khosla-tradeindia
E-Commerce Solutions

TradeIndia Interview: A Directory of B2B Businesses

TradeIndia.com is an online B2B website for businesses. Launched in 1996, its aim is to provide a platform for buyers and sellers across India and the globe. It is a popular site in India, ranked highly by Alexa.com and, according to CrunchBase, holds a database of more than 20 million names. Mandira Srivastava speaks to Mr. Bikky Khosla, Founder & CEO about the journey so far and where the company stands in the face of the constantly evolving internet and business landscape.

 

How did the concept of TradeIndia come into existence?

[I began in the] garment business in India as an exporter and then as an importer in the USA and I always felt there was no connecting point between Indian suppliers and global buyers. I felt there was no channel through which a foreign buyer could find Indian suppliers and vice versa.

The lack of availability of any platform and the need which I saw amongst the Indian sellers and global buyers to find each other through some means, gave me the idea to start a print directory of Indian exporters and a manufacturers database. This was first released in 1991 with the name of Exporters Yellow Pages. It was the beginning as there was no internet at that time and print was the only medium available. Then, sometime in 1996 when the internet came to India, we went online and launched tradeindia.com.

 

How has the company been doing and how do you think the market will evolve?

As a company we are growing at a decent pace and our growth is directly related with the growth of [the] internet in India. As the internet is penetrating deeper and deeper we are getting more and more customers. More companies are showing an interest in getting online thus want to set up their online presence on tradeindia.com.

With market dynamics changing, the old trend of doing business with known contacts only is no longer relevant. Today people search for suppliers online and connect to buy from them. With better internet penetration this trend is bound to increase in years to come.

 

What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Our initial challenges were primarily around finding and having the right data. In the early 1990s when my team was new we were trying to do everything [ourselves] and also were looking to keep the cost low so those were real tough days.

However each period has its own set of challenges. Today the most important [challenge] of them all is to find quality manpower. As a growing organisation we need to hire people all the time.

This is mostly around hiring quality manpower, as the young people out of colleges and schools are expecting fat pay packages and very ‘cool’ working style. Hence quality manpower for hard core sales functions is becoming tough in a very competitive business environment. That is leading to extra resources and energy spent on hiring quality talent, and after that retaining them for longer durations.

 

How did you get funding?

We are a 100% self-funded company. I am not even keen on taking funding as we are self-sustainable but I am looking for a strategic investor who should come on board and help us take our business forward.

 

How do you expect the new government to help the business growth in eRetail sector?

Our expectation is that the new government will recognize eCommerce as an industry. This will create a framework within which people should operate. [We think it will] come out with schemes to induce people into buying online.

We want the government to work on making the internet available to the masses across India, as this medium not only connects people at all levels, but also help push business and opportunities even to smaller cities and towns. Currently [the] entire eRetail [industry] is focused on Tier 1 cities and some in Tier2 cities, but the real growth will happen when people from smaller towns and villages get empowered and use [the] internet for buying and selling goods online.

 

Have you ever thought about going public?

Yes, we plan to [eventually], but not now. I still believe I want to take the company to a much bigger height before I go public. We want to scale and penetrate deeper into India, even to [the] smaller cities, as once the large population of India get online that will be the time for us to reap real rewards of our hard work.

 

Which cities are you currently in?

TradeIndia is currently present in about 25 cities of India through our 39 offices which cover most large business centers. [However] the whole idea of this medium is to be able to connect people online on a national as well as global scale and the time will come when this physical presence will be less and less important.

The key is better penetration of [the] internet and especially broadband internet in India. But we believe, in times to come with awareness growing about [the importance of] having an online presence for business growth, we will increase our reach, and look forward to being available in 50 centers or more throughout India, to connect with SME's more effectively. Our objective will be to empower and educate them on the benefits of being on the web and grow their business using the great medium of the internet.

 

How are you planning to scale up your business?

To scale up [the] business we have to keep evolving, stay connected with [what] the market come[s] out with, services and offerings which are unique in nature and which help Indian companies perform online easily and smoothly. We keep exploring new options to help SME's grow their business using internet.

 

Do you have any examples?

A) We started with a service by the name of Dial B2B in which a person searching for suppliers does not necessarily have to do a search on the site, he/she can simply call 011 4336 4336 and can ask for the information, which is sent to them via email or SMS.

B) A first ever online platform has been launched for distributors/franchisee/sales agents. A platform by the name of getdistributors.com has been launched to help SMEs find and connect with companies who are looking to appoint distributors, franchisee, sales agents etc. The facility also helps listed companies to be found by potential companies who are looking to take distributorship, franchisee or sale agency.

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