Businesses in Andheri East sign up with e-portals to gain expert advice, rope in clients and import raw material

The Economic Times,

MUMBAI: In the past several years, business oriented online platforms have come up as a boon for small and mid-sized businesses in India. For some it is an affordable, simple yet effective marketing solution, others see this as an important tool for sourcing raw materials. Business-to business (B2B) online platforms such as Indiamart.com, Alibaba.com among several others have lend a helping hand to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in multiple aspects. In 2009, the central government too understood the importance of such portals and launched msmemart.com, a portal floated by the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) providing infomediary services of business, technology and finance. Currently, more than 6,000 SMEs are set up in Andheri East. Most of them are a part of one or the other B2B online portals.

According to an SME advisor Rakesh Shekhawat, “Almost 75 percent of Andheri East based SMEs have their presence in some or the other online portal.” BEING THERE Being present on an online portal has many advantages. The fact that many SMEs are not only paying for memberships in such online portals but also renew regularly. Neha Seth, owner of an Andheri based mobile solutions company offers, “There has been a boom in e-commerce and Internet marketing. Since then, online B2B portals and marketplaces have become much more prevalent. These portals act as a bridge between buyers, sellers, importers and exporters. They provide a common platform with a plethora of services such as a readymade list of exporter and importers. If you yourself are an exporter or importer, manufacturer or

service provider it can be a good raw material source.” She adds that some of these portals even have researched articles and tips on topics such as how to develop products, running a successful business among other things. “The industry stakeholders are easily able to collaborate and share their expertise with the help of such well bifurcated B2B portals. They help the industry in developing quality products and services. The tips that these B2B portal provide upcoming SMEs, infant organisations about markets, sourcing and management are really useful.” Rakesh Shekhawat says that B2B portals are the best ways to connect globally. “Whenever an SME owner comes to me for advice regarding global exposure, the first thing I ask them is to register with a B2B portal. Any country, wanting to invest in an Indian SME will definitely look into a B2B portal for names. Being there is in itself a big advantage. It adds to your credibility which is a big thing for an SME wanting to establish its presence in the global market.”

However, not many SME owners are tech-savvy to opt for B2B portals. What about such individuals? Shekhawat says, “There are many SME value adding service providers and agents who take care of such things. They manage the SME’s online presence, including being on a B2B portal for a nominal fee. Further, being on a B2B portal is not really rocket science. Anyone with more than a little curiosity can learn how to manage an account.” The little minute details that an online B2B portal is able to provide is what most users find useful. Some portals have features like product specific database searches, sector specific domestic and international tender notices with alert facilities, business trade leads (buy/sell) from more than 200 countries and opportunities to all micro to mid sized organisations to develop their products and showcase them through the portal and reach out to global markets. Shekhawat adds that B2B portals have set a perfect road for business for SMEs at low costs with greater convenience. Some of the portals also come up with many occasion related schemes meant for SMEs which are equally beneficial.

Indiamart.com came up with special offers during Diwali for SMEs. According to Dinesh Agarwal, founder and CEO, Indiamart.com, “During Diwali, under our new product Maximiser, we offered services worth `1 lakh worth at `56,000 only. We are certain that through all-round online marketing strategies, SMEs will be able to maximise their gains. The service offers them with complete online marketing with promotion through creation of their own website, distinct listing with our TrustSEAL product which lends credibility to their businesses, 500 buy leads credits that allow them to obtain ready, actionable business and mileage through social media marketing on video, document-sharing sites, visibility through our network among others.”

Abhishek Chandravarkar a user of one of these platforms says that he was not hopeful of finding an investor when he set up an account on a B2B portal. “Within three months, I found investors as well as clients for my company. Now, not only I have a successful set up, but also a global presence in the industry.” His three year old business is now valued at about `50 crores. ONLINE @ ANDHERI EAST Neha Seth says, “Physically Andheri East is an ideal location for business. The connectivity, the exposure as well as the over all business and industrial ambience is quite beneficial for business. However, along with all this there is a heavy competition. And being on a B2B portal is very much of an advantage that way. Not only you get competition, you also get good exposure.” Rakesh Shekhawat adds, “Though SME owners in Andheri East are aware of having an online presence there is now an increasing awareness of the usage and importance of B2B portals. It has almost become an indispensible part of how to conduct a business.” He also adds that while the physical entity does matter, B2B portals are most helpful for SMEs that are not located in an industrial hub like Andheri East.

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