Sreekumar Vijaykumar is a Columbia University alumnus who has worked in the IT retail industry for six years with the likes of Deloitte and IBM. After returning to India, Sreekumar had an idea of starting up a NIIT for retail — producing industry ready professionals for the retail market. Sreekumar founded All India Retail in 2007, a retail training and business services company. Their expertise lay in core retail domains like merchandising, planning, assortment, pricing and demand forecasting. Alongside running the services company, a blog, IndiaRetailNews.com, was also launched that got good traction considering the times.
“We ran it for a year and it was turning into a lifestyle business which was good but it didn’t really excite us,” says Sreekumar. Taking a turn from there, they transformed the business to TradeBriefs, a daily email newsletter service that helps professionals become industry experts. The team interprets the top industry news of the day and provide insight and jobs in personalized industry newsletters. The curation is human plus an algorithm which learns. Retail, IT, and FMCG are their core industries but have now expanded to 10 industry segments.
The company has been growing over the years and has now crossed 7.5 lakh subscribers for their newsletter. Email newsletters might look like an old school business but the company was backed by 500Startups last year with $100k. It makes business sense and there have been many successful companies on this model — Daily Candy (newsletter having info about fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc that was sold for $125 million), Thrillist (similar to Daily Candy but for males), Help a reporter out (newsletter connecting reporter with sources), etc. “We’re moving aggressively over the channels to get more subscribers and are also moving closer towards a product to leverage on the user base,” says Sreekumar. But with the changing times, a movement towards a product would also be necessary.
Tradebriefs is building an industry specific social network where a person would be connected to people in their industry, and areas of interest. The product is planned to take some shape in a month’s time. TradeBriefs has subscribers mainly from India and also has some direct traffic, but email newsletter is its core business. The startup generates enough revenues to sustain a team of 16 (eight full time) and their model revolves around lead generation and ads. For instance, if an Adobe wants to do targeted ads, TradeBriefs has the user data to make that possible. “We create our own content as well but our expertise lies in curation. Our algorithm is also getting better and we’d be using a lot more technology to make the process more intelligent and better,” says Sreekumar. TradeBriefs has been at it for more than four years and the growth has been steady. Another startup from India in a similar domain that has active forums for industry experts is Cite.co. For these companies to reach the next level and scale, they’d need to push on the product and see if they can get similar traction.