Colors Fireside Interview with Dinesh Agarwal


As a brand that was among the pioneers of being an internet based Indian business, how did you come up with the idea of your business model?

It was a different ball game then altogether. Not just in how you did business, but also what the consumer demands were. At best, compared to today, the consumer was happy limited in his needs. Most importantly, the virtual world was still to disrupt our lives as inclusively as it does today. It was still up for aspirations and experiments, far drawn away from the essentials we know now — speed, accuracy and relevance. Search was yet to become an engine of our lives.

The current business model of IndiaMART has evolved through various phases. When we began, we just didn’t have the money to match up to the ‘big’ requirements of the Indian market. At the same time, at the core of our idea was the belief that we needed to start something for the ‘small’. That was our opportunity. If you look at the growth trajectory of the 1990s, post Liberalisation, it was steady but slow for the small scale industries. Slow because of several reasons, including throwback of the License Raj, lack of intent as a market and economy, middlemen, low global market understanding and access, and, undue financial burdens and risks involved. Nonetheless, SMEs were north bound.

First, I wanted to set up an Internet Service Provider but Indian norms did not allow private participation then. Given the circumstances, the money we could muster, and the need within the SME sector to explore bigger buyer bases in India as well as abroad, we began making websites for them. Not only did a website enhance an SME’s presence beyond geographical barriers, but was slick, smart and a ‘now’ proposition. It made him look up-to-date and efficient. Although Internet and computer penetration were low, a business could look to access buyers in international markets. The fact that we broke even in the first year of operation bore testimony to steps in the right direction.

We, my cousin Brijesh and I, were salesmen during the day and techies at night, shaping the value-added services we sold, creating sites, designing and maintaining them. Soon we realised that our website business could be developed into a marketplace model. Initially, our operations were directed towards global markets, but later on around 2008-09 we realized the opportunities in the burgeoning Indian market and since then we have been focusing on domestic business.

With more of deep India getting connected to the web, and with majority of the partners on your platform relatively newer to the digital economy, what advice do you have for them?

Most of our audience is the MSME sector who might not have the resources and skill sets to adopt the digital economy. But, we have witnessed that this is not the case with only MSMEs but also with many large corporates. Many of the large corporates have made their first online presence only through IndiaMART. My advice to any business who is considering the idea of going digital would be to do it now. This is the best time to go digital. The kind of eco-system that the Government is creating will surely make technology more usable, accessible and affordable in the future.

What would you consider as the current challenges in your category, considering that demonetisation would have badly hit many buyer and suppliers across small India?

I believe that the impact of demonetization is temporary. What happened for most e-commerce companies was, cash-on-delivery – took the maximum hit during demonetization – but it made the room for cashless transactions, across consumer business, be it individuals or businesses. Of course, in the short-term there were challenges, but IndiaMART has recovered fast because we had already created a robust online payment system. At IndiaMART, we have witnessed a growth of 9000% in the demand of PoS and Card Swipe machines during November 2016. This speaks volumes about how the country’s small businesses are adapting themselves towards a Digital India. Moreover, the recent budget announcements will further bolster business in the long run. Some of the initiatives like imposing cash limit of Rs 3 lakh are even better than demonetization and will bring in more transparency.

How would you see and define your competition?

We have been the pioneers of B2B marketplaces in India. But now I am optimistic as many new players are entering the B2B market. More than competition I see it as growth for the entire eco-system. Fresh funds are getting infused in the B2B e-commerce space which is opening many avenues of growth and technological advancements. As businesses move online and with the latest push towards a cashless economy, B2B ecommerce is likely to see an upsurge after the current hiccups that tantamount to slowdown. I think business buyers too will move to the consumer space big time. Indian B2B e-commerce is expected to be around $700Bn by 2020, which means there is immense business opportunity for multiple players to enter the segment and grow.

How do you keep inspiring your teams to deliver to your vision for the company, and how do you translate that to the external businesses that work with you to bolster your brand and business?

IndiaMART has a vision ‘to make doing business easy’ and our team is solely dedicated to this vision. Whatever technology upgradation, process changes or business model modification we do are directed towards this goal of ours. As IndiaMART, we make sure that the team is passionate towards the work they are doing and also translate the same energy to our audience. We give utmost importance to trust whether it is for the team towards the company or for our customers towards the brand. And trust is not built in a day. If more than 29 Lakh suppliers and 3Crore buyers trust IndiaMART today with their businesses then it is because of our efforts in the past 20 years. We didn’t build it overnight.

‘Soon To Be Unicorns’ : India’s Top 40+

Business World

The Indian startup ecosystem already has more than a half- dozen unicorns which have crossed the valuation of a $1Billion. Lets’ take a look at the ones who reached the mark first:
1. Ola- Founded in 2011, HQ: Bengaluru, Karnataka (TravTech)
2. Paytm –Founded in 2015, HQ: Noida, Uttar Pradesh (Fintech)
3. Quikr- Founded in 2008, HQ: Mumbai, Maharashtra (E-Comm)
4. Zomato- Founded in 2008, HQ: Gugaon, Harayana (FoodTech)
5. Shopclues-Founded in 2011, HQ: Gurgaon, Haryana (E-Comm)
6. Hike Messenger- Founded in 2012, HQ: New Delhi (Mob-Tech)

7. Zoho- Founded in 1996, HQ: Pleasonton, California (Big Data)
8. Flipkart- Founded in 2007, HQ: Bangalore, Karnataka (E-Comm)
9. Snapdeal- Founded in 2010, HQ: New Delhi (E-Comm)

These 40+ players in the startup space have been picked up primarily on parameters like funding/valuation and the company’s disclosed growth/ traction metrics — such as GMV, seller base, business model, clients, downloads, social media followers, suppliers and work ethics etc.

Other parameters that BW Disrupt has considered include maturity of the sector in terms of competitors, leadership, core teams, segmentation of the market, technology moats, government push and digital presence that give a company a sustainable advantage.

The companies which are market leaders, mostly function successfully if they have a first mover advantage or are uniquely positioned with a sound monetization model. They tend to grow with or without raising a great amount of investment from outside or going public (in IPO). Some hand-picked startups in the list are also such that, they have survived a steady growth rate organically all these years and earned sustainable revenues throughout their course of time.
The Delhi-NCR region collectively accounts for 18 soonicorns, while Bangalore hosts 16. Mumbai has eight soon to be unicorns, while Chennai has four. Pune, Jaipur and Kolkata also earn a spot in the soonicorn club. The average age of a soon to be unicorn is seven years and one month. The Soonicorns have raised $71.56M on average.

India’s 40+ soonicorn companies are:

IndiaMART It is B2B online B2B listing platform based out of Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Founded in 1996 by is India’s largest online marketplace connecting buyers with suppliers. They, Brijesh Agrawal, Dinesh Agarwal, co-founders have so far raised up to $35-36M in 3 Rounds from 5 Investors which have Amadeus Capital and Intel Capital…Read More

Union Budget 2017: Taking ease of doing business from India to a ‘digitally healthy Bharat’, says Dinesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO,


Financial Express


Dinesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of praised the union Budget 2017 by saying that it has laid the foundation of an enterprise and business pro India which according to him are the important factors to boost GDP. “The budget 2017 has laid a foundation of an enterprise and business pro India. Important factors to boost GDP are thought of the Union Budget 2017, he said.”
“Most important elements such as young demographic dividend, skill development, women employability, digital education, transport have been well accounted for. Also, it is reflected that the burden of taxation is more evenly split with all demographies of the society,” he added.
He also welcomed the announcements made for small-medium enterprises. He said, “It is a good year for SMEs, India’s backbone given the direct and indirect reforms announced for them. 5 special tourism zones will enhance MSME development and bolster schemes for employment in textile, transport, agriculture, leather and hospitality sector. The SMEs in pharmaceuticals and logistics are bound to experience accelerated growth as Healthcare hold high on Arun Jaitley’s agenda in the Budget 2017. Ease of Doing Business for SMEs will thrive with push for infra in digital economy, Aadhaar-enabled payment systems, m-wallets and digital payments.”
“A lower borrowing cost and increased access to credit is on the anvil as a result of the government policy on currency and Banks being well nourished. With FIPB being abolished and maximum FDI coming from the automatic route it will aid diversified business. MSMEs with annual turnover upto Rs. 50 crore will have to pay only 25% tax. Tax exemptions will be a relief to our working class and promote digital economy and affordable housing,” Mr. Agarwal added.
He also praised the move to increase digital payments or capital expenditure to Rs. 10,000. “To increase digital payments acceptance cash purchase and payments for revenue and capital expenditure limited to Rs 10000 for businesses, is a very good move. Even for individual or personal consumption a limit of Rs 3 lakh has been imposed on cash. Both will help generate more transparency and thus more revenue in times to come. I would call this move to be even better than demonetization,” he said.
Mr. Agarwal believed that better infrastructure will also help the companies and improve the business. He said, “For many micro sized businesses the Presumptive tax rate has been reduced from 8% to 6% for non-cash receipts of upto Rs 2 Crore is also very good and would lead to less cash and transparency as well as help in broad basing the tax base. 25% higher budgetary allocation for spending on infrastructure will also be a big boon to job creation and economic revival.”

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Dainik Bhaskar

I was always inspired by technology: Dinesh Agarwal

Impact Magazine
impact-page-150I have always been inspired by technology. During my days in the US, I was motivated by innovations such as the World Wide Web. I remember the first time I saw a colleague searching something online and I was wonder-struck by the possibility of having such vast information at just a click. It was like a Eureka moment for me and changed the course of my life.

It was then that I decided that I would do something in the same space and that was the reason we started IndiaMART.

Since then, I have always felt enthusiastic for anything inspired by technology. Whether it is the recent driverless Uber or a small SME promoting his or her products globally through online mediums like IndiaMART, I have always been eager to explore and expand the horizons of technology.

The dynamism that comes with technology is what excites me the most. With technology, there is always a scope of learning from the success and failures of the past to innovate in the future. And thus, there is always something new to get inspired from if you are inspired by technology.

– Dinesh Agarwal, CEO, IndiaMART

Exploring new markets vital for SMEs’ growth: IndiaMART Emerging Business Forum


Mumbai, November 25, 2016: The Mumbai Chapter of the 6th IndiaMART Emerging Business Forum 2016, held here on Nov 25, highlighted the possibility of growth of Indian SMEs in new markets by means of innovative technology and increasing visibility in online marketplaces. The event included talks on the imperatives of exploring new markets and how it is vital for growth of SMEs in India.

In addition, the Mumbai Chapter also highlighted some important factors like introduction of better trade policies, economic reforms, and effective implementation of the same to ensure better growth of small-scale units across the nation.

According to Parag Agarawal – Sr. Vice President, IndiaMART, “SMEs operate within a limited network and market. For entrepreneurs who are new in the market, gaining visibility has become a major challenge. However, technology and the advent of online marketplaces have equipped SMEs with easy and affordable access to new markets both nationally and globally. We have also witnessed that SMEs who have access to technology and ecommerce have a higher growth rate and profit margins.”

Moreover, the advent of E-commerce offers all SMEs with an opportunity to expand their business online, giving them access to new buyers, suppliers, and the latest in business technology. By gaining virtual presence, SMEs are now able to explore latest trends in the market, acquire more buyers & suppliers, and are finally making everyone realize their importance in the corporate landscape.

The Mumbai edition of IndiaMART’s on-going Emerging Business Forum ended on a promising note, with most participants coming to a mutual conclusion that technology upgradation and E-commerce play a key role in promoting the growth of SMEs in new market segments.

Other speakers included Ganesh Kumar Gupta, VP, FIEO; KV Srinivasan, CEO, Reliance Commercial Finance; Rajiv Chawla, Chairman, IamSMEofIndia.

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Dotcom Daddies

The Financial Express

The B2B baron


DINESH Agarwal founded IndiaMART as the country’s “first online B2B directory” in 1996. Within a year, it had registered 100 clients on its platform. Today, the number stands at more than 26 lakh suppliers. “Things have changed dramatically for us in the past two decades,” says Agarwal, who started out as a trader in fertilisers before jumping onto the website business in 1996.

But back then, there was no such term as ‘e-commerce’ in India. So the 47-year-old Noida-based founder and CEO started a website—an online directory of small and medium businesses—that connected buyers with suppliers, provided product and pricing information, and helped generate business leads. “In more ways than one, we were disruptors, not just because we brought in newness within the SME space, but also because we set the tone for an alignment not thought about earlier,” he adds.

Today, this business is a R300-crore profitable entity and has set the pace to generate 10 million buying enquiries every month, with transactions worth over R30,000 crore. And Agarwal did it by focusing on connecting and serving people who are often not championed—small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “Not only did the website enhance an SME’s presence beyond geographical barriers, it was also a slick, smart and ‘now’ proposition. It made them look up-to-date and efficient. Although Internet and computer penetration were low, businesses could look to access buyers in the international markets. The fact that we broke even in the first year of operations bore testimony to this,” says Agarwal.

But soon came the dotcom bust in 2000; several businesses that had reached market capitalisation in hundreds of millions of dollars became worthless within a matter of months. But for Agarwal, the period brought opportunity to have a re-look at his business, tighten the processes, improve cost-consciousness and cast the net wider to acquire new customers. By 2001, IndiaMART had around 1,000 paying customers. “We had charted an ambitious 10x growth target in five years to reach 10,000 customers and expand to 5,000 product categories by 2006”, says Agarwal.

Talking about IndiaMART’s “continuing existence”, Agarwal says, “As I said, we were disruptors many times over. The ingredients and the scope were all there—a buoyant SME-driven market; the willingness to look at new avenues and platforms—in our case, the Web; a full stack of fresh services; and the premium, value-added proposition.”
As a B2B platform, IndiaMART has direct competition from Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba, but Agarwal feels more competition means more market development. “If you see, the market size is very large. It’s a trillion-dollar trade opportunity. By the entry of Alibaba, the supplier base will be more educated,” he says.

IndiaMART only maintains an online database of B2B players, but in order to take on the likes of and Alibaba (which has stakes in Snapdeal and Paytm) in the lucrative B2B e-commerce space, it launched a full-fledge e-commerce site for SMEs,, in 2014. In March this year, IndiaMART raised an undisclosed amount (largely to be used for Tolexo) in Series C funding led by Amadeus Capital, and in which Westbridge, UK-based Quona Capital and existing investor Intel Capital also participated.

IndiaMART records 9000 pct rise in demand for card-swipe machines

Business Standard

India’s largest online marketplace IndiaMART has witnessed a phenomenal rise in enquiries on technological instruments that enable cashless transactions.

The machines facilitate acceptance of payment from customers by swiping of debit/credit/pre-paid cards.

“Following demonetisation and resultant cash shortage in the market, the surge in the enquiries for point-of-sale and card-swipe machines on IndiaMART indicate that more organisations especially SMEs, entrepreneurs and emerging businesses are looking for alternative payment solutions to avoid hindrances in business. In fact, the upswing for the demand of such machines has gone up to as much as 9000 percent from the day the 500 and 1000-rupee note recall was announced,” said Vice President Marketing, IndiaMART, Sumit Bedi.

The platform has witnessed major growth in enquiries from cities like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Post demonetization, there has been a whopping 10,000 percent rise in the demand for card swipe machines in Ahmedabad, 7800 percent in Jaipur, 6800 percent in New Delhi, 4200 percent in Pune, 4000 percent in Bengaluru and around 3500 percent in Hyderabad and Chennai. SMEs from cities like Lucknow, Surat, Patna and Indore have also shown huge interest in card-swipe machines.

After demonetization, the platform has seen more than 11,000 percent growth in the demand for POS Systems in New Delhi, 9500 percent growth in Bengaluru, 7900 percent in Jaipur. There have been enquiries from other cities like Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad also.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government move to demonetize 500 and 1000-rupee notes late evening on November 8th 2016.

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How IndiaMART uses analytics to deliver business inquiries


Dinesh Agarwal, Founder & CEO, IndiaMART, comes from a software technology background and believes that IT is a part of his DNA. In an interview with Salvi Mittal, Dinesh Aggarwal explains about how he is leveraging analytics at IndiaMART.

Q. Please describe the IT roadmap of IndiaMART?
80% of our infrastructure is on open source technology. We chose open source because it does not require any proprietary tie-up, is cost effective and supports modifications. Earlier we had in-house built ERP system, HR and E-mail systems but now we have been migrating our in-house systems on SaaS- based providers. Currently, we are using SaaS- based provider for HR System and are planning to migrate to a bigger SaaS platform. We are looking for an integrated HR platform as there are very little HR platforms available in SaaS model.

For marketing, we are already consuming Oracle responses and are also looking at other marketing solutions.

For server infrastructure, we are slowly augmenting form rational data base like Oracle Mysql, Cassandra because it has to be further more scalable. Tons of data has been stored in rational database which is now becoming difficult to manage. Rational data bases are good when it comes to optimizing the hard-disk space or storage space, thought the storage space is getting cheap nowadays. Today the essential part is to get the access of data in fractions of seconds.

We had web-based ERPs for sales and are also building mobile ERPs for sales-force automation, customer self on-boarding, and location detection. The mobile ERPs will mark the salesforce location while they are out to visit the customer and further use that to localize the searches. Presently IndiaMART has 25 lakh SMEs listed on its platform and will streamline entire IndiaMart’s ecosystem if we could map them down.

We are also using location based picture searches.

Q. How are you leveraging analytics?
On the IndiaMART platform, the buyer does not need to search, sort and select. We have RFQ system, where buyers can put in an RFQ on IndiaMart and suppliers can contact the buyers. And we run analytics on the data we receive to understand the location preference.

Every month a million plus RFQs are getting consumed by some 60,000-70,000 suppliers only. And these buyers and suppliers leave a lot of footprints; hence here we use data analytics very effectively.

We have data from 30 million+ buyers and 2 million+ supplier’s and deliver over 10 million business inquiries. So if we take last 5 years data we will have around 500 million business inquiries that IndiaMART has delivered. And now we are trying to sniff through that data to find out the trends and make it more analytics driven.

We are also looking at supplier’s self on-boarding. For example- 80% of suppliers that signs up are on IndiaMART’s mobile application and they could receive enquiries and RFQ alerts as they happens and can chat with the buyers. We are also working on mobile CRM for suppliers.

Q. How are SMAC technologies influencing the seamless customer experience?
We are more excited about mobile as the technology because we get location, access to the user’s address book and photo gallery. So our strategy is that all the three sets of users will remain there, desktop user will remain on desktop, there are occasional users who come on mobile website and there are the power users who use the application. All these users have different requirements and has to completely co-exist.