IndiaMART.com, one of India’s leading online B2B marketplaces, assists manufacturers, suppliers and exporters to trade with each other on a common platform. Founded in 1996, it is now attempting to exploit the opportunities offered by the advent of smartphones. In an e-mail interaction, Dinesh Gulati, Director, Customer Operations, explains the company’s innovation strategies to Rajiv Shirali. Edited excerpts:
How are you harnessing the growing use of mobile internet and apps to do business?
The world is going mobile, and so are we Indians. With a significant growth in the number of smartphones, access to data and email has become much easier. We strongly believe that internet consumption on mobile phones will define the future. Riding on this opportunity to effectively serve SMEs, we decided to bring our entire marketplace on mobile through m.indiamart.com, which is considered one of the fastest in the world. Along with this, we introduced our official IndiaMART App for Android phones. We will soon have other versions for use on other mobile devices too. Users can now dial straight from their mobile phones through our ‘mobile marketplace’. Not only this, they can also transact and send business inquiries directly from their phones. They now have everything at their fingertips.
We seek to reach SMEs across the country in every possible way to help them realise the benefits of B2B marketplaces for their business growth. These initiatives have helped us further expand our connect with buyers and suppliers who are mostly on the move. We hope that the user-friendly interface of our mobile site and app will facilitate new business opportunities for them. We are expecting significant traffic coming to IndiaMART.com through mobile internet in the next 12-15 months.
What new tools or features have you introduced to help SMEs find business partners through your site?
Ours is the biggest B2B marketplace in the country, offering a platform and tools to over 1.4 million suppliers to generate business leads from over 6.5 million buyers. The B2B marketplace hosts over 5 million products across 500,000 categories, and gets 46 million page views, 8.5 million visitors and facilitates one million tracked business inquiries per month. IndiaMART.com today enables Rs 10,000 crore of B2B sales annually for its members. However, this feat has been possible due to our direct connect with SMEs wherein we have been helping them realise the benefits of the internet to business and hand-holding them at each stage. We have 1,500 internet consultants who operate out of 50 offices across the country to ensure this.
Having created such a marketplace, we are trying to evolve and innovate. To enhance user experience on our site, we have introduced a location-based search called ‘SmartSearch’ provided on our marketplace. This feature has been incorporated on IndiaMART search and directory pages to assist buyers search for potential suppliers within 100 km of their preferred location. For instance, a buyer looking for ‘engineering equipment’ from Vadodara in Gujarat will be able to get a list of suppliers from Ankleshwar, Anand and Bharuch which are within a 100 km radius. It’s a great tool for buyers as they are armed with the power of easily identifying suppliers within a defined area and selecting on the basis of the best price and quality on offer.
Apart from this, we have been making a conscious effort towards building a buyer’s marketplace after setting up a successful supplier’s marketplace. This has been possible through our pioneering service called ‘Buy Leads’, which is based on the pay-per-lead model, creating a win-win situation for buyers and suppliers. While suppliers pay for the leads that they find relevant, buyers get competitive quotes from genuine and interested suppliers. We have designed this service in such a way that it comes at a very low price to the user. Buy Leads have brought in ‘open tendering’ to SMEs – a process that was completely missing for them. Today, this buyer’s marketplace hosts over half a million Buy Leads from buyers every month.
Lack of trust can be a barrier on the online medium. How do you facilitate greater trust?
We have been cognizant of the fact that credibility of conducting business through the internet is always under a scanner. To address this, we came up with India’s first supplier verification service, called “TrustSEAL”. Through our authorised third party verification service provider, we verify the records of existence and trustworthiness of suppliers and provide them with a verification report that is placed along with their listings on our marketplace and also on their online catalogs. This has gone a long way in addressing the trust gap amongst buyers who can easily spot the genuineness of the supplier while conducting business with them.
How can SMEs access tender information, which can be a key source of business for them?
We have one of the largest tender information platforms – tenders.indiamart.com, providing access to about 100,000 live tenders for free to SMEs. We were the first company in the country to launch a free tender information portal through which SMEs can access numerous business opportunities according to their capacity and capability.