Use of AI expands scope of B2B networking, augments jobs, says IndiaMART CEO

The use of artificial intelligence has expanded the scope of business-to-business networking, triggering the need for a bigger workforce in the sector, according to Dinesh Agarwal, CEO of online B2B marketplace IndiaMART. IndiaMART, which connects bulk buyers to relevant suppliers of various products and services on its platform, has improved its match-making ratio with the use of artificial intelligence like application of voice search, interpretation of mixed language or misspelled words, Agarwal said.

“Voice search is something that was not possible before artificial intelligence; voice recognition only became perfect in the last 3-4-5 years…image recognition or image classification was not very perfect and even today, it is in the process of being perfected. So, we are trying to find many more use cases through various artificial intelligence innovations that are happening around the world,” he said.

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The company has kept on adding around 200 employees every quarter after the Covid-19 pandemic. “…every time a technology comes, the nature of the job changes, not the jobs get reduced. In fact, jobs get augmented because whatever you could not do earlier, now you can serve even that market…this actually expands the business horizon and that’s why we need more people,” he said. The company has added around 60,000 customers to reach the milestone of 2.80 lakh user base on its platform in the past 18 months since the beginning of the economic recovery process post-Covid-19. In order to serve an increased number of traffic on the platform, Agarwal said the company expects to add around 1,000 people to its workforce every year.

“Before Covid, we had 3,500-odd people and during Covid, because we did not hire for 18 months, it came down to less than 3,000 people. Now, we are almost touching 5,500 people. So I think, we have added a lot more number of people and even in this quarter we have added approx 200 people,” Agarwal said. In line with the business growth, “we can see about 20% number of people being added in a year”, he added. Asked about any competition likely to be faced by IndiaMart and other such platforms due to the introduction of Open Network Digital Commerce, a government’s initiative to connect service providers and suppliers with their target audience directly, Agarwal said the adoption of ONDC in B2B space will take longer.

The networking process becomes complex as B2B transactions are more bulky and are carried out in a highly customisable manner, he explained. “In the ONDC…moving parts are too many. You have to work on logistics, you have to work on payments, you have to work on search, you have to work on delivery, and you have to work on refund…It is a lot more complex and a lot more ambitious. It will take some time, but if it becomes successful, it will be good for the country,” he added.

In order to leverage the increasing international trade involving Indian suppliers, especially after Covid, IndiaMart said it has re-launched its export offering and has witnessed around 7,000 exporters using the platform since 2021. According to Agarwal, India’s exports picked up during Covid, when the demand for medical supplies shot up. At the same time, the government’s move to reduce corporate tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent also added competitiveness of Indian exporters.

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