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


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,; 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


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


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 Agarwal who 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:

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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.

How IndiaMART survived dot com burst, 9/11, 2008 crisis…


Back in 2001, Dinesh Agarwal received a call from one of the leading business magazines in Delhi, which was conducting a survey on the internet business in India, after the dot com bubble burst.

The reporter on the call asked a straight question – whether Agarwal’s five-year-old internet business was alive. And Agarwal equipped, “We’re alive and kicking and profitable.”

The publication verified the claim with the company’s registrar of filings and changed the cover story overnight. The new edition had Agarwal on the cover page and ran a story on IndiaMart, a profitable internet business entity, recounts the founder.

Launch story

On 14th August 1995, state-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) announced the launch of the first publicly available internet service in India. The announcement was a harbinger of a flood of opportunity in India.

Meanwhile, in far-off US, a 25-year-old software engineer was observing the development in India. The young man decided to return to his country to leverage the opportunity via the internet.

Within two months, he was in India; within a year’s time he founded a company for exporters and other businesses.

Launched in 1996, IndiaMart created an online B2B directory, along with websites building platforms for exporters and SMEs.

“It had been a few years since the Indian economy was opened to the world. The other major economies like the US wanted to trade with Indian businesses, but there was little scope of business reach between the two countries. I decided to build a business directory and websites for these exporters/ businesses to introduce them to other parts of the world,” said Dinesh Agarwal, CEO and Founder, IndiaMart.

When the ball set rolling

The launch of IndiaMart was successfully able to stir the market as the company’s portal witnessed an influx of enquiries relating to various businesses from different parts of the world, especially the US, Agarwal explained.

“We would note down all the enquiries and send them to various related businesses through posts. This gradually brought some business for exporters; they eventually saw some relevance in their association with us,” he said.

For the first two years, the company was listing the business for free and building the directory.

In 1998, IndiaMart got the first paid listing. And in the same year, it expanded its reach beyond Delhi and launched its second office in Mumbai (then-Bombay).

The company’s B2B directory and website building business were a major hit and continued to remain so till 2001, when the company bore the heat of the melting twin towers (caused by a terrorist attack) in America.

How 9/11 affected business

Two events – the war in Afghanistan and protectionist policy of the US – made a huge dent in the export market of India. As export dwindled so did the business of the Delhi-based company.

Besides, expansion of the internet had already started, as many players had begun offering website building services in the country.

“Those were the tough days as the company was grappling with the havoc in the market. However, we utilized the time to build strategies and found methods to evolve our business,” added Agarwal.

IndiaMart’s B2B listing was the unique model on which it had built a huge directory of business on its platform. There was nobody around who could give the company competition. It adopted a new slogan ‘more buyers, more suppliers and more business’, which stands true for the company’s business as well as businesses registered on the platform.

Building trust among users

Within a year’s time, its premier listing business took off. Now, Agarwal wanted to build a more trustworthy platform where buyers and sellers could trust each other and conduct business smoothly.

A year later in 2003, it launched TrustSEAL, a B2B business verification service that checks a company’s proof of existence, credibility and trustworthiness.

Under TrustSEAL, the company has to submit a copy of documents along with a subscription application and specified fees. IndiaMART and its authorized verification agency verifies the documents and authenticates the data and accordingly assigns a TrustSEAL to the company.

Meanwhile, the company observed that users also needed a mode of transaction on the platform via which they can settle payment on the trust of the company.

In 2005, Agarwal launched a payment platform, which he shut down in 2009.

The year 2007 was another dramatic period when IndiaMart made another big pivot — it changed its focus from international to the domestic market.

“The shift in focus was a deliberate attempt as per the demand of the market. During 2007-2008, the rupee was getting stronger against the US dollar. Besides, the Chinese export market was swiftly capturing the world, including India. Amidst this, another development was taking place in India – domestic business was rising in an unprecedented way. We saw a lot more opportunity within the country and hence, decided to shift our focus,” said Agarwal.

Giving a push to the new growth plan, the company decided to raise funds. In 2009, it raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel Capital.

Following the move, the listing company observed a boom. A year later, in 2010, continuing the growth momentum, it launched 52 offices in 52 weeks.

In 2011, the platform enhanced the use of technology and introduced many other services for users — auto generated requests for quotation (RFQs), finding right sellers and buyers using computer algorithms, etc.

This year, IndiaMART has forayed into the payments space to help the over 3 million sellers on its platform. The company has launched its buyer and seller protection programme to address the bottleneck of trust deficit for SMEs.

“For any marketplace, effective payment facilitation is the most aligned service as it facilitates the purchase cycle,” says Agarwal.

When Agarwal burnt his hands in B2C

In 2014, had launched Tolexo, an e-commerce marketplace for businesses to list their entities and consumers to buy various items through the platform.

Agarwal said the aim was to create a niche for SMEs and sell focussed products for them.

In 2016, it raised an undisclosed amount in Series C funding led by Amadeus Capital and also spent a large sum on Tolexo.

In the same year, Tolexo launched Seller Panel. The aim of launching the panel was to offer enhanced visibility to sellers and enable them to manage their business-related tasks seamlessly.

The company did everything to support the new B2C entity. However, Tolexo couldn’t take off as expected by the founder.

In February this year, according to media reports, Tolexo was planning to lay off 300 employees, or 85% of its workforce. The move was reportedly part of the company’s plans to wind up its online business to launch a completely new offline initiative.

When asked what went wrong in the business, Agarwal equipped, “Our aim was to provide solutions in the B2C segment as well, however, we failed to crack the business. We’re still wondering what went wrong and why we couldn’t take off.”

Company has come a long way

It’s been more than 20 years of IndiaMart and there is no looking back. The company which was started as a listing platform has now the largest directory of business where, as claimed, over 35 million buyers have access to 3 Million suppliers for over 4.3 Crore products listed on the the platform.

The online platform  had closed the financial Year 2015-16 with revenue of Rs 300 crore and is expected to register a growth of 30 per cent for the year 2016-17.

When asked about the existing competition likes of Alibaba, Agarwal reclined on the chair — expressing his relaxed state of mind — smiled and said: He is little bothered by it. Alibaba can rather work with us instead of thinking about creating a competition.

Today, Agarwal is not only an entrepreneur but an investor, who has invested many firms and acquired some as well.

He has invested in more than 40 companies, including the likes of Procmart, Wishberry, SilverPush, Ozonetel, Little Eye Labs, WeAreHolidays and PlayCez, among others.

Besides, the company has been planning to hit IPO. Agarwal said: We aim to roll out IPO. We have been talking to our investors for quite some time, however, we are yet to settle on many important plans and decisions. I believe we will soon reach the conclusion.

Five tech upgrades to ease your business activities


The recent past has seen a wave of technological advancements that have true potentials to enhance the ease of doing business.

Ranging from voice and fingerprint recognition to the transition of India into a digital economy, these technological upgrades can help give a major boost to the economic activities.

Here are some of the latest tech upgrades taken up by major industry players to keep their business models in sync with the changing tech and therefore, reap higher yields in scale and growth.

Digital payments:

India is witnessing a shift to digitisation, with customers resorting to online payment. It was time that the small and medium sellers come online too and take the digital plunge to become the part of the mainstream economy. Recently, IndiaMART entered the payments space, opening gateways for over three million sellers associated with the company to jump on to the digital bandwagon. The company has launched its buyer and seller protection program that will enable the sellers to remain free from the concern of payment risk and assure the buyers that they will receive exactly the product or service they expect before the payment is made. Since the pilot launch of online payments, there has been a week-on-week growth of 100 percent and more than 20,000 buyers and suppliers have already registered for it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI):

With AI being considered as the future of technology, Staqu created VGrep API suite, offering virtual search engine and a hybrid recommendation engine. It recently launched a Pilot project with Alwar Police by developing an app for police officers – ABHED (Artificial intelligence Based Human Efface Detection), an advanced AI app to assist police in criminal identity registration, tracking and missing persons’ search.

Iris Technology:

Bringing iris detection into its operations, Delta ID aims to make the iris in our eyes a secret password that no individual will ever have to remember. The company’s patented biometric technology, ActiveIRIS is the world’s first iris recognition technology that can be easily integrated into mass market mobile and PC devices, and is extremely easy for consumers to use. With ActiveIRIS, all users have to do is to just look to unlock their mobile devices, log into various websites, make an online or mobile payment or do an Aadhaar authentication or eKYC.

For consumers, the natural and fool-proof eye-based identification technology is incredibly fast, easy to use while being safe and secure if compared to other identification mediums existing in the space such as passwords, passcodes, face recognition and finger-print recognition, which depends on several external factors.

Geo fencing:

Be U Salons uses Geo Fencing, which is like creating a virtual geographic boundary around an area, by means of GPS or RFID technology, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves the area. It sends a notification to the customer registered through app that ‘Hey we noticed you were here, come avail this service’.


Using the AMP technology, customers of NoBroker, a real-estate portal can seamlessly locate their houses. AMP supports the idea of an ‘organised realty sector’ in India where house owners and potential tenants both needn’t require tech-skills for a seamless exchange.

This monsoon, stay safe and use these apps to keep mosquitoes at bay

During the monsoon, the threat of dengue looms large and people adopt all types of measures to ward off mosquitoes. It always good to take precautions before hand, lot of people are getting pest control done in houses. It is especially important as the World Health Organization revealed that mosquitoes killed 24,000 Indians in 2015. Below are the top four apps to help you stay safe:

* UrbanClap: Pest control is one of the services of UrbanClap which is high in demand these days. The start-up provides government licensed professionals and chemicals. The service is available for both commercial and domestic purposes. UrbanClap uses technology and smart processes to structure the highly unorganised services market in India.

* IndiaMart: The portal observes that every year around June-September, the inquiries for such products grows manifold. Also, the portal has witnessed a surge for pest control service requests by commercial organisations like corporate offices, hotels, hospitals, schools and colleges.

* ExportersIndia: The portal provides a wide range of anti-mosquito products like herbal mosquito repellent, mosquito repellent coils, cream, lotion, mats and chemicals.

* Timesaverz: Timesaverz provides various services ranging from cleaning tasks, beauty services, laundry pickup and drop, plumber, pest control, appliances repairs and handyman jobs. The app makes it convenient to book services directly from your mobile phone and track their status. It is also giving leakage audit services. Water intrusion in roofs or a leaking tap, this home service provider is just a click away.