Learning entrepreneurship lessons the hard way: Pranay Srinivasan’s road to sourceasy
Pranay Srinivasan graduated as a BSc (Life Science) from St Xaviers College, Mumbai in 1999 but where his life took him after that has nothing related to it. As is the case with so many Indians into textile and diamond businesses, the leadership is passed down to the next generation. In Pranay’s case, his father was a 1st generation entrepreneur who sold fabrics and yarn to European customers. Hailing from a history of professionals – doctors, teachers, etc, it was not a usual choice to pursue business, and the onus to handle the business became tougher without traditional family support. He helped his father build their export company by expanding into Apparel Manufacturing, and into new markets like USA.
All was hunky dory for a decade with the usual twists and turns in business but in 2009, some personal misunderstandings arose and Pranay parted ways with his father’s business to explore other avenues. After being rejected by 3 Business Schools (for being too old, too entrepreneurial or not from the right schools), he was faced with survival issues and hence restarted Apparel business with a customer’s advance of INR 30,000 in Feb 2010. To make ends meet, he consulted with a few companies like Ganga Exports to help them set up their manufacturing plants. His focus was to use his export knowledge to build a strong manufacturing base from where he could target the low cost Indian Apparel market with superior distribution and great pricing.
The lessons on the road
Pranay was in the business for a decade but setting up the foundation from the scratch was a first time experience. The apparel manufacturing business is a tough market to be in and lot of messy threads that need to be entangled. Pranay felt that he could run his apparel business as a meritocracy, and faced a lot of problems because he didn’t have the right founding team to share responsibilities with. Pranay tried for a few months but the going proved to be tough. “I had faced all kinds of embezzlement, cheating, disputes,” says Pranay.
He got back to the tested model of exports and things stabilized a bit. But he had his lessons in the 3 years of operations. “The biggest thing I’ve learnt is to choose your team properly, think a thousand times before making any team decision,” he says. Whatever the idea maybe, a good team can do wonders.
Apart from the organizational challenges, Pranay got a deep understanding of the apparel market the challenges faced in India.
In the meanwhile
eCommerce was picking up in India. Many eCommerce companies (which seem to be in a soup right now) face the problem of order fulfillment. How an apparel eCommerce company works is that they order from manufacturers who require some minimum order size and the lead time is also around 60-90 days. “This is where I noticed a huge gap,” says Pranay. And thus was born Sourceasy.
What is sourceasy- Moneyball for Product Sourcing
It is a low-cost merchandise (private label) sourcing service for e-Commerce/Merchants/Brands/Designers. Players have realized private labels are a way to go for getting higher profit margins (60-80%) and catering to this need, SourceEasy will make it easier for smaller players in eCommerce to get their manufacturing done. It will also help large players test smaller quantities in a SKU before placing larger replenishment orders to be fulfilled in less than 4 weeks. This helps them “Double Down” on the styles that work.
Pranay started talking to people and setting up the foundation for SourceEasy in early 2013 and by now has managed to have 5 customers on board. “The big break came when I met Sean of Wittlebee, a 500 startup funded company during “Geeks on a Plane” in Mumbai,” he said. Doing business with Wittlebee gave Pranay the required boost to explore making product fulfilment the center of sourceasy. This encounter made Pranay realize that the market is not only in India but eCommerce companies in the US as well are facing a much bigger problem to get to profitability even with great traction and an established customer base. Encouraged by his talks with potential customers, the technology platform is on its way and operations will begin full-fledged by November this year. Currently the business is testing Proof of Concept with multiple customers of different sizes and will build its online business logic using real transactions and business experiences based of the first set of clients.
A team of 6 based out of Mumbai and Tirupur, the company is bootstrapped currently and would be looking raise funds later down the chain once the process is streamlined. sourceasy is focused on onboarding customers, creating a strong fulfilment engine, and broadening their product catalog to home Furnishings, accessories and jewellery in the near future along with hiring folks in merchandising, operations and sales support.