9:36 pm - Sunday October 23, 2016

Small in size yet heavy in weight: SMBs must not be ignored

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john verbic

In 2012, when John Verbic gave up his career as an investment banker to become the self-funded Founder and CEO ofTrepup,he was sure that Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) were getting the raw end of the deal. With no budgets for big media splashes and the lack of resources to manage web activities, SMBs have always been missing out on customer and investor attention.

Ask him now, after he’s raised $1 million in seed funding and has a dedicated team of ten working with him on the business network, and he says, “The socialization of business has made it easier for SMBsto have a web presence, but it’s not good enough. SMBs don’t have the money to plough into managing multiple social pages, a website, and search engine marketing.We need to solve the resource and scale problem. We need to give SMBs a compelling and effective platform. Let’s not forget that we rely on them for our daily needs. They fulfil the last mile, both directly as service providers and indigenous brands and indirectly as partners to big businesses and international companies.”

Has the Web proved itself a good enough enabler for SMBs? It’s one thing to be a disruptive startup: a one of a kind company that gets plenty of media time after proof of concept, an unlikely occurrence for a company offering property management or art valuation, or even logistics. What we fail to realize is thatSMBs make up 90% of global businesses, and most of these are not tomorrow’s unicorns, they are companies with small teams that fulfill the need of a market. They match supply to demand, while keeping services and products competitive and affordable.

Mr. Verbic says, “Absolutely, you might be buying online, from an ecommerce giant, like Flipkart, or shopping at the neighborhood store, but the business that is fulfilling your need is most likely an SMB. Yet our ways to findSMBs aretraditional, such as recommendations from friends and family, and wide, untargeted searches on search engines. We need a more direct approach.”

It does seem absurd that to find a business that you need, for example a screen printer in your city, close to your preferred location, you have to navigate through a complex “web” of content. Even though Google searches throw up comprehensive results, genuine company pages may never make it to the top, because they are competing with third party pages that may be better optimized for search. Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of information are created every day, while the number of indexed pages is 30 trillion. Why should a consumer have to sift through this maze to find the most reliable content? Do we really have that kind of time?

What’s at stake?

It is factually known that SMBs curb unfair practices and keep local markets competitive. They are breeders of innovation, even our world’s black swans – those that have brought unprecedented change to market – retain lean structures to keep innovating, or they buy stake in small ventures with market viability – example Google Inc. and its investment in Nest Labs, a home solutions inventor. SMBs are also trailblazers in newer, less popular sectors that help diversify a country’s economy and expand its global potential. These are good enough reasons to ensure that we support SMBs.

Where does Trepup fit?

Trepup’s mission, as shared by the team, is to organize and index the world’s businesses and transform how people find the solutions and establishments they rely on every day. Simply put, if you want information, you go to Google, if you want business information you come to Trepup.

Many SMBs don’t have websites, and they will no longer need them, because Trepup is ensuring that its business pages substitute sufficiently. “Our business pages, much like the rest of Trepup, are designed using the latest in web technology. A balanced mix of large visuals and useful data makes it easy for viewers to find what they need,” says Mr.Verbic,“And since these pagesare managed by business owners and their representatives, we are ensured authentic and recent information.”

This systematic organizing of contact and business data into a detailed, easy-to-use directory has given us a ready reckoner on businesses across the world that can meet a diverse set of our needs.But Trepup’s plans are not restricted to information and visibility. They want to help bring in the numbers that count and to overcome growth challenges for SMBs.

“We want to convert likes into buys. If you’re an SMB you can’t possibly care about garnering 5000 likes but not one buyer. Besides building a good product, a business needs smart and targeted marketing to ensure a profit and access to capital, skills, and networks to scale,” says Mr.Verbic.Trepup’s searchable contact directory is just the beginning.According to Mr.Verbic, the real fun will begin with Trepup’supcoming features, to-be-launched in 2016. The transaction component of the product will change how we use business information. It will enable us to buy directly from wholesalers, retailers and neighborhood names. What this does, is opens up options for everyone and changes how we interact with businesses.

About the Founder and CEO

Prior to founding Trepup, Mr.Verbic was a director at Rosemil Finance in India. Previously, in New York, he was a principal at the Chatterjee Group, co-head of private equity finance at ING Group, and senior vice president at Bessemer Group. Mr.Verbic received a BA from University of Chicago, MBA from Kellogg School of Management Northwestern, and CPA from the State of Illinois.

More about Mr.Verbic, in his words:

“I moved to Mumbai with my family from New York City in 2007. After 15 years of banking experience, the four of us left what was familiar in order to take a chance on an uncertain future. It was our decision alone – no company moved us. Like immigrants, we arrived with hope, and optimism that we could succeed no matter the challenge.

With its unmatched diversity and enthralling character, the world we found in India was nowhere close to flat. Access to resources was skewed and the scales were always tipped. Coming from banking, I had seen what tech companies were capable of, and wondered why technology was not being applied to level the playing field. Why were we not moving the world closer together for business?

SMBs struggle to scale: Opportunities arise and disappear, because the necessary factors are not present together, at the right time. This limits innovation and productivity, with the result that society remains deprived of progress. Trepup was started as a solution to this problem. By revolutionizing business to business to consumer interactions, we aim to change the world.”

Trepup is a ‘Made in India’ product, built in Mumbai. The network has 468,000 listed businesses and counting. More information on Trepup can be found on www.trepup.com.

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