By Mr. Dinesh Agarwal, Founder And CEO, IndiaMART.com
If I was asked to change one thing in my entrepreneurial journey that would better my experience in these past 16 years, I wouldn’t change a thing!
I consider these years as the most productive and gratifying. In fact it taught me more than what I could learn otherwise. Before stepping into the shoes of an entrepreneur, I had worked with DOT Alcatel Research Centre and HCL America. The only thing that kept coming up in my mind then was how Internet was taking huge strides in the world and what a powerful tool it could prove to be for businesses around the globe. I knew that I could make a difference.
Entrepreneurship beckoned and I answered the call.
What prompted me to leave the comforts of a well paying job and start from scratch, enter a world that was not known to many was the motivation that came from the need to pursue my dream of bringing an entirely new experience to the Indian business.
The journey began with the idea of bringing the Internet to the Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Why SMEs, many would ask. Indian SMEs are considered the backbone of the economy but at the same time they face a number of challenges. We wanted to arm them with a technology that would help them overcome these challenges.
As the internet penetration was low in India then in 1996, the major hurdle for us lay in creating awareness among SMEs who were still ignorant of this new technology. Thus, began the process of educating and handholding small enterprises. The education continues as we still see a large base of SMEs who are hesitant to invest in the online medium. This is the reason why we offer free registration at our website.
We began with the focus on facilitating exports business for the suppliers then as the internet was better accepted and used by buyers overseas. This has carried on but domestic business through the medium has also picked up fast. Today, we have 5 million buyers and 1 million registered suppliers who are benefitting through the online presence.
What also strengthened our belief in this endeavour was successfully sailing through the dotcom bust. While other companies were shutting shops, we were cruising ahead at a great pace.
In the last 16 years we have come to be known as India’s largest online B2B marketplace and second largest in the world. Few years into the existence, we ventured into offering innovative services such as providing a business verification service called TrustSEAL. The aim of the service is to provide credibility to the supplier and bridge trust gap between them and the buyers online. It also helps build confidence in online business transactions, the lack of which was responsible for low interest in internet.
All this while, we were determined to bring effective business solutions for these small and medium sized businesses as they are the ones which require most help. A step in this direction, we also introduced an exclusive portal on IndiaMART.com – www.tenders.indiamart.com that allows free access to tender information to SMEs. This portal allows easy navigation and provides location-wise, industry-wise and authority-wise search to help users find relevant tenders for their business free of cost.
Apart from this, we have been actively participating in several industry-specific domestic and international trade shows to facilitate B2B matchmaking for SMEs. It has gone a long way in introducing SMEs to technological innovations and business developments around the globe.
In these years, we have been conducting seminars and conferences in conjunction with trade bodies in the country like Internet and Mobile Association of India, Assocham, et al to create a robust SME eco-system in the country by bringing SMEs in the mainstream and making ICT an integral part of their business operations.
When the world was hit by economic slowdown, we were able to maintain our momentum and still worked towards a profit successfully. This also lent confidence to Intel Capital and Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. who invested in our business.
The company today has a workforce of over 3500 talented professionals located across 75 offices in the country. They have been central to our leadership position today.
We also instituted Leaders of Tomorrow Awards in association with a leading business news channel in India to bring due recognition to SMEs. The last edition was spectacular and received a phenomenal response with over 50000 nominations from Indian SMEs.
At IndiaMART.com, we would continue to foster growth opportunities for small and medium businesses in India by bringing the array of benefits that internet offers to them. Not just cost-effectiveness, but wider reach and visibility would ensure a greater and effective life cycle for such businesses across the globe.