Simon Krueger belongs to a family that has a history of office supplies and corporate furnishing. It started with his grandfather trading stationery after the war and the legacy continued with Simon’s father and uncles moving into holistic corporate furnishing concepts for clients, which included the likes of Deutsche Bank. While studying management, Simon got in touch with exchange students from India and that’s how his affair with India started. He traveled to India to study the startup scene and while working for a premium importer in Delhi, he met David and a few other folks from Sapna Solutions, following which they started up eSupply. Growing up in several continents, David has studied at WHU in Germany, in Paris, in Bordeaux and most recently in IIM Bangalore post which he worked for a startup in Pune. So, this probably takes away the ‘outsider’ tag from them and knowing them, they’re pretty much clued into the system in India.
This is how eSupply began and they’re on a mission to make it easier for offices to order supplies. So, what would the size of this market be like? “Finding reliable numbers was difficult. Based on selected sources and our bottom-up calculations, the extremely fragmented office supplies market has a total size of about 35,000 cr INR or 6.4 bn USD, growing at around 15-20% p.a. This includes stationery, IT, furniture and housekeeping products (excluding IT),” says Simon. “Kirana stores, which are our main competitors, can supply about 200-300 SKUs within hours, but they can’t supply companies a larger selection of office products within 24 hours,” he adds. Following the ‘lean start-up approach’, eSupply has laid its operations carefully, starting with a small efficient team.
Launch, Business Model and Logistics
Launched in June 2012, eSupply has generated significant traction and their Proof of Concept has been successful. “Average order sizes are larger compared to B2C and customer loyalty
is much better too. In contrast with a consumer who might buy a book or a T-shirt 3 or 4 times a year, our customers have a regularly monthly requirement. We are now looking to open a distribution centre as mentioned above and scale customer acquisition - online and especially offline,” informs Simon about their business model. eSupply was incubated by Yann and Anthony, who have been at the helm of an IT company called Sapna Solutions in Pune for three years. “It was and still is very helpful to have two experienced entrepreneurs on board,” says David about the experience.
eSupply has two models for handling logistics currently. Inside Pune they handle their own logistics while for deliveries outside the city, they tie up with courier services.
The foreign factor
Being a foreigner in India and setting up a business, one could expect a few rather unique situations. “We certainly faced some situations where it opened a lot of doors being a foreigner - simply because people are curious or assume that you represent a huge multi-national. At other times, it was quite difficult since people wouldn't take us seriously as foreigners being committed to do business in India. They thought we just came as the typically employed expats for 2-3 years. Apart from this there are always challenges no matter what you do and where you are from.”
Drive to Make Something Lasting
There is always a curiosity about what the businessman’s motive in doing this could be. “It comes down to the question of what I would want to do in life. I would want to look back knowing I created something successfully that would last and survive after me. I am talking about a business, not kids,” jokes David but underlying that statement is a deep meaning. For Simon, there are a few factors: “The primary idea is ‘to create something’ that wasn't there before, or to do something in a different, much better way. I think many entrepreneurs sucked at painting or writing stories when they were young so they didn't go along that path. But in a way they are still artists. You see a certain need or market and then you develop this vision of how things could be in a few years if you did this and that. Now, if you keep this vision only in your head you become a wantrepreneur. Just doing it, no matter what, makes you an entrepreneur and the feeling you get from seeing how your creation impacts others around you is very satisfying. As is the feeling - by the way - you get from proving all your skeptics wrong. As Mr. Jobs said: It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy! Furthermore, it’s simply much more fun to work in a start-up than in a large corporation in regards to culture, agility and the awesome people you interact with. And finally, never underestimate the positive effect on your morale when you own part of the ship.”
This is the journey of these two entrepreneurial folks from Germany who’re trying to work out this niche in the Indian eCommerce industry and build a B2B model which hasn't been tried by many in this space.
So, if you’re a corporate or even an employee, you might soon hear about eSupply delivering your office needs.