Entrepreneur Sundeep Holani: On Channelplay, fastest growing retail marketing company, with a record revenue of 45crores in 4 years!


After graduating from IIM Calcutta, Sundeep Holani joined a large corporate organisation where he was involved in dealing with retail marketing services companies. He faced challenges with respect to quality and services of the marketing companies and grabbed the opportunity to set up a retail marketing company in the year 2006. And, since then Channelplay has doubled its revenue year after year, only to record around Rs. 45 crores of revenue for the year 2010-11.

Join us as we take you through Sundeep’s entrepreneurial journey.

What is Channelplay all about?

Channelplay is a retail marketing company that helps its clients sell more effectively. Within four years of existence it has become one of India’s leading retail marketing companies and currently serves the world’s top mobile and PC brands.

How did the idea for Channelplay come about?

We realized that the retail marketing space is highly fragmented, unprofessional and doesn’t add much value to their clients. There was no de-facto industry leader who was setting the benchmark for quality. There was an opportunity and we grabbed it.

How is Channelplay different from other retail marketing companies?

Channelplay is one of the few professionally managed companies in the space. It’s large footprint of over 3000 employees in more than 300 cities across India gives its clients unparalleled reach. Channelplay is also at the leading edge of technology implementation to drive efficiency and transparency in its services. Channelplay can be rated as among the best in the world in technology implementation.

Please tell us about the people involved in this venture.

Channelplay was started by three people. I, Tushar and Suhas, the co-founders were friends when we did our MBA from IIM Calcutta. We always wanted to start a business together. I have around 4 years of retail IT consulting experience and have spent most of my time in the US and China where I got to learn how retail works and how IT is implemented at retail. Suhas and Tushar had worked for some of the biggest names in consumer products and services in India. While we took jobs from campus, we frequently shared business plans and discussed opportunities. Of all the plans discussed, Channelplay took off!

What is the future of Retail Management Companies?

Retail is becoming increasingly important. Advertising clutter is increasing and channel-hopping by consumers makes brands wary about spending too much on advertising. Moreover, in the hi-tech goods industry, the products are too sophisticated for the value proposition to be communicated in a 30 second airtime spot. Brands that focus on retail will be more successful, and this will obviously give more importance to retail marketing. The trend is already towards a larger percentage of marketing budgets shifting to retail, and that will accelerate.

Where do you see Channelplay in the times to come?

In the retail marketing industry, there is no clear leader, no great company. Companies that have not done focused evaluations of the vendors in this industry will increasingly do it because the spend share on this segment will become big. When that starts happening, the good companies will see more growth while the smaller ones will have to either get better or disappear. I think the industry will see more organization and some clear leaders will emerge. Channelplay hopes to be one of them.

What is Channelplay's revenue model?

Channelplay broadly provides services on two management models to the clients. There are large projects that are co-managed with the client. We closely work with the client on the project. In these cases, we provide value through our geographical reach, reporting systems, market knowledge and people management capabilities. Such projects are usually executed on the cost-plus model, where there is a fixed margin that we charge on top of the actual cost we incur on executing the project. The other model is turn-key services that we provide to our clients. Here the client tells us an end business objective they want to achieve and we figure out how to achieve it and what we will charge for the service.

As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?

The biggest joy is the ability to help create something that you think will make a difference. You have the ability to ask people to look deeply at something, see what works and what doesn’t, and to create a change that makes the operation better. Once our team and I agree on something, there is no bureaucracy, the phrase “can’t do” is not heard often. That’s a pleasure. Another thing that I like is just how big the canvas is. There are not just operations, but there are also people, finance, technology, administration – and there is so much to do on each of those fronts. It’s very stimulating and satisfying to see when something starts working better because you encouraged and helped a team to do it. There are many challenges for an entrepreneur. This is where the buck stops, so the entrepreneur has to take responsibility for everything that goes wrong or doesn’t work and has to deal with it. In itself, it is actually an opportunity to make things better. Like my friend and Channelplay co-founder Suhas once plotted it on a graph, most of these problems lie in the “high-urgency, low-importance” area, and that takes focus away from what you really want to be doing, so it is important to move focus to more important things.

Please tell us about the team at Channelplay.

Channelplay is now over 3000 people – including people who are working on client projects. There is a core team of around 100 managers and support functions members who work out of offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. We have 5 service verticals, each of which is headed by a Vice President or General Manager level person, and each of our support functions has leadership as well. We are hiring a lot of people. There are many opportunities in the company.

Let us know about your expansion plans.

We are focused on the Indian market, at least for the next couple of years. There is a lot more we want to do to bring operational and process excellence before we increase our geographical footprint. On the revenues side, things are growing satisfactorily, and we would like to keep the momentum. The long term plan is to be India’s best and biggest, and to be listed on the NSE.

While Channelplay’s revenue is in the constant growth mode, we at YourStory wish them success and hope that they live their dream to be India’s best and biggest Retail Marketing Company! Meanwhile, you checkout http://www.channelplay.in and let us know what you think of the story.


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