Starting Up When India Only Had 500 Internet Users: IndiaMART’s Brijesh Agarwal On Building In India And The Journey | Inc42


  • The tenth edition of Founders Meetup in Delhi was held at the Inc42 HQ on November 7
  • Close to 30 early-stage founders and entrepreneurs came together to network with each other and learn from the journey of IndiaMART’s Agrawal
  • The event was supported by our annual partners ⁠— NetApp, AWS, Paytm, Times Internet and HSBC

At the tenth edition of Founders Meetup at Inc42 HQ, Brijesh Agrawal from IndiaMART took the gathering of close to 30 early-stage founders through the 25+ years of journey of IndiaMART. At a time when founders are starting businesses in their teens, a 25-year-old tech company in India can be just the inspiration they need.

“When you start your business there are only two things that matter. You need to ask yourself two questions. One, will your business benefit someone? Two, Is that what you think or that person also believes it will benefit him?”

Every month, Inc42 hosts a group of early-stage founders, with the aim of helping them network, ideate and learn, not only from their peers but also from a successful and well-established entrepreneur. And Agrawal epitomised this objective, as he took the gathering through how he and cofounder Dinesh Agrawal got introduced to the world of the internet and how IndiaMART was born.

While the first publicly available internet service in India was launched on August 15, 1995, IndiaMART was launched just a year later in 1996. “We took the biggest risk without actually realising that we were. We started on April 1 back in 96, at that time there were a total of 500 internet connections all over India.”

The inception of the website happened when the Agrawal cousins realised what attracted the world to India’s products and services. They decided to build an online platform that would help not only the buyers get easy and quick access to the products from India, but one which also gives sellers another way of showcasing their products, rather than just relying on export and trade fairs.

The major hurdle for IndiaMART in the early days was the extremely low penetration of the internet, which made it extremely challenging for the startup to onboard and convince customers. “For every 10K emails, we would send out to businesses asking for their data and trying to get them onboard we would receive merely 2 or 3 replies,” added Agarwal.

Agarwal further talked about how terrible the first six months of the journey were and how the duo almost decided to give up and go back home and get into the family business of selling oil. He added that a conversation with his grandfather convinced him otherwise — it brought up two questions that IndiaMART still swears by and Agarwal urged the gathered founders to follow the lead as well. “If your business is benefitting someone and you have convinced the person of the same then all you need to do is figure out the complexities and not give up,” added Agarwal.

On the topic of overcoming hurdles, Agarwal went on to talk about the importance of a team and how it took the company very long to break through the traditional owner-driven environment they had created. “Focus more on team, operations and processes as they define and help your business,” he pointed out.

The evening was full of insights as Agarwal’s session inspired the crowd to come forward and ask questions regarding their own business troubles and queries. He also told them to go for “Venture capitalists only once they know that the money is for growth and scaling of ideas and you are confident of the model that you are following. Money has a way of making people lose sight of their goals and dreams.”

With the understanding of the importance of networking as well as insights from established entrepreneurs for early-stage founders, Inc42 hosts Founders Meetup every month. This is in line with our aim of bringing the Indian startup ecosystem closer together to nurture and boost its growth.

Through nine editions, Inc42 has contributed to the growth of the early-stage startups, helping them grow and scale. Here is all you need to know of the past editions.

The tenth edition of the Founders Meetup was supported by our annual partners — Paytm, NetApp, Times Internet, AWS and HSBC.