Brands of India Awards 2019, panel discussion: ‘Brand-building is the result of perseverance’


IndiaMart’s Dinesh Agarwal, Avon Moldplast’s Sushil Kumar Aggarwal, and Urja Packaging’s Sushant Gaur speak on building a brand in India at the first YourStory Brands of India Awards, 2019.

“Building a brand involves art, science, and more importantly, working smart”, said IndiaMart Founder and CEO Dinesh Agarwal.

He was speaking at a panel discussion at YourStory’s first Brands of India Awards, 2019. The first edition of the awards, in association with the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, was held in New Delhi on February 27.

The panelists (from left) Dinesh Agarwal, Sushil Aggarwal, and Sushant Gaur.

Dinesh started IndiaMART 23 years ago, and today it is among the largest online B2B marketplaces connecting buyers with suppliers with a 60 percent market share. “It is the result of perseverance, commitment to purpose, and ability to fight challenges throughout the journey,” said Dinesh.

The panel on ‘The Making of an Indian Brand’ also saw participation from Sushil Kumar Aggarwal, Chairman and Director of Avon Moldplast Limited, which listed on the SME Emerge platform of the National Stock Exchange last year. Sushant Gaur, Founder of Urja Packaging, was also part of the panel. All three panelists agreed that building brands in the MSME sector was not easy, and shared key takeways from their own journey with the MSME entrepreneurs who attended the awards.

Dinesh shared some smart hacks on branding that he used in the initial days of IndiaMART. “In the initial days when businesses didn’t have internet connections, we at IndiaMART used to print queries coming in and fax it to Indian companies overnight, or post a letter to businesses across the country saying, ‘Yet another business opportunity from IndiaMART’ on the envelope,” he said.

Minister of State (Independent Charge) MSME Giriraj Singh releasing the book: ‘100 Inspiring Stories’ with YourStory’s Shradha Sharma (right), and Ram Mohan Mishra, Additional Secretary and Development Commissioner for the Ministry of MSME (second from left), and Sudip Gaur, Director MSME (left)

Dinesh also recalls wearing a t-shirt with the IndiaMART logo and filling forms on behalf of businesses and registering them on the platform free of cost at trade fairs in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan in the early 2000s. Despite all smart hacks, and smarter branding innovations, Dinesh insisted that as a business, one must deliver on the promise of their product or service.

Culture of going public in MSMEs

Speaking about Avon Moldplast’s journey from starting out in 2002 to going public in 2018, Sushil, said MSMEs face challenges in getting loans and funding due to lack of a financial ecosystem and lofty collateral requirements. He added that going public was the best option, and that this culture needs to kickstart among MSMEs in India. He said he could not stress enough on the importance of going public to build a MSME brand. “Start doing it,” he told the crowd. He added,

“Going public is very easy, and doable. MSMEs should know that there is nothing to fear and that the platforms dedicated to SMEs such as SME Emerge by NSE are welcoming and they will give you the required hand-holding.”

Sushil, though, added that one should not get over-confident on listing. “Brand building does not happen just with enough funds. A brand needs nurturing. You can’t build a brand overnight, it’s the performance and the integrity of the company that matters.”

With the spending power increasing in India, as well as in other countries, Sushil said there are enough business opportunities for MSMEs, and they should have the ambition to be the backbone of the country.

Insisting on the importance on going public, Sushil added, “Being a listed company will give you confidence, transparency, and visibility, which will help your company leapfrog growth.”

The power of Indian keywords

Many people think promoting brands from India could mean competing with global brands and having to splurge on marketing. Here, Sushant differs. He urged MSMEs to use technology to their advantage and said it does not need very high budgets.

Speaking of his own experience, Sushant said for Urja Packaging, which makes paperbags, popularly called ‘lifafas’ in the market, he used technology and the internet to create a brand. He said internet-savvy brands in India did not use Hindi words to promote themselves online, and “we found this gap in our industry and capitalised on it”.

Minister Giriraj Singh and Shradha Sharma with the winners of the Brands of India Awards, 2019.

“We started using social media platforms like Facebook to promote ourselves. We post short videos about our products on social media platforms using the correct keywords and we get a lot of customers queries that way,” said Sushant. “You don’t need volumes like a thousand hits, you need hits from the right customers, even if they are less,” he added.

MSMEs, however, need to remember that a brand is not built overnight. A company needs to deliver on their promise of a good service or product to the customer and be open to explore new paths, the panel said. Dinesh said in conclusion, “Unforeseen circumstances will come in the journey, but if you are committed to your purpose, you will figure out how to build a brand.”