Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Retweet: Starting an online store is not easy (in Greece)

Ekathimerini.com, the English language website of the popular Greek newspaper posted an article by Alexandra kassimi on the challenges of starting an online business in Greece.

Starting an online store is no easy business is a good place to start when attempting to understand some of the challenges facing the nation.

"It took 10 months, a fat bundle of paperwork, countless certificates, long hours of haggling with bureaucrats and overcoming myriad other inconceivable obstacles for one group of young entrepreneurs to open an online store," Kassimi begins her piece.

The journalist looked at the travails of several online entrepreneurs, including Fotis Antonopoulos, one of the co-founders of OliveShop.com.

“An online store is more complicated than a regular store basically because of the way payments are carried out,” Antonopoulos said.

Kassimi chronicled the steps the founders of the online retail store had to take to launch their online retail business.
Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

Once they climbed the crazy mountain of Greek bureaucracy and reached the summit, they faced the quagmire of the bank, where the issue of how to confirm the credit card details of customers ended in the bank demanding that the entire website be in Greek only, including the names of the products.
In the end the new site chose to work through PayPal and foreign banks, finding then easier to work with.

Of particular interest to me was Antonopoulos's experience with U.S. agencies such as the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA).

"I contacted the FDA and they sent us an e-mail with directions immediately," Antonopoulos told Kassimi. "I filled in an online form and was done in five minutes. We received the approval 24 hours after making our application.”

Like elsewhere, Greece is seeing huge growth in online retail sales. The U.S., for instance, saw online retails jump 13 percent last year to a record $161.5 billion, according to comScore. In Greece, Kassimi reported, sales rose 30 percent in 201, though total sales are still very small compared to the U.S. – 1.7 billion euros, or a little over $2.2 billion.



ekathimerini.com is website for the Kathimerini English Edition, which is distributed with the International Herald Tribune (IHT), now a property of The New York Times Company. The IHT has its own tablet edition, International Herald Tribune for iPad, which is modeled very much on the NYT app.

Kathimerini also has a tablet edition thanks to NewspaperDirect. The ePaper edition, Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ ePaper, can be found in the Greek App Store (it is not in the U.S. App Store) and is a replica of the print edition.

The publishers have so far not developed their own mobile or tablet editions at this point, something that I have found to be typical of the Greek media today.

It might be fair to say that economic conditions in Greece are severely restricting investment in digital media efforts.

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