Students develop an online shopping platform during the corona lockdown

Shoes, books or cookware: Alexander Kissel, a student at the University of Stutt

Shoes, books or cookware: Alexander Kissel, a student at the University of Stuttgart, is developing a regional online marketplace along with a partner. His studies in mechanical engineering are also proving to be a great help to him. [Picture: Alexander Kissel]

Alexander Kissel writes the financial plans, persuades retailers, and handles all the necessary registrations for the business. The startup, which he founded with partner Dominik Reichert, has only just begun operations. Half a year ago during the lockdown, both students had their studies curtailed. However, they used the situation as an opportunity to put their plans for an online marketplace for the Stuttgart area into practice.

"I’d had the idea for the online marketplace for a while beforehand", explains Kissel. "But at first I didn’t know whether I’d be able to program the online platform." During the lockdown in the spring, the mechanical engineering student finished his bachelor’s degree and got started on his master’s. Because a lot of courses were being held online, he had more spare time to try out programming the platform. Here, the 23-year-old could put what he has learned into practice. "I’ve learned a bit about computer science while studying mechanical engineering. My studies also helped me out with the approach. I learned how product development happens, from the idea right through to the end. Then I transferred what I had learned to the website."

Online marketplace as an opportunity for retailers

The first corona lockdown showed the problems that local retailers have when they have to close their businesses and purchases can only be made online. At the same time, setting up, operating and maintaining online shops is a big hurdle for small retailers to overcome. "You have to employ a service provider to create an online shop. This requires money and know-how", says Kissel. Here is where the idea from the two students comes in: they want to help out retailers during the corona lockdown. "In particular we want to get rid of the obstacle of having to set up your own online shop." This is why he and Rechert intend to provide a ready-made shopping solution to retailers, which they can then use to sell their products online.

"Our aim is for the platform to become a central online marketplace for the Stuttgart area", explains Kissel. He says that one of the advantages of the platform for retailers is the technical support that it provides. "A platform with lots of participants also means higher traffic. You can reach people more easily than if every shoe store or every stationery store had its own online shop", says the student. He also lists some advantages for the customers: "We provide them with a central place where they can find out about retailers and products in their area. This means they can look for local businesses or individual products."

The students overcome the difficulties together

Working on the online shop at the same time as studying for a degree isn’t easy. Kissel talks about how the programming hasn’t always gone the way he expected it to. One difficulty for example was that a lot of programs which were implemented on the website for the functions were only available in English. This meant that they had to translate everything first before they could really get going. "Thankfully I’m not working on this project by myself", says Kissel. "I alternate with Dominik Reichert, who’s studying industrial engineering in Karlsruhe. This way we can both keep on top of our studies."

Kissel and Reichert are currently working on spreading awareness of their project among retailers. The online shopping platform is ready for use from a technical perspective, and has been online since late November. Now the students are writing to retailers and trade associations. They are trying to raise awareness of their company and are looking for support and partnerships for their idea.

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