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Every day, more than 50 people take a leap of faith in Switzerland and become independant or found their own company. Matters of distribution logistics as a means of a link to customers are often under-estimated in the early stages.
For years, many company founders have been placing their trust in DPD Switzerland. With innovative solutions in all aspects of parcel distribution and IT-connections, we accompany young companies in their different stages of growth.
Our special offer for young Swiss companies is aimed at founders of new businesses and freelancers in classical industries as well as start-ups with innovative business ideas driven by technology.
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Under the slogan "COO Breakfast Logistics", DPD and venturelab invited selected Swiss startups to an exclusive "Founders Circle" breakfast event at the Startup Space. The speaker was Ronald Zemp, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Notime AG in Zurich. Notime is DPD Switzerland's partner for evening parcel delivery in Switzerland's biggest cities.
Zemp reported on how Notime has grown in leaps and bounds since it was first founded. Its original vision of "No more Unable to Deliver cards" had to keep being adapted as the company gained recognition on the market. Today, Notime can boast partnerships with countless leading Swiss retailers and is expanding abroad. His advice to new company founders: "The best business ideas and presentations won't help you if, at the end of the day, you don't get a grip on processes and costs. It’s an operational game."
Something of great interest to the startups at the meeting was how to deal with logistics costs in the online buying process. Everyone agreed that additional charges should be made transparent right from the start whenever possible. Surprise extra charges coming at the end of the buying process are known to be very unpopular with customers and lead to high rates of cancelled purchases.
Many new companies subsidise their delivery costs by including them in the cost of the goods: "Because the market is unwilling to accept additional charges for logistics, we are forced to make our logistics processes as efficient as possible," said one of the participants. Participants were also clearly in favour of one-stop solutions in logistics, to keep the number of interfaces and partners to a minimum.
Some of the startups had already had some experience of same-day delivery, where parcels are delivered on the day that they are ordered. Customers are not thought to be very willing to pay for the service, which is why initially it is normally cross-subsidised or even offered for free: "It's all about differentiating yourself from the competition and getting customers used to the convenience of same-day delivery. We're willing to sacrifice our profit margin to do that." The pilot phase during which companies gather information about price elasticity is followed by switching to a "freemium" model, with same-day delivery as a paid-for alternative. In the medium term, subscription models such as Amazon Prime will probably become established on the market, with all delivery services included for a fixed annual fee.
Start-ups which manufacture or deal in physical products have to deal with issues where shipping logistics are concerned. Thanks to DPD Switzerland, start-ups can benefit from special rates and receive a service that grows with them. Three customers from the areas of food, baby care products and car accessories tell their stories.
Anurima Das from St.Legier- La Chiesaz in Vaud, runs an online Indian food store, Swiss Rasoi. She says: “When we started out, there was no one in Switzerland selling Indian food online – just local shops that had traditional Indian spices, rice or other specialities in their range. A lot of people were unable to benefit from this because of distance, health reasons and even not having the time to visit the shops from their busy schedules. So we came up with the idea of launching an online shop selling these products thereby giving the customer the convenience of ordering from home and getting the products delivered at home”.
The company now has more than 500 registered customers on its books, with regular orders that are shipped via the DPD Webparcel portal. SwissRasoi prints out its shipping labels from the portal and delivers its parcels to the nearest Pickup Shop. Payment is conveniently taken by credit card. Ms Das: “Webparcel is a cost-effective and reliable solution for small businesses like us. Deliveries are usually made the next day, and the tracking function lets us track the parcel anytime”.
With the envisaged growth of the business, the logistical expectations of Swiss Rasoi are increasing: “We’d like to receive more services from DPD, such as parcel collection from our office, so that we can concentrate fully on expanding the business”, says Ms Das.
Coralie Petersen, a Frenchwoman living in Ticino, wanted to take a sabbatical after the birth of her second child. After a break of two or three months, lots of ideas were bubbling around in her head, including setting up her own business in an area that had nothing whatsoever to do with her previous jobs (teacher and reporter). A few months later, the idea of Les Petits Hiboux was born – a company that encourages reuse of cotton nappies. Today, Mrs Petersen sells reusable nappies for babies through direct information events and via her trilingual website. Her target audiences are parents-to-be, parents of babies and young children, midwives and paediatricians. Les Petits Hiboux recently celebrated its second anniversary.
When it comes to logistics, Mrs Petersen relies on her partnership with DPD: “Webparcel offers smaller companies like mine a great advantage thanks to it practicability and in terms of image. My customers benefit from competitive prices and a fast, reliable service”. For the future, she too is anticipating increasing logistics requirements, and the connection of IT solutions for self-printing of parcel labels.
Unlike Swiss Rasoi and Les Petits Hiboux, the firm Prodip from Altendorf, Schwyz, was not a completely new company, but started as the first European branch of a US dealer. The objective was to sell innovative spray film systems such as PlastiDip and Autoflex online, to cater to the huge demand in the auto-tuning segment.
A comprehensive export solution has been developed with DPD to guarantee Prodip’s customers throughout the EU the simplest, cheapest and fastest handling, from placing an order to delivery. For one thing, the solution provides for the services of a tax representative in France. Through this representative, Prodip is put on an equal footing for tax purposes with companies in the EU, without being physically present there. This saves money and reduces administrative expenses. For the tax treatment of the volatile organic compounds contained in the Prodip aerosol cans, DPD obtained a special tax relief arrangement with the customs authorities.
ETH Zurich, which is one of Europe's leading universities of science and technology, has supported enterprise creation on the basis of research results since the nineties. DPD Switzerland, the country's number one private express and parcel service provider, together with ETH Spin-off Community and the agency Inspire 925, selected nine very promising start-ups in a multi-stage process from well over 300 spin-offs that are registered in the ETH database. Tobias Clemens, head of the Innovation Board at DPD Switzerland, explains: "The age of eCommerce and the digitisation of parcel shipping are rewriting the rules on all markets. We want to find out about innovative technologies "made in Switzerland" and generate new business opportunities from them."
The founders of Scandit, Beekeeper, antavi, ElectricFeel, 3db Technologies, modum.io, Senozon, Insightness and Rapyuta Robotics took up the invitation to attend a pitch. It took place in DPD Switzerland's parcel sorting centre in Buchs ZH, set in an authentic atmosphere. The presentations were followed by a marketplace where the start-ups discussed their solutions at length with managers from DPD. The day was rounded off by a workshop on the current hot topic of Same Day Delivery.
As Tilmann Schultze, CEO of DPD Switzerland, emphasised: "DPD is the ideal partner for internationally ambitious Swiss start-ups with a flair for logistics. As one of the market leaders and innovators in the European parcel business, DPDgroup will enable these home-grown businesses to develop and conquer new markets with our support."
Since summer 2013, the drycleaner.ch service platform has been making it as easy as possible for its customers to have their clothes cleaned. "People's busy working lives take up a lot of their time and energy, so innovative solutions are very welcome in our modern society," explains founder Stefan Steuble. The platform acts as an intermediary between the customer and the laundry and is therefore an enabler for the whole process. On the drycleaner.ch website, the customer selects which garments they want cleaned by a laundry. The clothes are collected free of charge and returned when they have been cleaned. Customers can also determine for themselves where and when the clothes are collected and delivered.
When asked about where the idea came from, co-founder Mikel Lazri said: "Nowadays people want more and more flexibility, and it starts with the small, everyday things in the home. Our platform relieves customers of the tedious, time-consuming chores of washing and ironing and also makes them less dependent on the opening hours of existing textile cleaning service providers."
Drycleaner.ch aims to expand its simplified laundry experience and offer consumers a range of innovative and exciting services. That is why the young company has entered into partnership with DPD Schweiz AG, allowing drycleaner to combine its digital solution with the extensive network of DPD Schweiz AG branches. The clothing is transported by DPD in a specially constructed, secure container. This means customers now have the option of handing in their laundry at one of 600 pick-up shops for cleaning and then collecting it from there again later. A pilot project is currently under way in Zurich. Over the coming months, the service will be extended to other cities in Switzerland.
Internationalisation is a key factor in the success of Swiss SMEs and startups because there is only limited scope for economies of scale in the small domestic market. DPD Switzerland offers bespoke cross-border solutions for accessing EU countries and talked about these services at its first joint event with the IFJ Institute for Young Companies.
Every day, more than 50 people in Switzerland take a leap of faith and become self-employed or found their own company. Many young companies that survive the initial set-up phase – whether they are in established or ground-breaking sectors of industry – face one key challenge: the Swiss market is limited and in many respects saturated. Growth can only be achieved by expanding beyond national borders.
With the EU, we have a huge market of over half a billion people right on our doorstep. Indeed, Germany, France and Italy, three of our four main trading partners, border directly on to Switzerland and we also speak their official languages. So it goes without saying that young companies in Switzerland target the EU as a potential sales market. However, most startups obviously have no expertise on matters of logistics, customs duties or taxes.
At a kick-off event in early July under the slogan: "Thinking about new markets? We can take you there", DPD Switzerland explained how founders of new businesses in Switzerland can access the EU market without having to set up a marketing organisation over the border or even having to think about relocating. Despite the wonderful summer weather, over 30 people accepted the invitation to find out more about ways of sending goods abroad to private and business customers, how to manage returns, warehousing and fiscal representation.
The venue for this event was our site in Hésingue (FR), where TD Express SA, a 100% subsidiary of DPD Switzerland AG, has a branch just over the Swiss border in the EU. Among other things, this provides customs clearance, warehousing and commissioning services for small-scale Swiss shippers.
Jonathan Martin, Customs Clearance Manager, DPD Switzerland AG, addressed all aspects of exporting in detail and answered numerous questions from the audience. Afterwards, Francesco Spagnolo, CEO of David AG, explained how his company serves the whole of the EU from Switzerland and, thanks to DPD, is able to concentrate on its core business.
This information event, which was organised in cooperation with our partner the IfJ, the Institute for Young Companies in the Basel region, was a great success. It demonstrated that, for many Swiss startups, expanding into the EU market is a matter of the highest priority. It is important to be well-prepared before taking this step, to ensure that cross-border deliveries run as smoothly as those within Switzerland.