It's no news that 500 Startups has been bullish on India and has been investing aggressively over the last couple of years with Pankaj Jain leading the show here. The latest batch of 29 has three Indian companies -- Interview Master, Targeting Mantra and Sourceasy. Talking about the new batch, Pankaj Jain says, “The quality of companies coming from India has significantly improved. Many startups getting into our accelerator are showing strong early traction and are focused heavily on sales.”
Founded by Pranay Srinivasan, Sourceasy is a tech-enabled web platform to source custom apparel, and the startup has had an interesting journey till now.
We had earlier written about how Pranay was building Sourceasy against odds and now the idea has found validation from customers as well as investors. At heart, Pranay believes Sourceasy to be a hybrid -- a technology company with a sourcing DNA. A Deloitte report on retail, states that private label apparel is a $1 trillion market globally and this is where Sourceasy places itself.
Sourceasy can be basically used for creating custom merchandising programs with custom fabrics sourced on the client’s behalf to produce orders on demand in under four weeks with air freight deliveries for immediate requirements. (Pranay writes in detail in this blog).
The road to 500 Startups
The vision of Sourceasy has remained pretty much the same (to create a technology-enabled network for manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment) but the go-to-market strategy has evolved. “Initially, because we didn't have any cash or manpower or resources to spare, we went after easy wins -- T-shirts, startup tees and corporate tees, etc. This helped us be lean and fund our business,” says Pranay. There were hurdles on the way while Sourceasy was working with US-based e-commerce clients, but those learnings helped make the product better.
After November last year, Sourceasy got some steady clients like Paytm and Ingear which helped them sustain till they perfected the product. Sean Percival, ex-CEO of Wittlebee, Sourceasy's first customer last May, now runs the current accelerator batch at 500 Startups. “Sean was intimately aware of the business and how it has scaled,” says Pranay. “Sean was intimately aware of the business and how it has scaled,” says Pranay. Pankaj has also been a friend and a trusted mentor for over two years now for Pranay.
Talking about the experience, Pranay says, “Getting into 500 Startups was less about hustle and more about building strong, trustworthy relationships, acting in good faith, and building out my business. Contrary to popular opinion, 500 Startups does NOT do favours to founders. We built a business, set up a hypothesis that was validated, found customers, hustled hard to close deals, executed on operations, found a team to execute on our tech strategy, and created a Minimum Viable Product. Only then did we get a shot at applying to 500 Startups.”
Sourceasy has got a good growing list of customers now, and the next step will be to scale in the coming years. Pranay has also got Chirag Chamoli as the CTO whose expertise lies in understanding domain knowledge and translating that into a scalable and robust tech architecture. “As we scale manufacturing, we wish to make sourcing and manufacturing an infrastructure service like say, AWS - where anyone can log on, create an order, submit it and get it delivered to their door seamlessly in three to four weeks,” adds Pranay.