IndiaMART

Uploading sites on a dial-up connection was an all-night job: Dinesh Agarwal, IndiaMART

Economic Times

TOI Sunday dated Nov. 05, 2017

At a time when the internet wasn’t really a word in the average Indian’s vocabulary, Dinesh Agarwal, returned from the US and started Indiamart with his brother Brijesh to connect Indian manufacturers with buyers and suppliers in 1996. He’d earlier worked on the Indian railways reservation system and with several networking companies in the US. He stuck to his idea of building an internet-based business despite the restrictions and rules, and today, the company has more than 40 lakh sellers and 3.5 crore buyers and employs 3,300 people.

When did the idea of Indiamart come to you?
I decided to return from the US the day India announced the launch of the internet on August 15, 1995. I wanted to provide internet services here but private citizens weren’t allowed to.In March 1996, when people didn’t have home computers, we thought about building websites for businesses. At trade fairs, I saw that exporters needed websites since there was very little information about Indian traders on the internet. That was how Indiamart was formed, with Indian businesses being showcased.

What were the challenges you faced?
Most people didn’t have computers and the challenge was to make them understand what the internet was. The second challenge was getting employees. There was no such thing as a website designer. The third was the internet connectivity, which was so bad. Uploading a website using a dial-up connection was a nightmare, an all-night job. Domain name registration was in the US and sending foreign exchange from India was tough.It would take three weeks to send $100.

How different was it to run a startup then?
You weren’t exposed to venture capitalists and had no clue about cash burn or negative cash flow. I borrowed from family and friends for my computer and office. All our daily expenses were covered by revenue from Day 1. In those days, business met revenue. We were cash positive from the first year. Around 1997, I received a few letters from VCs, and I rejected them. We were growing 200% every year. We started as a proprietary firm, and in first full year of operations ending March `97, we made Rs 6 lakh.

Did it become easier as awareness about the internet improved?

In 1999, internet became the talk of the town. I was scared. Indya.com was launched. We were profitable and paid employees Rs 4,000 a month, but they got job offers for double the salary, so we became a ground for poaching. People were putting front page ads in newspapers. We grew to Rs 52 lakh in three years but didn’t have a big budget. Then Sify bought IndiaWorld for Rs 500 crore. That was the big internet M&A in 1999.We tried to hire E&Y and started a plan to get valuation and funds and the dotcom bust happened. Our revenue was Rs 1.25 crore by 2001.Our business grew three times at that time.

How has your business changed over the years?
When the rupee appreciated in 2007-08, exporters were hit badly. We saw Alibaba emerge and realized we needed to tune our product to the times. This time we needed more capital and stock markets were in bad shape. We raised money from Intel Capital. In 2009, we changed our business model from being export-oriented to domestic businesses. India was not making strides in exports but the domestic market was getting bigger. We expanded our scope to wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers. We opened 52 offices in 20 cities in 2010. In FY11, we touched Rs 100 crore in turnover.

Why did you start Tolexo, an e-commerce platform for industrial goods?
We got requests from buyers on our platform asking if we could ship products. Compared to e-commerce, you can run more profitable businesses in lead generation and advertising.Google is more profitable than Amazon. Indiamart will remain our core business.

Is your company profitable? 
We have been profitable most years. In 2010-11, we were in the red but turned profitable again in 2013. We are profitable even taking into account subsidiaries. You have to run a tight ship. It is like learning to drive. You learn slowly and carefully. That is the story of early entrepreneurs.

 

 

Five apps that technologically empower, digitise SME transactions

ET CIO

New Delhi: Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of our economy. Amidst a challenging business environment, Indian SMEs have maintained consistent growth. However, the industry faces challenges like lack of adequate capital and receiving payments on time.

Aiming to ease hurdles faced by small sellers for receiving payments, many platforms are offering dedicated payment gateways to bridge the gap by removing intermediaries and offering solutions like instant payments to SMEs, as follows:

Paytm – Paytm is a leading mobile payment and commerce platform. With the current user base of more than 250 million, Paytm is on a mission to bring half a billion Indians to the mainstream of the economy using mobile payment, commerce and recently launched Payment Bank. Headquartered in the National Capital Region, the company’s investors include SoftBank, SAIF Partners, Alibaba Group, Ant Financial (Alipay) and Mediatek.

IndiaMART -IndiaMART’s ‘Pay With IndiaMART’ feature allows to receive instant payment with click of a button. The hassle-free payment gateway with the advantage of receiving instant payments at the lowest possible interest rate of 1.75 percent makes it exceptionally suitable for SMEs, enabling sound financial dealings especially for those who cannot afford to wait for payments.

Meanwhile, for the buyers, the digital payment service enables an Escrow Account, which takes care of the first point of payment collection till the product is received and confirmed by them.

SBI – Buddy – Merchant – SBI Buddy Merchant App is State Bank of India’s Mobile Wallet for Merchants and Sub-Merchants to accept/collect payments from their customers against sale of goods and services. The money so collected can also be transferred to the Merchant’s linked current account with SBI.

Paymate- PayMate provides business customers the ability to automate and seamlessly manage vendor payments (AP), customer payments (AR), invoicing, and cash flow. In addition, businesses can easily apply for working capital financing at competitive rates. Multiple forms of electronic payment channels are supported including cards, net-banking, ACH, NEFT, RTGS, and IMPS. All services are delivered via proprietary cloud-based, payments platform and can be accessed on any web enabled desktop or mobile device.

RazorPay – Razorpay’s online payment gateway allows Indian businesses to collect payments online through credit/debit cards, net banking and wallets like JioMoney, Airtel Money, FreeCharge and others.

Read More

Business Standard | Zee News | Outlook India | ABP  Live | ANI News

 

Angels tweak their strategy

Dinesh Agarwal, the founder of B2B (business-to-business) portal and a contemporary of founder Deep Kalra, has invested in over 40 start-ups. He has seen exits in only a tenth of them, including a few star performers like Little Eye Labs which was acquired by Facebook.
Agarwal, who has been investing with GSF Accelerator founder Rajesh Sawhey and (TiE), has tweaked his investment strategy. ‘‘I am staying away from execution-led ideas, and focusing on technology plays,” he says. He had invested in auto-hailing app Autowale. It had a good team, had a headstart but was a large execution play.
These ideas are simple but difficult to execute. For instance, grocery e-tail or e-commerce involve large execution plays and success is difficult to come by. “I am focusing on companies with small teams which can pivot and costs won’t be too high,” says Agarwal. Other are also altering their strategy.
Dheeraj Jain, partner, RedCliffe Capital, who invests in seed-stage and pre-Series-A deals of start-ups, has sharply reduced his investments. He has invested in only seven start-ups so far in 2017, down from 25 in 2016 and 10 in 2015. ‘‘No visibility of exits is the main reason. M&As not happening in mid-market space even for 4-5 year old good startups,’’ says Jain.
Jain is focusing on building the existing portfolio and doing follow-on Investments. ‘‘We have concentrated on a few theses that we have grasped over time. One is the consumption story, with a focus on category creators creating disruptions in their sectors,’’ says Jain. He has invested in companies like PeeSafe (Feminine hygiene), (Healthy Beverages). But he is also bullish on deep-tech and believes it is the next big thing.
For many angel investors like Raman Roy, it is about backing the right entrepreneur, team and idea, and what value he can add. Roy has invested $1 million in 50 firms over the past 10 years and earned 40 per cent internal rate of return, which he claims is twice of what venture capital firms earn.


Ankush NIjhawan feels it is a good time for angel investments as valuations now are real unlike previous years which were inflated. ‘‘The most critical is the technology platform that helps to create size; scale and stickiness,’’ he says.

 

My First Job: Dinesh Agarwal, Founder & CEO, IndiaMART

TimesJobs

Job experiences teach you many things beyond polishing your skill-sets. These learnings tend to be your guidelines for the coming times in personal and professional life.
The ‘My First Job’ captures this essence from the industry leaders. Here is an account from Dinesh Agarwal, Founder & CEO, IndiaMART:

‘My First Job’ was:
CMC limited

My experience:
In the 27 years of my career, I have held many roles but my favorite has always been my role at IndiaMART. As the founder of India’s largest online marketplace, I got this opportunity to empower and enable businesses in the country and to make doing business easy for them. Together with my team, we have made this 21 year old journey worth it. Hence, I always believe in the power of a good team and I like it when people stay around for a long time.

Things I learnt:
One of the things that I have learnt is to ‘never give up’ and I keep telling my team that it’s better to try and fail then to sit and regret. I believe that everyone has a 100 percent chance of succeeding in life. Everyone I think is born with at least 20 percent of luck. But you will have multiple failures in life. So if you try only once, the chance of success becomes zero. But if you try it five times, your luck at succeeding at it becomes 100 percent.

Skills I Acquired:
One of the most important things that I have learnt is to learn and unlearn. As a leader, I have realised that nobody can work in silos and great companies are only built by collaborative efforts. During this process you have to constantly unlearn and let go to learn and acquire new responsibilities.

My Manager’s Teaching:
While working at C-Dot my manager taught me how to write CPU and memory efficient software and its importance and benefits. This has not only helped me make the processes efficient but also save millions over the years

My Journey So Far:
When we first started IndiaMART we were a small team. In the past 21 years, we have grown to become a strong team of 3500+ members. During my journey I have seen everything – success and failure; victory and disappointment but what keeps me going is the possibility of enabling that next business to come online and help it grow with us. So far we have enabled more than 30 Million businesses with our services and there are huge opportunities that lie ahead of us. It is this pool of possibilities that has made this journey a real adventure.

Turning Point in my Career:
I had been using basic internet like Email since long but a major turning point in my career was when I saw a webpage opened on a colleague’s computer while I was working in US. That was the first time that I felt that internet is going to be a driving force. I felt as if the whole world is converging on that webpage. It was such a euphoric moment for me to witness that one can access any information with just a click. I call this moment as a turning point in my career because it was then that I realised that I wanted to work in the field of internet.

My most crucial step/assignment:
Until 2011- 2012, we had built IndiaMART as a stable and self-sufficient organisation. IndiaMART was largely a home grown company. IndiaMART was the first job for most of our team and although they did wonderful in laying the foundation of what IndiaMART is today, yet I would often feel the need to explore and experiment with how other organisations are working. I could foresee that IndiaMART’s growth would get stagnated if we do not diversify our team. I discussed this with one our Board Members, Mr. Dhruv Prakash. He gave me an assignment to read a book ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’ by Marshell Goldsmith. Now, I am not a reader so he eased it out for me by just asking me to keep the book on my desk. Everyday I would read the title of the book and soon we took up this project to expand and diversify our team, especially the leadership. Today our team is a healthy mix of core team members and professionals who have worked at various organisations. I believe both are important to build a team and it is this quality mix that has helped us accelerate our growth in the past few years.

My Advice:
My advice to everyone is that you must never give up and keep trying with perseverance and dedication. Whether you are an employee or you are an entrepreneur, learning will never stop and for every success you will have to face failure. But, this shouldn’t hinder your growth.

Where I see myself 5 years from here:
At IndiaMART we have a clear vision for 2020. I see the company growing to greater heights in the next few years. This is the best time to be at IndiaMART. We are constantly creating new horizons for ourselves. We have recently entered fintech space and have a lot of exciting projects ahead. For this we are constantly looking for good talent and are also working towards making IndiaMART a happy workplace.

Top three expectations from myself as well as my HR team would be to:
 To create a team of winners
 Deliver the best
 Do what you love and love what you do

Dinesh Agarwal, Founder & CEO IndiaMART at PAFI

Dinesh Agarwal, was on the panel at the event being organised by the Public Affairs Forum of India. The panel discussed ‘CEO’s engagement with Advocacy & Public Affairs’. Other eminent people personalities on the panel were Sanjeev Bhikachandani, Founder, Info Edge; Sanjay Modi, Managing Director, Monster.com; Piyush Tewari, CEO , SaveLIFE Foundation.

 

 

The 5 #GuruMantra Helped Me Build IndiaMART With A Turnover Of Rs 500 Crores

Economic Times | YourStory

Who is the best driving teacher? Your first bicycle. I believe in learning by experience. I have always learnt more from people and situations whom I have met and faced – family, friends and colleagues. These people have not only inspired me but have always had my back through the potholes of life.

Here are the five lessons that have helped me build the organisation of my dreams:

  • If you have the will, you will build your way from Ramayana: One epic that has really inspired me is the Ramayana. One of the greatest learning that I have derived from it is the importance of Value Systems in our lives. It says, “Praan jaaye par vachan na jaaye”. As entrepreneurs, we make a lot of commitments to our stakeholders. I strongly believe that it is our responsibility to try and fulfil them.  Another important lesson is if you really believe in your cause and you are ready to stand up for it, there is no way that you can’t accomplish it. Imagine what must have motivated two young boys to enter the kingdom of a demon like Ravan. When he decided to stand up for it, he found a lot of help on his way. It also makes me believe that passion is as important as talent. Imagine an army of monkeys could win over the well trained soldiers of Ravan. When the dotcom bust and 9/11 happened, many thought that IndiaMART won’t be able to last. But, our team was sure that this too shall pass and we worked together without worrying about the results. I feel proud when I say that we grew by 40% in that year.
  • Truth & simplicity put a lot of things straight from Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhiji stood for Satya (Truth) & Ahimsa (Non-Violence). I have realised that if you speak the truth, you will save a lot of your time. You won’t have to ever waste your time in thinking what to say. Another very important lesson that we entrepreneurs can learn from Gandhiji is to have simple solutions for the masses to complex problems. He always came up with out of the box solutions to larger issues. What is important here is that common man could connect and contribute to his solution and thus his initiatives always had a mass appeal.
  • Do-it-yourself first from my Grandfather: I have been truly inspired by my grandfather. I come from a SME business family. There was nothing fancy about my childhood or education. My grandfather taught me how to hold my head high and not be hesitant in experimenting. I grew up watching him and one thing I still remember is if there was ever a need he would not be embarrassed to behave like an 18 year old even at 80. He was never afraid of opening the Pandora box, rather he would happily volunteer to open it. Hence, I am never shy of picking up my phone and calling my client or admitting that I don’t know where a particular strategy would lead but we should try. Another very important lesson that he had given me was to do it yourself first. He would often try the Sunday recipes himself before asking my mother or grand-mother. And, I still do the same. If there is something that I can’t do, then I should not expect my team to know it.
  • There is never going to be a better time than it is now from Nachiket Mor: Back in 2008-09, when Brijesh and I were asked about our dream board member, we had very ambitiously said Nachiket Mor. I think it was one of the best things to happen to me. I have tried to inculcate a few of Nachiket’s personality in myself. One of the best things that I have learnt from him is to be grounded. Nachiket had strictly told us to book economy flights for him. He would prohibit us from giving him any special treatments like booking a 5-star hotel. I was at that point when most entrepreneurs would want to splurge on themselves. But after I met Nachiket, I realised that a big car or a luxury villa don’t matter. What matters is what you do with them. I owe these values to him. Another thing that I have learnt from Nachiket is to never wait for the right time or opportunity but to create one. He always says that you will never have all the resources. He taught me to convert average in to the best. I still remember that after we had raised the first round of funding, we didn’t spend it at all. In fact, in one of the board meetings, I ended up flaunting a 100 Cr in our company’s account. I had expected the board to appreciate it. Nachiket was the first one to get furious. He said, “If this was the objective then why do you have us on board. Your growth rates are stagnant at 20% and you are flaunting a 100 Crore in your bank account.” The impact was so huge that in just 18 months we went from 400 clients a month to 4000 clients every month. Nachiket wanted every day report and I wanted it to look the best. Nachiket comes with a crystal clear thought process and foresightedness. Two qualities that every leader must have. Sometimes, he could understand IndiaMART better than me and that is what makes him so special for me.
  • What got you here, won’t get you there from Dhruv Prakash: Dhruv’s contribution in my life has been really significant, so much that I still call him Masterji. Until 2011- 2012, we had built IndiaMART as a stable and self-sufficient organisation. IndiaMART was largely a home grown company. I would often feel the need to explore and experiment with how other organisations are working. I could foresee that IndiaMART’s growth would get stagnated if we do not diversify our team. I discussed this with one our Board Member, Mr. Dhruv Prakash. He gave me an assignment to read a book ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’ by Marshell Goldsmith. Now, I can’t read huge books so he eased it out for me by just asking me to keep the book on my desk. Every day I would read the title of the book and soon it was clear to me. We took up this project to expand and diversify our team, especially the leadership. Today our team is a healthy mix of core team members and professionals who have worked at various organisations.

Today on Teachers’ Day, I would like to express my gratitude to these people who have helped me shape my life and become their glimpse while maintaining my originality. I meet many people every day – customers, clients, investors, colleagues, family and friends. All of you have contributed to my growth. You might not have realised how the small and trivial #GuruMantra given by you have made my life significant. Today, I would like to thank each one of you for creating an impact on my life. As I said earlier, I would like to learn by experience and in your own way each one of you have made a great impact on me. I think, life is a constant learning process and because of you all mine has been a fulfilling one. Thank you Guru for your #GuruMantra.

Marketing Technology – Defining Marketing in 2017

CIO Review

Marketing today is basically an unconventional blend of strategy and technology. It has come a long way from the times when the idea was to simply try selling goods and services. Now that we are undergoing a digital evolution, a majority of companies both new and established ones are adopting marketing automation solutions for the growth of overall success rate of their marketing campaigns across channels.

Companies are fast realising the potential of marketing technology. According to the Marketing Automation Report India 2017, more than 48% of the marketers have decided to have MAS in their marketing strategy. Marketing is more sophisticated, targeted and data driven than ever before. The availability of data enables marketers to evaluate their strategies and take corrective actions.

For a majority of companies in India or even across the world, converting leads into customers comes as a top priority but unfortunately, due to a gap between their marketing and sales departments, things do not work out the way they are expected to. An integrated strategy combining marketing campaign with the sales efforts, which is also known as ‘Smarketing’ really works in bridging this gap. As many as 70% of the marketers are using automation technology to increase their lead conversion. And how? The marketing team can help sales department understand aspects of the company that drew the leads to it, whereas sales can help marketing figure out what potential clients are looking for.

Marketing automation provides a range solutions like predictive scoring and machine learning, workflow builder, unified customer view and customer lifecycle analytics. Marketing platforms offer a list of features and services which can also be customised to suit the clients. These features vary depending on the scale that a business operates upon.

For any enterprise, marketing plan determines the overall direction that their product or service should take for being profitable. Usually, these plans include a number of details specific to the product or service but at times, in the day to day operations of a company, the details might get overlooked causing the execution of the plan not to work out in the best possible way. This makes evaluating marketing plan on an ongoing basis crucial to ensure that you are progressing on the right track. Since marketing technology solutions offer unified cross channel report, hence it becomes easier for enterprises to judge performance of various channels.

Not only this, it has also helped in increasing customer delight. Since the communication with a customer is more targeted and specific due to marketing technology, brands can now personalise their messaging and judge when, what and how to communicate.

Marketing technology has been changing its face. Some of the key trends that will define the marketing strategies in 2017 are:

  • Customer Acquisition Marketing: Marketing will increasingly become more targeted in 2017. Marketing automation has allowed brands to have a well-defined audience acquisition and marketing strategy and it will continue to do so.
  • Unified View of Customer: This is one feature that is defining customer experience in 2017. With a unified comprehensive view of multiple channels, it has become possible for marketers and brands to map a customer’s journey and enhance the omni-channel customer experience.
  • AI in Marketing: Chatbots and Machine Learning are enabling more efficient and real time engagement with customers. Moreover, tools of Artificial Intelligence offer cost saver and faster channels of lead acquisition, engagement and conversion.

While some organisations consider marketing technology as an expenditure, I think that it is an investment with clear ROI. Marketing technology can not only make marketing expenditures more efficient but also help in boosting customer experience. In the long run, not only you save some big bucks but build a brand that customers love. As they say, loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.

Ctrl, Alt, Enter the big league

Fortune

THE FIRST TIME I walked into Matrix, a sprawling R&D centre on the outskirts of Pune, I confess I was expecting to enter an ultra-futuristic and uber-modern space like in the movie of the same name. But instead, I felt I had been transported to the dystopian world of The Hunger Games, where dust and noise and unpleasant smells prevail. But if ever anything taught me to look beyond appearances, this was it. Because this place, which smelled like a garbage heap outside a mandi, showcased some of the country’s most useful and cutting edge technology. Matrix is a lab belonging to Praj Industries (ranked 261), one of the few biofuels companies in the country. The company has always used technology, whether it was to set up distilleries for clients back in the ’80s or to set up biofuels plants across the world now.

There’s very little Praj has in common with Nandan Denim’s sprawling facility in Ahmedabad. Nandan, 198 on the Next 500 list, is aiming to become the largest denim manufacturer in the country, overtaking current No. 1, Arvind. Govind Sharda, CEO of the Chiripal Group, which owns Nandan, says the company will get there with a little help from technology. With its reliance on all kinds of tech, from data mining and analysis, to robotics and artificial intelligence, Nandan often seems more like a technology company.

Two vastly different companies but with the same conviction: that using technology can help them break into the big league. That in itself is hardly breaking news; any company that wants to grow, compete, or even just stay relevant, must invest in the technology of the day, whether it was steam power centuries ago, or robotics today.

“If companies invest in the right automation and service providers, and the correct systems and processes, smaller players can give the larger players a run for their money,” says Samay Kohli, co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based global robotics company GreyOrange.

So far, so predictable. What makes this an exciting story is that we are now poised at an interesting intersection of technology, industrial growth, and easier funding. The way forward depends on how companies take advantage of this point in time. Piyush Sinha, who heads the newly set up Big Data analysis unit of NEC Technologies India, a part of the Tokyo-based NEC Technologies, says businesses no longer need to rely on insufficient market intelligence to make decisions. They have mountains of data at their disposal, including from informal sources such as social media, and analytics will help them “make faster and better decisions and more accurate forecasts”.

Yes, data analysis is relatively old hat in today’s artificial intelligence-fuelled world. What makes it relevant still is the fact that there are so many companies, in vastly diverse sectors, using data analytics to bridge gaps in their services and catch up with far larger, more established competitors.

USING TECHNOLOGY TO vault into the big league is something many companies on the Next 500 list are doing to good effect. Take Jyothy Laboratories (rank 12), a long-time favourite with brokers and investors. The company makes a range of detergents and household insecticides and fragrances and owns some of the most opular brands in the country including Ujala, Fa, Mr. White, Henko, and Pril.

“We gather data from our salespersons and retail distributors [not wholesale] in every district. With this data, it is far easier to make transparent decisions based on hard facts,” says Ullas Kamath, managing director, Jyothy Laboratories. Kamath adds that his company was one of the early adopters of Big Data; it used SAP HANA, a database and application development platform that allows companies to store, manage and analyse data from machines and human beings.

The result? Jyothy Laboratories has moved up from 46 on The Next 500 last year to 12 this year, and its profit has zoomed 30.5%. Meanwhile employee cost has gone up a mere 1.5% against the 21.3% average increase in employee cost this year. While it will be specious to attribute the entire revenue increase to better use of technology, the company’s focus on automation is definitely a large contributor in bringing down employee costs.

Praj too uses Big Data for marketing as well as for R&D. “Having data for so many years allows us to design our marketing strategy better,” says Pramod Chaudhari, founder chairman of Praj. “Data analytics allows us to analyse data from nearly 9,000 samples of feedstock. Now, we can design various processes based on the data.”

Here’s the thing. Companies have always had a wealth of data available to them. From manufacturing to sales to service, there has always been information collected, whether from machine or human. The problem has always been in identifying what’s useful in this morass. Deepak Ghodke, country manager, Tableau India, a U.S.-based data analytics company, echoes this, saying that companies now have access to data interpretation tools. “What you make of these assets depends on the intelligence of your algorithms and the insights and conclusions that you can draw. You can use these tools to become much more efficient, productive and beneficial for your customers and even compete with your biggest competitors.”

Artificial intelligence-based forecasting can determine the right price of a product at any given day or even every hour by looking at various factors like prices of similar products by competing firms, day of the week, season etc to attract new customers, reduce churn and help determine which customers are most profitable.

Kamath of Jyothy Laboratories explains how his company uses disparate sets of data to decide on what and how much to manufacture. “We take rainfall prediction data from IMD [India Meteorological Department], and using our own algorithm, we decide the amount of mosquito repellent to be produced and marketed. We can actually decide how much to produce for each district.”

Tableau’s Ghodke says his company’s customers use data “to innovatively produce new products and services”. Tableau’s client list includes the likes of HDFC Bank, Eveready Industries, Ashok Leyland, EClerx, CRIF High Mark, and Star Health. “Price elasticity of items has become especially important in these times because the hyper-connected consumer constantly redefines values by comparing values even when browsing in a brick-and-mortar store,” says Gopinath Narayan, professor at the Faridabad-based National Institute of Financial Management.

Equally important is the fact that companies can monetise the data they have, or create new revenue streams based on available data. A company like Star Health and Allied Insurance, for instance, which sits on massive amounts of data on health, income, and occupation of all its policyholders, can segment the data and use that to target customers for specific policies.

“As an insurance company, our entire business hinges on the availability of reliable data. Our pricing and modelling depends on analysis of data, not only from our products but also from external sources in the industry,” says Sethuraman Kannan, CIO and vice president of information technology, Star Health.

Using tools such as Google Analytics 360, Max Life Insurance was able to understand a customer’s insurance-buying journey. The company claims that it closed FY17 as No. 1 in the online term market, and that it recorded a 115% year-on-year growth thanks to its digital sales channel.

IT’S NOT JUST about Big Data. Companies, particularly in manufacturing, are using robotics and automation to improve productivity. Nandan Denim, for instance, needed 2,500 people to man 100,000 spindles; today, with automation and other technological advances, that has come down to 1,100 people. It’s not necessarily reduced employee costs, but has allowed the company to invest more on highly skilled workers as well as on skill development.

“It is imperative for companies to automate and innovate if they want to survive in this hypercompetitive world. It is more about survival than anything else,” says Narayan. If smaller companies want to make the leap into the big league, automation should be one of their key mantras.

Over at GreyOrange, 27-year-old Kohli is an ardent evangelist of robotics— and not just because he makes a living selling robotic systems. Nor is it only about beating larger competitors, he says. Automation and technology systems can “make India into a competitive manufacturing powerhouse of the world. China has already done it and it is time for India to take the plunge”.

One of the most popular products from GreyOrange is its linear sorter, an artificial intelligence-powered robotic conveyor belt that picks, sorts, packs, and dispatches packages according to volume, weight, and destination. It’s a huge success with e-commerce and logistics companies like Flipkart, Jabong, Pepperfry, Aramax, and Ekart Logistics. There’s also Butler, a robot that carries goods and stacks them in warehouse racks. This product has become a hit with pharmaceuticals players because they can be sure that the right drugs are stored in the right place.

Warehouse automation products, like what GreyOrange provides, will allow companies to grow without necessarily investing in bigger warehouses. Robotic sorters improve efficiencies because they are faster and more accurate and, unlike human workers, need no time off. “With better product profiling, more reliable measurement systems, and logistics and distribution, companies can cut revenue leakages, enhance productivity and efficiency and thereby help them become more competitive vis-à-vis the bigger players,” says Kohli.

There are other kinds of tech innovations that companies have adopted. Praj, for one, uses the “walk through” technology provided in some modelling software to visualise how a factory or system will look; the technology also allows its designers an inside view of where the pipes and walls are, so they can understand the flow and ensure there’s no confusion.

THE ONSLAUGHT OF new technologies and the speed that characterises the connected world is forcing even the giants to revisit their business models and future investments. With automation, data analysis, and tech tools easily available, smaller companies are no longer intimidated by their bigger, richer competitors. For once, the playing field appears level, and those companies that are willing to automate, digitalise, and innovate have the best chance to grow and prosper. “Today, even a small hospital in a tier II city can provide similar levels of health care as any big hospital in a metro by the use of technology,” says Vikas Arora, cloud business leader for IBM India and South Asia.

The key takeaway in this digital age is that owning more assets does not necessarily translate into a leadership position. Globally, companies such as Google and Facebook have proved that it is possible to follow an asset-light strategy and still lead the market. It’s a strategy that’s beginning to find favour in India as well, even with manufacturing companies such as BPL.

Pramod Chaudhari (left), founder chairman of Praj Industries. (Right) Samay Kohli, co-founder
and CEO, GreyOrange.

This model has seen the rise of aggregators, whose aim is to help smaller companies grow without burdening them with assets—by aggregating raw materials and selling them at a discount to smaller players. Power2SME, an online business-to-business player that is helping SMEs become future ready, has built simple-to-use tech platforms for companies, which allow them to track their orders as well as undertake transactional activities such as placing new enquiries, checking price quotes, uploading purchase orders, checking status of delivery, account statements, notification of payment due, etc. This platform is available 24×7 to all customers and enables them to reduce costs and build efficiencies in their business processes, helping them compete on an equal footing with large enterprises.

“Our goal is to provide a complete digital ecosystem for the medium and small-scale sectors, resolve their top 10 pressing problems, and thereby free them from the day-to-day hassles of running the organisation,” says R. Narayan, founder and CEO of Power2SME. He says the name of the company was inspired by a John Lennon song about power to the people. More important, it also describes its mission statement: empowering smaller manufacturing units to optimise their true potential by sticking to their knitting without being bogged down by infrastructural and other issues.

Power2SME is one of the few aggregators, helping companies with everything from finance to procurement, but it is not the only business set up to help companies manage their business. There are business-to-business players like TradeIndia and IndiaMART, as well as technology solutions providers like NEC and Marg Compusoft. NEC Technologies, for instance, offers scaleable data analytics solutions to companies. “It not only reduces the initial costs, but is scaleable architecture means that it can be used across appliances,” says NEC’s Sinha.

Marg Compusoft offers software services to help smaller companies manage everything from accounting to inventory and store management. “Our software will also help in predictive analytics, which will allow the company to take a decision on what to produce, how much to produce by looking at historical data,” says Sudhir Singh, managing director, Marg Compusoft. The company has recently slashed the price of its GST solution from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 10,000. “If you choose the right software, there is really nothing to worry about GST. An intelligent software will take care of all issues, including different rates for different products,” says Marg’s managing director, Thakur Anup Singh.

Brijesh Agrawal and cousin Dinesh Agarwal, founders of IndiaMART, want to disrupt the traditional marketplace for industrial goods, where hundreds of buyers and sellers congregate. “The very reason for the existence of such a marketplace has become redundant because the Internet allows, theoretically speaking, an unlimited number of buyers and sellers to come on a single platform and transact business,” says Agrawal.

The cousins decided to replace the crowded bylanes of Chandni Chowk with the information highway, and created IndiaMART, an online marketplace for industrial goods. Although IndiaMART proved a success, the cousins wanted to utilise the tech platforms available to set up an end-to-end virtual market, with everything from payments, packaging, logistics, and delivery resolved. That was Tolexo, a portal that provides access to almost anything a small industry needs, from power saws to safety helmets to office supplies.

THE DEMOCRATISATION OF technology (with the growing popularity of the cloud) allows even small companies and bootstrapped start-ups the chance to use the same platforms and services as their much larger peers. With automation, Big Data analysis, and other tech tools easily available, smaller companies are no longer intimidated by their bigger, richer competitors.

With digital platforms like Alibaba, Amazon, and Flipkart, even a tiny organisation can become a ‘micromultinational’. Any company can source products, services, and even ideas, from across the world, and can, in turn, sell everywhere (subject to the law).

“The digital form of globalisation has meant that even the smallest company can be born global and hope to compete with the best in the world,’’ says Narayan of the National Institute of Financial Management. We are, in many ways, seeing the birth of a new industrial revolution based on algorithms, and those who embrace it will grow and prosper.

Left Plush Job Abroad And Jumped To A Startup Life, Now Does Rs 300 Cr Turnover

Kenfolios

There are not many instances where we see a business man’s child wants to be a self-made entrepreneur. It’s either that they join the family business or opt for a cozy job. Here’s Dinesh Agarwalwho grew up in a smooth business family but had no plans of becoming a businessman ever.

Dinesh is originally from Nanpara, Uttar Pradesh. After completing his Btech in Computer Science from Kanpur, he worked with many MNCs. Five years later he moved to America to work with HCL Technologies.  The salary, quality of life and the work, all was good out there, but Dinesh felt something missing and a thought whirled in his mind that he can not do the same job for his life…

Read more here

 

My Forces Have Always Been For Me, This Independence Day #IM4Forces

When we sat down to plan for this Independence Day, we wanted the celebration to be dedicated to the real heroes who have sacrificed their comfort to protect our freedom. Hence we decided to send our messages to our Armed Forced – Indian Army, Navy and Air Force because we strongly believe that we owe our independence to them.

When we looked around we realised that we celebrate even the smallest of our festivities and successes and share our happiness and pride with everyone – friends, family and social media. We party, we click pictures, we post selfies, we write Facebook posts and we celebrate the togetherness. Considering this, we thought to dedicate one day, one picture, one social media post to those who have missed every celebration and festivity to keep ours secure.

We just wanted to show to our soldiers that we care and that we are grateful for what they do for us. Whether it’s 50 degree temperature at the Indo-Pak border in parts of Rajasthan or -50 degree at Siachen, whether it’s a flood or a drought, whether it’s is for a peace keeping mission or for holding the guns tight against the enemies; our men and women in uniform never shy away from standing upright whenever there has been a need. Hence, this independence day we thought to get into action and do the minimum we could do for them. We got ourselves photo-ready to get clicked and put forward the best of our emotions through personalised messages.

Here’s a sneak-peak:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We feel that this is the least that we can do for those who do not think twice before sacrificing their lives to keep us safe. We urge all of you to never shy away from sharing your love and respect for the Forces. If 1.3 Billion countrymen decide to stand with the 4 Million active, reserved and para military personnel, then imagine the strength that we can add to our Forces. This activity of ours was just a small endeavour towards the same. Let each one of us stand in solidarity and tell them that our forces aren’t alone because #IM4Forces.