Founded in 1996, IndiaMart.com connects global buyers with suppliers through participation in trade shows, online product catalogs, business directories, industry specific marketplaces, buy-sell offers and printed media. Enjoying a strong foothold in over 100 Indian cities, the company offers its services to 1 million registered members and nearly 5 million global buyers across different industry verticals.
“When we started off, we were an MSME. Today, with the dedication and faith of our team we have emerged as India’s largest online B2B marketplace promoting MSMEs,” says Brijesh Agrawal, COO of IndiaMart.com in an exclusive interview with Bizxchange. “We won the Red Herring 100 Asia 2008 Award, Indira Super Achiever Award 2008, Amity Corporate Excellence Award 2008 and were among the top three at Emerging India Awards 2008,” adds Mr Agrawal.
Following are the edited interview excerpts:
What was the main idea behind setting up IndiaMART.com?
The idea was to provide an end-to-end business promotion platform to the country’s MSMEs, who have been the growth drivers of the Indian economy for past many years. We used the Internet to help these small players touch base with global buyers and eventually scale up the business.
What was your biggest challenge during the initial years?
Back in 1996, internet was a new thing in India. There were only 500 Internet subscribers in the country. Besides, it was widely viewed as a ‘technology for few’. In the initial years, we spent quality time educating and creating awareness about Internet among MSMEs and how it could change the way businesses are done. For this, we had to bring them online, which posed a huge challenge for us.
This entire process of education required stringent focus on our external finances. We had to walk a very tight rope, ensuring sufficient internal accruals and steady growth simultaneously. Our conviction and clarity of vision enabled us to overcome these challenges and increase profitability.
From where did you manage your first working capital?
We managed our first working capital through funds that came in from personal earnings and family. I am thankful to my family for their support at multiple points throughout our journey.
According to you, what are the key aspects that helped the company achieve big?
It was primarily our belief in the power of internet and the utility it had for MSMEs that helped us reach here. It was a difficult time when we started and without this belief we could not come this far. Secondly, good financial management was essential to ensure that we were in the business for a long haul. Thirdly, we made sure that we reached out to MSMEs rather than waiting for them to come to us. So we handheld them during the entire process of going online and doing businesses thereafter.
Currently, we participate in 100 global and 200 domestic trade shows to provide maximum exposure to the MSMEs. Further, in an attempt to recognise the small players and bring them to the fore, we recently instituted a national level award titled ‘IndiaMART Leaders of Tomorrow Awards’ in association with ET NOW.
How SMEs/MSMEs are benefited by e-commerce sites like IndiaMART.com?
Reaching out to global buyers in a cost-effective and convenient manner is a major challenge for the small players. B2B marketplaces like IndiaMART.com provide a free, readymade platform to these MSMEs by giving them a 24X7 online presence, thereby helping them build robust network. We make sure that we build everything for them till they gain confidence in operating and running their web presence on their own.
How do you perceive your company after five years?
In the next five years, we want to become a complete B2B business media company in India and we have already started working in that direction. At present, we hold around 65% market share and plan to consolidate our leadership position in the market. We are working towards increasing our customer base as well as beefing up our team of employees. Moreover, we are planning to expand to newer geographies across the country.
We have grown over 15 times in the last seven years and anticipate growing in similar manner in the future.
What advice would you like to give to start-up entrepreneurs?
Every budding entrepreneur should have the passion to follow their dreams and the courage to face every challenge with determination. Prosperity comes to those who create their own path to success and for a start-up entrepreneur, this, becomes a pre-requisite.