An Evening in London: From Spice Tins to Global Trade

Devin Wenig, President and CEO

CEO Devin Wenig meets the eBay sellers breaking down geographical borders and scaling their businesses.

The best ideas often come from the most humble beginnings. Ours started with a broken laser pointer. Shashi Aggarwal’s Spice Kitchen began with a 40-year-old spice tin.

Shashi, who runs the online artisan food business from her home in Birmingham, England, got her start three years ago, when she was discussing her retirement plans with her son, Sanjay, around the Christmas dinner table.  Sanjay picked up her spice tin that had become a family heirloom, and suggested she sell some of her spices on eBay. They posted their first listing, and it sold the following day.

And just like that, they were running a business.

I spent a memorable evening in London in the company of Shashi -- our host -- and other eBay entrepreneurs from Europe. It was a chance to reflect on the year with some of the people who matter most to eBay -- the independent businesses on our platform.

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Over an incredible, 18 course meal prepared by Shashi -- I can still taste her beer-battered fish tikka -- she told us how, from its humble start, Spice Kitchen is now exporting spices to thousands of customers across three continents and expanding into new products. But the personal touches remain. Shashi still creates the spices in a 100-year-old grinder, and makes the covers for their signature spice tins from old saris. She told me she was proud to be able to provide employment to women in her neighborhood, where part-time jobs with flexible hours are tough to find, and support her community where it’s needed most.  

Businesses like hers are an integral part of the European economy. Over 130,000 small online businesses launched on eBay in Europe between 2011 and 2014. Despite tough trading conditions, these businesses generated sales of nearly €18.5 billion. Our research shows how they are breaking down geographical borders, growing their cross-border commerce by 61 percent and outpacing traditional trade growth four times.

But they know, and we know, they could be doing more. The growth of small businesses in Europe is often hampered by the cost and complexity of having to deal with different regulations across the European Union.  

The costs for carrying out commerce within the EU are four times lower on eBay

That’s why our sellers are calling for the creation of a true Digital Single Market. We recently enabled a dialogue on the broad issues they face, bringing a group of them together with European policy-makers in Brussels. We want their voices to be heard on measures they believe will ease the burden of doing business across borders, in a region made up of 28 different legislative and economic regimes. And we’ll continue making it easier for European businesses on our platform to operate: Already, the costs for carrying out commerce within the EU are four times lower on eBay compared to traditional commerce. 

Speaking to sellers is always inspiring, but it was particularly so on this evening, in a London restaurant filled with the tastes and aromas of India, and the passion of our sellers. While we are one of the world’s largest online retail marketplaces, at heart we’re a community of millions of sellers who support themselves wholly or largely on eBay.

When I reflect back on 2015 - an extraordinary year in eBay’s history and one that marked the beginning of our next chapter --  it is entrepreneurs like Shashi I think of first. People who rely on us to succeed, people who look to us to help them expand their businesses across geographies and markets. People whose germ of an idea became a thriving business on our platform.  

At eBay, we are focused on helping sellers -- those we met in London, and all our sellers around the world -- achieve their full potential. That’s what drives me as a leader. It really matters that what I do every day means something in the world.

A company’s purpose sits above its brand, above its strategy, above its operations.  At eBay, our purpose is clear: If our sellers win, we win.


[Editor's Note: This blogpost was originally published on Devin Wenig's Linkedin Influencer Profile