cloud and hosting services of Kontrax?

eHub proved its necessity for passing the test for market demand and deployment. Now we expect to strengthen our position on the market and to seek subsequent development, for which we need additional funding. That is why, we have an idea to get involved in a large European project in the field of innovations in e-commerce in 2016. We expect to be able to introduce ourselves as an innovator and prove once again the need for eHub at this stage of development of the electronic market in Europe and internationally (MarketPlace eHub).