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The CEO Magazine
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mSupply.com: India’s fastest growing B2B2C e-commerce start-up in the construction, interiors and infrastructure category

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mSupply.com: India’s fastest growing B2B2C e-commerce start-up in the construction, interiors and infrastructure category

The history of commerce goes back to ages, but the E-commerce history is only a few decades old. The timeline started when ARPANET (an early packet switching network) was employed to arrange a cannabis sale between students at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This experiment was later characterized as “the seminal act of e-commerce’’ coined by John Markoff in his book What the Dormouse Said. Later after the introduction of the World Wide Web, the transaction platform changed.

The real boom in the E-commerce segment was seen during the dot-com bust. The e-commerce industry is largely segmented into two broad segments B2C and B2B. Both categories differ by purchasing habits, payment methods, decision making, duration of customer relationships, frequency and order quantity.

The B2B market is very dynamic and changing rapidly. According to the recent reports, as of 2014, 63% of industrial supplies business owners purchased the products online only. By the end of last year, the total e-commerce sales crossed the figure of 10 trillion with the B2B sector dominating the industry by holding 7.7 trillion USD of the total revenue generation. The Indian e-commerce market is comparatively much behind other markets. With an internet base of 40% of the total population (second after only China), the penetration of e-commerce is lagging much behind even when compared to small countries like France and others.

The current total revenue of the Indian e-commerce industry is pegged at 53 billion USD, and it is expected to cross the 100 billion mark by 2020. According to a report of an Ahmedabad based e-commerce consultant firm Ecumen, the B2B segment is expected to touch the mark of 45 lakh crore by the year 2020.

The trends in foreign e-commerce markets indicate that the B2B segment is going to dominate the Indian e-commerce market in the future. This rosy picture of the future of the B2B industry drew the founders to create an online platform which could provide e-commerce services in the B2B domain.

MSupply.com is a B2B2C E-commerce company in the construction, interiors and infrastructure segment. It was founded in August 2015 in Singapore and with Bangalore as the India headquarters, In India, MSupply operates out of six cities and rapidly expanding to ten more shortly. MSupply so far has raised USD 13 million in two rounds of funding from global investors Artiman Ventures [a US-based (Palo Alto) Private Equity fund and IIML, Mumbai.

MSupply.com caters to 22,000 pin codes via its technology platform and has access to a 14,000-supplier network. The construction supply chain is vast, and there is hardly any technology disruption in this segment. The organized manufacturers constitute about 20% of the total space. The rest are small and medium-sized manufacturers with limited marketing scale and distribution reach.  MSupply ties up with small, medium and large manufacturers and helps sell products using its marketing and distribution network. The products are sold to the wholesale segment and thereby disrupting the supply chain and whereby the network helps manage inventory, demand planning and logistics on both ends–manufacturer and the wholesalers/retailers.

Our editorial team spoke to TGC Prasad, the Founder, and CEO of the firm regarding the burgeoning e-commerce world and his organization. Here are the edited excerpts.

What is the business problem that your firm hopes to solve with its solutions and offerings? How are you different from your peers?

We make exclusive tie-ups with Local/Regional/Global Manufacturers whose marketing and distribution reach is limited, and introduce the products into to the wholesalers/dealers’ segment. In turn, these Wholesalers use the digital platform to access demand to sell downstream; and avail credit from banks/NBFCs. For example, Flyomix is a graded silica product that has been introduced on to the platform a few months back, and the manufacturer has seen a 5x growth. We introduced a private label with the brand name “Zen”, which has seen a five-fold-jump in order book since its launch a few months back. It is an interesting proposition because the premise of Zen is “Design”. Very few companies can offer the range of designs that Zen does because we bring digital technologies to manufacturing. We backwards integrate design with manufacturers and bring the best possible texture, and designs to consumers.

We operate in various categories including – Basic building materials, Interiors, Plumbing, Electrical, Mechanical, Wood, Tiles, Décor and Infrastructure related products and materials like Pre-mix plaster, Gypsum etc. For example, we recently tied-up with a plywood manufacturer and experienced double sales in the first month of the launch. Similarly, we create immense demand for the wholesalers who are buying these products using our technology and reach. We help manage primary logistics. So, the advantage of this business proposition is immense.

We also recently signed an MOU with Government of Andhra Pradesh (India) for setting up a material-park for Manufacturers to display, stock, sample, manage logistics. Almost majority (80%) of manufacturers (of any size) do not have access to distribution, marketing, and credit. MSupply partners with these manufacturers and markets their products into the supply-chain (dealer & wholesalers). In turn, on the digital platform dealers get access to organized credit demand from customers.

Simply put, this a large segment, almost a $600Billion construction, interiors and infrastructure market and have the first and fast-moving advantage.

The Revenue Model, the Clientele, Investors, and Competitors

We are a digital platform that allows wholesalers to buy from mSupply and in-turn mSupply has back to back exclusive purchasing agreements with the manufacturers, based on aggregated demand for a specific range of categories and products.

Our list of clients contains some prestigious names – Chiripal Industries, Flyocrete India, South India Gypsum, Aurous Ply, Zandros, Spartan, Kremen and such others. Besides, we have reached to almost 14,000 wholesalers and retailers. Currently, MSupply has close to 100 employees and rapidly people in category development, product deployment, business development, logistics, operations and such other functions, to drive higher scaling of business.

In the supply chain enablement model, mSupply connects the eco-system of manufacturers, dealers, retailers, consumers, and other end customers. We specifically don’t compete with any other company in this model and space.

While not in a similar space and exactly the same model, Udaan, a B2B e-commerce company which provides logistics and marketplace services between large wholesalers and Retailers in the FMCG segment is another model that is doing B2B disruption.

Global models in the DSD business model include names like Alibaba, Amazon Supply, Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Adeo, Homepro, SCG and so on and so forth.

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Funding and other milestones

  • The firm received Series A Funding of six million USD in Aug 2015 from Artiman Ventures
  • We successfully received another funding Series B of seven million USD in March 2018 from Artiman Ventures and IIML
  • Extension dealer app driven digital platform was launched in August 2018
  • We tied-up with key Manufacturing entities in June 2018
  • mSupply was featured as top 10 Start-ups to watch out for in a leading business magazine.

The e-commerce Market Size and domain

The Indian economy continues to grow at 7.8% GDP. By 2021, India would become the world’s largest construction & infrastructure market, and the second largest employment creator after agriculture. The Small & Medium Manufacturers in India constitutes about 42.50 Million, 95% of Industrial Units, and employs 106 Million around 40% of India’s total workforce.

The market size of Construction and Interiors domain has following details, infra: $600B (Real Estate, Construction, Interiors $ 200B, infra $400B), contributing to 30% of GDP.  In this highly unorganized sector of Construction, Interiors and Infrastructure – it is estimated that there are about 5 million SMEs, Small & Medium Size Manufacturers, 2.5 Million Traders, Wholesalers, Distributors, 10 Million small-medium-large Builders, Developers, Infra Companies, Contractors – Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Stone, Masonry, Marble, Tiles, Carpenters, painters, Architects, Designers etc. This segment has close to 7-10 Million SKUs of which 75-80% products in the segment are manufactured by small and medium manufacturers.

mSupply Culture

Organization culture at mSupply is driven by its core values viz., “Integrity, Customer Focus and Execution Excellence” and a lot of emphases is laid on how these values are integrated into the day-to-day operations of the company. We strive hard to foster a culture of collaboration, initiative, innovation, and hands-on approach to problem-solving. Customer, manufacturer and the eco-system end-users are core to the way mSupply operates. It is a very large number of driven organization and speed of execution is very important for all at mSupply.

We not only conversed with Prasad about the organization but also enquired about his personal life as well.

A typical day in the life of an entrepreneur

Needless to say, life as an entrepreneur is difficult, strenuous and hectic. A typical day for me involves a lot of brainstorming with people, meeting customers, investors, suppliers, partners, and reviews with people. I travel almost 15-20 days a month. I gain insights predominantly from market visits and meeting customers and manufacturers. Besides each category is a unique play by itself.

How do you learn and how has been your support infrastructure?

Every customer, supplier, partner, and NBFC has been a great source of learning. Personally, for me, our people motivate and inspire me. It is terrific to work with such competent and wonderful people and share your thoughts and ideas. Our investors have been supportive and are bullish about the model and the category we are in. I believe learning happens when one can see the big picture and as well roll the sleeves and dive into details.

In the short span of time, the company has leveraged in technology, how is it a game changer?

As mentioned earlier, since inception our strong focus has been on building technology to solve the business problem. Manufacturers don’t have adequate resources to market and distribute products and we decided to leverage our digital platform to generate access to the dealer markets. These dealers need good products that can help them make better margins, for that they need access to cheaper credit. So, we have built apps that dealers use to buy and as well as sell the products. On the same Dealer App, they get access to demand and as well as credit. The digital platform enables promotions for demand generation. Now financial reconciliations, payments and e-wallet’s driven credit modules are also being added. This technology in the sales and distribution model is going to be the game changer in ordering processing, logistics and payments.

Established in August 2015, what have been some of the core learnings?

Usually, most start-ups try to solve a problem. However, one has to realize that start-ups cannot solve all the problems of the segment, especially if it is very large. The best approach is to narrow the definition of the business problem, prove out the model and then expand rapidly. Technology is an enabler for scaling and not an end in itself.  Start-ups should be nimble and adaptable to change the business model based on market turbulence.

The Road Ahead

Business growth is rapid. We intend expanding geographically to introduce our category offerings into multiple cities and tier 2 towns. We are also planning to add more products, generating more demand, deploy more credit in the market, reach more customers, and penetrate deeper into the Manufacturer and the dealer segment. More importantly, we are building value proposition and deep relations in the B2B segment. To achieve these, we plan to rapidly scale on technology-driven operations and logistics enablement. The current emphasis is to “Expand rapidly and Execute to perfection” and to attain the desired growth, we are raising series C round of funding. On the revenue side, our vision is to achieve the one billion USD value by 2022-23 with healthy margins.

Profile of TGC Prasad

TGC Prasad, a civil engineer from NIT, Calicut (Distinction) completed his post-graduation (Gold Medallist) in management from Tata Institute, Mumbai. He is the Founder & CEO of MSupply.com. Earlier, he worked as the Country head and Board Member for Misys, India, a USD 4 billion global IT Software Product Company. TGC was one of the initial start-up team of Mindtree, a USD 900 million IT Services company. His has worked for Alcatel-Lucent leading the M&A Org Strategy for Europe, South and Asia Pacific theatres. While with Coopers & Lybrand, he was responsible for implementation of Enterprise (SAP) & Supply Chain Management solutions. He has authored several books viz., ‘Unusual People Do Things Differently’ (Portfolio, Penguin), ‘Along the Way’ (Rupa), ‘From the eye of my mind’ (Random House), Working hard is not good enough (Random House), The Last Ten Percent (Penguin Portfolio).  He has attended, delivered programs and written research papers – Stern School of Management (NY), Fordham School (NY), IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Bangalore.

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