The head of the e-commerce platform, Dinesh Agarwal, is described as the Indian “Jack Ma”. At 49, he sees the future in pink, hoping that the purchasing power of the Indian population increases significantly in the coming years
Sitting on a chair in a hallway of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, where he is attending Unctad’s week on e-commerce, Dinesh Agarwal, 49, seems almost oblivious. Born in a Uttar Pradesh city into a modest family, he is however what many describe as the Indian “Jack Ma”. He is the boss of the IndiaMart e-commerce platform he created in 1996 in Noida, when the country had some 500 Internet users. Today, this platform, on which a million buyers and suppliers meet every day, is growing at a staggering 30 to 35% a year.
In 2017, the company earned net revenues of $ 60 million. “We work with five million small and medium-sized businesses. We have 55 million registered buyers. “The platform, he says, is 80% for B2B (business to business) and 20% B2C (business to consumers). 60 million products and services are sold and sold in 60,000 categories. These range from electronics and medical and pharmaceutical products to textiles and agriculture, to machinery, office supplies and financial services.
It’s only a beginning
The numbers are already impressive, but this is just the beginning. “We have tripled platform traffic in the last two years.” India has 450 million internet users (mostly via smartphones) and web-based commerce is worth $ 10 billion dollars a year, a figure still far from what is done in the United States and China.
“But the future is ahead. We may be ranked 100th in terms of GDP per capita, but we are more open than China. In India, the boss of IndiaMart prides itself, we remain open to the outside. “IndiaMart currently has no competitors worthy of the name. The Chinese giant Alibaba has only 2% market share in India. Amazon is not a competitor, its business is primarily towards consumers.
This Indian success story, Dinesh Agarwal, whose mother tongue is Hindi, is attributed in part to Rajiv Gandhi, prime minister in the 1980s who spoke of the need to study computer science. He became a computer engineer. Having started his career with CMC Company, a subsidiary of Tata, he spent a few years in the United States with HCL. But when he heard the Prime Minister’s speech on August 15, 1995, on Independence Day, he realized that his destiny was in India. When he creates IndiaMart, India “is a black box,” he explains. That’s where I wanted to show the real India to the West. ”
The challenges in India remain multiple. The first affects purchasing power, which varies considerably between the poorest and the richest. It is therefore difficult to find the right product lines. But Dinesh Agarwal is optimistic. The purchasing power of the population, he predicts, will increase by 2030. This will have a considerable impact. The other challenge is the infrastructure whose deficit is glaring. “In terms of airports, roads, electricity, we are not competitive. And we do not modernize such infrastructure overnight. ”
The language factor is also a stumbling block. “30 to 40% of Indians speak Hindi, 20% English, but we have between 20 and 30 other languages,” says the entrepreneur. In terms of distribution, IndiaMart provides services to suppliers through its 95 offices and 2000 employees across the country. It provides them with software and training to use the platform at best.
Several factors played in IndiaMart’s favor. Since e-commerce is highly dependent on trust, Dinesh Agarwal welcomes the implementation in India of the Aadhaar Biometric Identity Program, which benefited 90% of the population. This facilitates online commerce. In terms of payment, India has also made great progress with a local interbank system that allows money to be transferred at any time.
“The system is even more efficient than in Europe or the United States. Payments are immediate. We must not wait three days, “quipped the young millionaire. In India, the platform serves as a “deposit bank”. The buyer will see his payment made at the time of delivery and the supplier has the guarantee that his client has already paid. IndiaMart has also benefited from a recent law passed in Delhi in 2017 standardizing tax rates between different states of the country.
Finally, in the area of e-commerce, it is difficult to conceal the question of data. “We have a huge advantage over Eta