YourStory recently caught up with entrepreneur Pramod Chaturvedi to know more about the business idea behind CartridgeWale, a leading name in the remanufactured printer cartridges business. They sell under the brand Ektos, which claims to offer compromise-free quality with a massive reduction in costs. Given below are excerpts from the interview:
Pramod, what is CartridgeWale all about?
Essentially, we help corporates add upto 2.5% of their top-line straight to their bottom-line. These huge savings are achieved through use of our remanufactured printer cartridges brand Ektos which cost up to 60% lesser than new OEM printer cartridges, without any compromise on print quality and performance.
But how is CartridgeWale different from other cartridge refilling solution providers?
CartridgeWale was conceived as a business idea to usher in a world of difference into the Indian CRR (Cartridge Refilling & Remanufacturing) industry. Globally, after-market cartridge market is a well accepted and penetrated industry. Not only is it a great savings tool, it also helps save the environment. However, India is a very fragmented market when it comes to cartridge refilling and the space is controlled by the unorganized local refillers, which is what we wanted to change and make use of this great savings tool possible to businesses & corporates in India.
As per Recharger Mag & Recycler Appeal, about 1 in 3 cartridges are recycled and used at more than 3 million companies worldwide.
We stand apart because of the following:
- Exclusive global alliances to introduce International quality refilling in India: We launched Ink 3000 refilling technology exclusively in India. This patented technology is used across all continents of the world and through more than 3000 retail point
- By standing for quality: Our remanufactured cartridges carry 100% imported engine specific internal components & consumables (ink & toner).All our imports are from Brazil, USA & Germany
- We have been very conscious of systems & processes and took ISO 9001 (QMS) & ISO 14001 (EMS) certifications just after starting out even though it meant a significant investment from a start-up perspective
However, our efforts have been acknowledged this year when we were awarded the Best Startup by Recharger India, the Indian arm of Recharger USA.
How did the business idea for CartridgeWale come about?
I hit upon this business idea during the last recession. As per Photizo, group printing as a cost center can eat upto 5% of a business’ revenues. However, because of lack of access to high quality refilling driven by sophisticated technology, Indian businesses have not looked seriously looked at this as a savings tool. Businesses can add upto 2.5% of their topline to bottom-line by switching to refilled/remanufactured cartridges and other print related savings.
Realizing that this was a gap, we launched international quality refilling in India in mid 2009 by bridging the technology gap and giving access to this great savings tool to Indian businesses, SMEs, SOHO & even individuals who were fed up with high printer cartridge costs.
Our brand is called Ektos and it essentially means “To Save” in Greek which is exactly what we stand for.
Tell us about your background.
I have close to 2 decades of corporate experience panning across sales, marketing and retail operations. I had launched a retail setup when retail was just about unfolding in India. Just before launching CartridgeWale, I was roped in to head the operations for Khushali Bazaar. However, their proposed retail expansion plan was getting delayed because of recession. This was about the time when I saw an opportunity as everybody was planning to cut costs and thought this is the right time to make an entry in to this segment. So, I started the company, even though I had been thinking of this venture since 2008. While it was a tough decision to be on my own at the age of 43, I had the backing of my family.
My other partner is my brother Pradeep who is an engineer by qualification and he is also the technical director. He is someone who has trained people going overseas and has been pivotal in bringing the best practices to India.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have. What is the size of the market that you’re addressing?
Yes, we do have several tie ups in place and work with the best in the world. We have an exclusive alliance with Parai of Brazil for INK 3000 refill technology. We also have partners in US & Germany for importing consumables. We were also the ones to bring Oasis Imaging of USA into India back in 2009.
Independent estimates put the overall market at INR 5000 crore which is growing at about 30% YoY. However, there is a dearth of quality organised after-market cartridges. Globally, biggies like Walgreens, Staples & Office Depot carry their own label of printer cartridges. Even the top 500 etailers include players who deal in after market inkjet & printer cartridges.
Where do you see the cartridge refilling/manufacturing space in India and CartridgeWale five years from now?
Given that there are not enough specialized cartridge refill stores, we feel that the opportunity is immense in this industry. We call printer cartridges as “essential corporate grocery” and we all know grocery is always a recurring essential need. Thus, we are bullish on this segment, the talks of a looming recession is only going to help the matters, although these savings should be practiced even during non recession. The remanufacturing space in India would see a complete revamp as more and more cartridges are being launched by companies that can only be handled by specialised and technology sound refilling remanufacturing companies.
What are your plans for expansion?
We hope to grow significantly in the coming years and look to do this through the following:
- Establish a pan India presence, by opening stores & regional offices
- Set up a dedicated remanufactured cartridge facility to improve our production capacity
- Develop channel sales for our brand of remanufactured cartridges Ektos (retail & etail channel)
- Develop private label for global players that will come to India
What is Cartridge Wale’s revenue model? Are you looking at raising funds?
Well, our main business line is B2B sales to corporates. I can say that we have fairly impressive margins which vary by the cartridge type. Yes, we are looking at raising funds but at a time when we feel that the valuation does justice to our efforts thus far. To this effect, we are rapidly scaling up our revenues & backend. We have already attracted the attention of 2 VCs. However, we feel that we can attract better valuations in the coming times.
What are the challenges that you faced while developing your solution? How did you overcome those challenges? Also, a number of cartridge manufacturers have campaigns running against refilling and pushing for buying fresh cartridges. How does that affect you?
Much of our challenge has been related to fighting the perception linked to this industry. It has been in the hands of local refillers who have damaged the perception of this great savings tool and in the process of the entire CRR industry. While globally the aftermarket cartridge market runs into billions of dollars, in India it has not really taken off.
Breaking the myth that use of refilled/remanufactured cartridges voids the printer warranty is another key challenge. Amongst those who had tried local refillers and had given up, breaking the apprehension that refilling works is again a challenge.
We have taken a host of measures to drive the point that CRR Industry is an established global phenomenon. Specifically we have taken to educating the end user/customer by sharing material to prove that refilling does not void printer warranty, establishing a research cell to develop technical knowhow and communicating the environmental impact of printer cartridges & reinforcing the ‘Go Green’ opportunity as a part of CSR initiatives.
We’ve also been developing specific reporting metrics in form of a “Monthly Savings Sheet” to communicate savings on cartridge costs. Clients get amazed to see the savings.
How big is the team behind CartridgeWale? Are you looking at hiring?
At this point in time, we are a fairly lean setup. I head the overall business, while Pradeep heads the operations & technical department. We have 2 corporate sales persons and 6 people in the technical department who do the remanufacturing, besides delivery staff.
We are going to launch our e-commerce site very soon and we are looking at hiring a dedicated team of 2 people for our ecommerce operations. We also want to add people to our corporate sales department.
Let’s round this off with some interesting trivia about CartridgeWale and your Ektos cartridges.
Well, our retention rate is 90%+ i.e. once we get a client we don’t lose them. We are based in Gurgaon. But through our logistics tie ups, we have the ability to supply anywhere in India whether through road or air cargo.
We don’t advertise in print and electronic media. 90% of our marketing spends are on the digital medium and has worked for us very well
We cover the maximum cartridge models in the market, let’s say, 95%+. If there is a printer cartridge in the market and no one is able to do refill it, 9 out of 10 times we would be able to do it. 100% is the number of parts replaced in an Ektos Remanufactured Cartridge during remanufacturing
We at YourStory wish Pramod and the entire team at CartridgeWale much success. To know more, check out http://cartridgewale.com. Also, do let us know what you think of this story by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 9th August 2011 | Bangalore