Years spent, experiences earned in founding IndiaMART and Tolexo – Brijesh Agrawal’s professional journey
“If something that you do in life is meaningful and useful to others, be persistent and pursue it, come what may. After some point of time, you will definitely achieve success in that.”
These words from my grandfather have been my guiding spirit and have helped me immensely in my entrepreneurial journey at Tolexo & IndiaMART.com, the largest online marketplace for industrial goods and India’s largest B2B market place respectively.
Starting out as an entrepreneur, my professional path has been fraught with highs and lows, experiences which, in hindsight, are solely responsible for giving me the business foresight I can humbly claim to have today.
The Idea behind inception of Tolexo
At IndiaMART, our interactions with buyers and sellers convinced me that there was indeed a clear potential to enhance value by enabling business transactions online. A service was needed to satisfy buyers who were seeking large product variety, transparent pricing, authentic merchandise along with timely delivery and the sellers who preferred confirmed orders over leads. An e-commerce platform dedicated to providing business goods and industrial supplies seemed to be the perfect medium, and this is how Tolexo was born.
Upheavals on the way
During 1996-97, India was dealing with an unfamiliar globalized business environment, and it was an uphill task to convince business people attuned to the conventional ways, to adapt a solution as radical as IndiaMART. We had to handle a tight cash-flow situation and delayed salaries for months, a scenario which every business owner dreads. Post the 9/11 attacks, the condition became all the more grim, as a significant portion of the business got impacted due to the attacks, in terms of the numbers of clients lost. Amidst all this gloom, getting featured in the Red Herring Top 100 Asia & Emerging Start-ups in India Awards served to be the only silver lining, and a proud one undoubtedly.
Cruising and a crisis
Business at IndiaMART was steadily improving, and it seemed the bad times had passed, when the financial crisis of 2007-08 hit. IndiaMART’s export-oriented clients suffered a major decline in their business. Negative effects of this could be seen on our revenue. With no hope of a revival in the export-oriented orders within the next 4-5 years, we had to shift our focus on the domestic Indian markets.
Tolexo – The challenges and how they were overcome
Since we were building an e-commerce transaction business for the first time, we had to build a solid team that can help us build this business from scratch. The B2C e-commerce businesses were raising money like crazy and we were clear that our approach would be towards building a solid, profitable business in a capital efficient manner. In that scenario the challenge lying ahead of us was to convince people that we could build a sustainable, high-growth business, in a prudent manner.
Secondly, the B2B e-commercesuppliers we were onboarding had never sold online. Infact, they never thought that businesses would buy online without having interaction with the suppliers. The sellers did not have structured information about products – such as price, MoQ (Minimum Order Quantity) and stock-in-hand were not recorded well. More importantly, their mental block was a tough roadblock to manage.
Today, it gives me immense satisfaction to think that we went through so much and yet here we are changing the way India’s vibrant B2B commerce space functions. We have made huge strides in making the eco-system sustainable and enhancing the business of millions of B2B sellers and buyers. When buyers and sellers share their stories of how IndiaMART & Tolexo helped them scale up, it feels wonderful.
It makes me believe that I have managed to live up to my grandfather’s advice. I hope to be one of those entrepreneurs who have their eyes set on big dreams, with my feet firmly planted on the ground. We have a long way to go and staying humble & nimble will be essential for success.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the publication