As India completes 1 year of demonetisation, it is time to check how have the industries performed and managed business. IndiaMART, India’s largest online marketplace which showcases more than 40 Lakh SMEs across 50 industries and is thus a fair reflection of the B2B market. After witnessing a 13% slump in demand post demonetisation during Dec 2016, the platform has now grown by Y-O-Y 100%.
This data shows that most business sectors are now back on track with growth visible across agricultural, consumer, industrial products and services.
“There is no doubt that there were lingering effects of last year’s demonetisation across small & large businesses and a lot of us had hoped that it would be short term pain for long term gains. Our data is showing clear revival in demand in most of the industries especially Automobiles & industrial supplies that have grown by around 200%. A 100% y-o-y growth in our buyer traffic reflects a positive momentum among businesses across the country,” said Sumit Bedi, VP – Marketing, IndiaMART.
Industries like telcom, building & construction and agriculture have witnessed the growth rates of approx. 170%. These industries have witnessed high traction in the demand for products like light vehicle, tractors, auto-rickshaws, mini harvesters, power tillers etc. Some other popular products are Floor tiles, cement, building supplies, sewing machines, automatic paper plate making machines and printing machines.
The CEO Magaine
They say, “Books can never teach you what life does” and it fits perfectly in Dinesh Agarwal’s case. He believed in taking risks and didn’t shy away from living on the edge. He was courageous to take a bare-foot walk on the path of entrepreneurship and eventually found wheels beneath. Life rewarded Dinesh for taking some wrong and right decisions alike. Call it the first mover’s advantage or fruits of his hard work, today, Indiamart stands synonymous with Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in India. Dinesh was #InTheLounge and thanks to his storytelling talent, I realized our conversation turned out to be as interesting as to continue for an hour. Conversation excerpts straight from his personal cabin at Indiamart:
You were a System Analyst at HCL in the States when you decided to return to India to try entrepreneurship. Tell me that exact moment when the idea struck you and you decided to take the plunge.
I was always an internet-savvy person. At that time, Windows was newly introduced to the world. I was sitting in the computer lab where I noticed my colleague was using Mosaic, it was the first ever internet browser. I could imagine the convergence of everything in and around internet at that point of time. I was imagining some software that was sucking the world into it. I was almost hallucinating. I could see the future of internet that day. I knew it will eat up everything one day. I wanted to come back then anyway. On August 15, 1995, internet was launched in India and I decided to come back that very day itself.
And you quit in a day?
Yes the very next day I told my manager that I’m going back to India. I came here and realized that Government was the only authority that could provide internet. I thought of sticking around and explored. At that time, people were not ready to give anything above Rs 13,000 to engineers and I wasn’t convinced of that price. I was adamant to do business. One day, I was sitting at the United Coffee House with my friends and one of them, Vikas Mishra, informed me about the trend of website making. I liked the idea and researched on it.
What were the initial few years like at Indiamart?
My idea was simple enough – creating websites for exporters. I saw a demand for Indian products in the US but the availability & relative information was an issue. My business had a revenue model from the first day itself. We used to charge Rs 50,000 to make a website and we charge the same price even today. 50% of SME websites in India have been done by us. This was the business model for the first five years and we were profitable. In fact, in the year 1998-99, people started to offer Venture Capital to us but I used to tell them, “Bhaiya humein loan nahi chahiye…”(we don’t want loan) since we were a service-based company and didn’t have to burn money.
Indiamart is the largest e-commerce portal for SMEs in India. What triggered the thought of building a marketplace for SMEs?
We realized that personal websites of the exporters aren’t search-friendly. People used to refer to Yellow Pages then. We decided to do the online version of it and list everyone there. The website-creation business was a hit in the initial years but eventually, over a period of time the listings have taken centrestage and now it has become our core business.
How have you helped SMEs flourish in India?
Initially, people didn’t understand the purpose of a website. They perceived it as an online advertisement and didn’t know that it could generate business for them. We had a focussed approach to create websites for generation of leads & business. We helped SMEs to generate additional business across the globe. People used to think that Indiamart is a service started by Indian Government to promote SMEs. Indiamart and Internet had become synonymous to each other.
You are an entrepreneur of 90s. You didn’t have the privilege of being globally connected the way startups today are. How tough was it then?
Launching a business was doable but finding help in those days was tough. I remember a specific day when I slept in the office to download a desired software. I had set alarms for regular intervals only to check the connectivity and proper downloading. It was crazy! Also, we wanted to shift to Noida before 2001 but couldn’t as the internet connectivity was a big problem in NCR region. Due to this, we were forced to operate from Delhi for five years and paid heavy rentals.
What was that moment in your journey of Indiamart that you want to forget?
In 2001, we bought land for office in Sector 8, Noida and had an initiation ceremony on September 10. The infamous 9/11 terror attack on the US did us in too. Our business tanked by 50% overnight since exports were affected. All of a sudden, everything turned around for us. Our orders & advertising deals got cancelled. We had taken a loan of Rs 50 lakhs and I had enrolled into an MBA program which I had to give up on. We had to sell our house. For next nine months there was no work. We had to delay salaries but thankfully nobody left us. It was the toughest time for us!
Do you like to read books?
(In a casual tone) Not even in school! I only read business magazines. I like to watch all Hindi movies, though.
You’re a fan of Mukesh you told me…
Yes, since childhood. I still have a collection of cassettes with me. I tried hard to somehow digitalize those songs in vain. So, I have now subscribed to one of the music apps to listen to my favourite ones.
One moment with investors that changed the course of Indiamart…
We raised money from Intel but didn’t know how and where to spend it as we hadn’t done it before. It took us over one year to learn how to spend our investor’s money. Nachiket Mor (ICICI) and Deep Kalra (MakeMyTrip) were on our board. They scolded us and questioned, “When you had to keep the money in bank, why did you raise it, why did you call us?” Those words hit me and I decided that we must spend and grow. From January to December 2010, we opened 52 offices across India in 52 weeks and increased our strength from 1,100 to 4,400.
One moment when your critic ate back his words…
People used to mock us for making websites. Once my friend criticized us for free listings but today whatever we are it is because of that decision to continue with it.
One decision that changed your life…
In 2011, an investor offered us Rs 100 crores. I rejected it and conveyed our priority to first fill up the developing cracks in the business. Had I accepted it that day, we would’ve been doomed today for sure. If that investor didn’t walk away, Indiamart wouldn’t have been where it is.
What makes SME sector a good career prospect for youngsters?
SME sector might be dirtier and demanding in terms of efforts but it is certainly a bright space to be in the longer run. It is challenging yet fulfilling. It might be difficult to succeed in it but it prepares you for the world. The corporate life might look lucrative but is certainly full of politics and I don’t see people happy there. There may be good money but there are definitely not happy. If you’ve dealt with SMEs, you can do anything in your life
New Delhi, October 26, 2017: IndiaMART, India’s largest online B2B marketplace, connecting buyers with suppliers has bagged the title of the ‘Best Online Classified Website’ at the Drivers of Digital Summit & Awards 2017 second time in a row. The ceremony was held in Mumbai on 26th October, 2017. The online marketplace was felicitated for its contribution to enhancing the business possibilities for SMEs in the country and for being the largest business directory that enables easy discovery of a wide range of more than 4.5 crore products & service categories.
By enabling an easy and hassle-free connect between the buyers and sellers, the website has been instrumental in boosting the growth and scale of many Indian businesses for more than two decades. The website is user friendly and fulfills more than 2 Crore business enquiries every month. Business worth Rs 50,000 Crore is being facilitated through the website.
Commenting on the sidelines of winning the award, Sumit Bedi, VP-Marketing, IndiaMART said, “It is indeed a proud moment for us to receive this award two years in a row and we are truly honoured to have emerged winners in this category. This recognition is a result of our team’s hard work and commitment towards assisting IndiaMART’s user base incessantly. Our ultimate vision is to make doing business easy for everyone and to better serve and empower SMEs who use our website to augment transactions and boost their business.”
The Drivers of Digital Awards 2017, organized by Inkspell motivates agencies and enterprises for better work to enhance the digital economy in the country.
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.
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.
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:
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 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, 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.
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:
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 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:
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.