Today, e-commerce is such an integral part of the shopping experience for Indians. But way back in 1998, Abhay Deshpande had started the first angel-funded e-commerce site for ethnic Indian products, called Malamall.com; when most in India hadn’t even heard of e-commerce.
“I wanted to sell Indian products to the NRI market and showcase the best local products from different cities and towns. There are so many local brands that reside in different towns of our country and I was driven to bring it all on one platform,” he recalls.
Back in 1998, starting an e-commerce company was novel in itself. Determined to make his venture succeed, Abhay left no stone unturned, from building a strong franchise network and local partners, to sourcing the best products.
But he was way ahead of his time. Alas, the demand side for his product was not ready, and the dotcom meltdown of early 2000 did not help either. Post the dotcom meltdown, funding dried up and people were not confident to bet on e-commerce.
From a good start to building strong operations to seeing the same product go downhill was the best MBA course I could do, says Abhay.
It’s impossible not to admire his tenacity amidst the challenges he faced.
Abhay believed he had to start completely afresh. So by 2006, he got rid of his liabilities in Malamall. By 2007, he got the same team together, and started Martjack. The team with their previous experience in e-commerce knew how this market worked. “E-commerce had got into our blood; we knew the business in and out (after all they worked with local merchants very closely) and it was but natural to make use of this learning in what we did next. Martjack was just the product we knew the merchants and retailers in India needed. We built based on what they wanted.”
Martjack is an enterprise class Multichannel Commerce platform to build eCommerce portal and manage end-to-end eCommerce operations such as order management, catalogue management, marketing and promotions, to name a few. With more than 2500 customers active on the platform, Martjack has come a long way in a short time.
“90 percent of our customers are businesses we have taken online for the first time and it is rewarding to see how these merchants are able to expand and grow their businesses because of our platform. For us, the core interest remains in ensuring that all these businesses win, so we have taken a lot of measures to ensure that we are constantly adding to our own learning curve to bring the best solutions,” adds Abhay.
He believes that running a SAAS startup in India is getting tougher and competitive. He adds, “When we started we did not have any similar company to follow; we have learnt on the go and what an incredible learning it has been!”
He says that building an e-commerce ecosystem and a SAAS product ground up was not easy but that’s what made the entire endeavour worthwhile. Today, they have scaled to a 160-member-strong team. The product has only become stronger with time.
While earlier they worked with mostly smaller retailers and brands, their current clients include medium, large and Enterprise retailers and brands. What is fuelling the growth for Martjack is the growth of Internet and awareness among businesses about going online.
“Merchants have tasted e-commerce on third-party platforms like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon, and want to sell on their own stores directly to customers. They are hungry for more and they want a product that pushes their ambition further. We have become the right partner for them.”
With 600+ features on the platform (WAP capabilities, multi-channel platform, APIs) to suit every kind of retailer, it’s little wonder that businesses have embraced the platform and stuck to it.
Abhay’s experience building his own e-commerce startup into this product, Martjack, is the real game changer.
The product is addressing a large and growing market coupled with the recent boom in e-commerce. The product’s ability to customise and offer complete tech solution is empowering for retailers. Customers like Future Group, Aramex, Godrej Nature Basket, Indigo Nation vouch for it.
Also the team’s vast experience, with their domain expertise and partner network is fueling Martjack’s success.
Hailing from Maharashtra, Abhay is the first entrepreneur in his family. “I just wanted to do something meaningful, and e-commerce happened because I saw an opportunity early on. Maybe too early.”
But this journey has been full of challenges, learning, and ups and downs for him. He echoes that this journey has made entrepreneurship so worthwhile for him. “Its very motivating to see the impact we are creating for businesses.”
Today, Martjack is being used by over 150 businesses across the globe. “We have expanded to the Middle East, Indonesia and the US and have some very renowned large and enterprise businesses on our platform.” It’s a matter of pride that a product made in India is seeing this kind of traction.
With over 10 million dollars of transactions on the platform every month, Martjack is pushing the boundaries of growth.