Sabka Mandi: Harnessing the Power of Digital Evolution Effectively

SabkaMandi| B2B platform| digital platform| online marketing
Navin Prajapati | Co-Founder & CEO | SabkaMandi

Online platforms have enabled businesses to scale new heights and achieve greatness at a rapid pace. Web portals are facilitating ease of access to information related to the desired products and services in a concise manner that otherwise had lengthy descriptions and details. Not only limited to information, the technological advancements in the sector have made possible for us to even buy and sell things online.

The digital space has seen tremendous growth in terms of financial development and enhancement in lifestyle. Some of the startups in India are riding this revolutionary train and are on their way to make their name known to the world. One such company facilitating its services to the FMCG sector is SabkaMandi.

Spearheading this easy-to-use online ordering platform is Navin Prajapati, Co-founder and CEO along with his partner Sourav Lahoti, Co-founder and CTO of the company. The duo has shared their insights about how their startup is helping in bringing the digital revolution via connecting retailers and distributors to streamline buying and selling in a dynamic way. Let’s read what they have to say through a series of questions asked by the team of Insights Success:

What is your vision behind your startup? Tell us how the idea came about.

SABKAMANDI is a unique hyper-local aggregator ordering platform that connects the retailers digitally with their authorized distributors. We are changing the decades-old order taking process and moving the distributors into the digital age. Thus, creating flexible and agile last mile operations for the FMCG companies. We are digitizing the existing distribution network of FMCG companies, determined to support the distributors and retailers of this country and help them survive this digital transformation.

SabkaMandi started as an idea resulting from the frustration of the retailers, distributors and the sales team of companies who all felt helpless because of the inefficiency of the system. India is a unique country and when you talk about distribution networks, it has its own well-established year-old ways of doing things. But the stakeholders have now realized that the system may work, still, the ways of doing things must be upgraded. This is where SabkaMandi comes into play. When we talk about any industry in the country, everyone is dependent on the distribution system, with the same decades-old order taking process. While everyone wants to retain the trust of the existing system, they want an upgraded order taking mechanism.

The idea came when I was working for Colgate on the sales role, talking to existing distributors, salesmen, retailers while also finding ways to reach out to the new retailers. I realized that the distributors and retailers want a digital solution. What people are not seeing is that the salesman is frustrated with the work that they are doing, and they feel their skills are not being utilized properly. Instead of improving their skills, they have become order taking machines. Simultaneously, they are getting more interesting and flexible offers from startups like Swiggy, Zomato etc. The skill gap created in this class of workforce is a major industry changing problem that will come to haunt many players in a distinct future. After talking to stakeholders, I realized that there must be a digital solution that gives freedom to retailers, distributors and more importantly the salesman to work on-demand generation.

SabkaMandi started as an idea in early December 2018. I didn’t mind pitching this idea to all the industry experts and soon I found myself working with mentors and industry experts researching more about the process and industry scenario. After being confident about the tech process flow, I onboarded my childhood friend Sourav Lahoti, who coming from a startup industry was quick in picking up the process flow and started building systems around it. I did a lot of research till April 2018 and then I took a call to quit my job and work on it full time. Since then I had a discussion with multiple distributor companies, we did a market survey in Nashik, Mumbai, and Goa. By August 2019 we were able to launch our startup in Goa. Since its launch, we have completed around 900 transactions, with a total value of INR 30 lakhs. We have 15 distributors and we supply products of 55 companies. We have achieved this without any additional workforce and discounts. After showing heavy interest from the community, we are in the process of completing the first round of investment.

What services/products/solutions do you offer?

SabkaMandi is a unique B2B hyperlocal platform that connects the retailers digitally with their authorized distributors. We are a turnkey service provider who enable digitization of existing distribution network along with operational support.

What kind of challenges did you face during the inception of your startup?

The biggest challenge a founder will face is the journey from idea generation, to launching it for the pilot with paying customers. It is not about the size of the payment it is about getting the first set of customers whom you can sell your vision. I started working on this idea from December 2018 onwards. B2B was a new space and a very few engineers or mentors knew what the challenges of this space are and how this can be solved. So, I did a lot of research, took help from my alum network to get in touch with the right mentors. Then I involved one of my close friends, Sourav, who I knew was excellent in building technology.

The challenging part is to build a team that may not be perfect but is the best of the lot. With my business acumen and my ability to understand technology, which I got from my earlier days of being a tech consultant, I was able to visualize the entire system and data flow. With his strength in building platforms, Sourav was able to build the platform quickly. I invested a lot of time in doing market research, talking to distributors, building my support team. And finally, in the month of July, we landed our first set of paying customers and we were ready to move ahead with the pilot launch.

Is your company bootstrapped or have you received funding, or do you plan on approaching investors?

My company was bootstrapped and recently we have closed the first round of funding. Simultaneously, we have also started planning for the Venture Capital (VC) round of funding.

As the founder/CEO, what is your opinion on the current landscape of startup culture in India?

The landscape for a startup will always be challenging as it takes time to convince people to try something new. Something which has never been done before and something which is beyond their imagination. But because of the lower internet charges, people have started using the internet a lot and it has helped the startups in a dynamic way. Also, the ecosystem should be created to reduce legal compliance requirements for early-stage startups, it is a costly affair which takes a lot of time of the founders.

According to you, how important is it to be updated with technology as per your industry sector?

The technology has become the driving force in all the industries currently and the existing players should try and change their processes along with the technology. As you know the barriers to entry in most of the sectors are coming down because of technology and if you don’t take advantage of the new technologies available in your industry, you start playing the catching up game, which is costlier than trying out something new

How do you strategize on scaling your company in the future?

SabkaMandi in 4-5 years of time will digitize the entire distribution ecosystem. The ecosystem will be streamlined to such an extent that there will be a free flow of data and all-important information will be available at the click of a button. This will allow everyone to take quicker and data-driven decisions. We have already started the process of hiring raw talents and creating the groundwork for expansion into other states.

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