A survey conducted by AT Kearney finds that unorganised retailers constitute a whopping Rs 4,00,000 crore in the retail markets in India. Close to 97 per cent of the retail businesses are traditional, family-run and corner stores. "There are close to over 14 million traditional family-run stores in every neighbourhood," contends Manish Mehta, Co-founder of Exclusife, a CRM-based startup for SME retailers in India.
The father of one Exclusife Co-founder Anand Krushnan owns a small business in Chennai that sells custom snack items. Although the items are well received by customers, he was totally dependent on the whims of the customer for the next sale. He would have to wait for the next person to walk into the store to get the next sale and had no control over the process. It became apparent that this was not an isolated case, but something millions of other small retailers also face daily.
Manish adds that the customer experience at these stores has not changed for decades. "They don’t know who you are when you walk into the store. They have no way of inviting you back. Basically, business is left up to chance most of the time," he says. Anand approached Manish who was a colleague and IIT-Delhi alumnus about the problem. They realised that they could use technology to help solve the problem for all these SME retailers, leading to the formation of Exclusife.
Prior to co-founding Exclusife, Manish had joined IBM Research Lab in Silicon Valley and his first company, which was founded in the US, was bought by a public technology company. He was an entrepreneur-in-residence at a leading Silicon Valley VC firm. He then started his second company that raised USD 40 million in venture financing to build marketing tools for small businesses.
Exclusife increases SME retail sales by providing an easy-to-use but effective CRM tool to all traditional store owners. Started in 2012, Exclusife today has over 325 employees and 3,000 SME retail customers across 17 cities in nearly all retail verticals, including apparel, jewellery, beauty, food and fitness.
Anand, on the other hand, had started his web design company after graduation and also spent two years in Costa Rica running two online gambling sites. Nishit Verma joined in as VP Sales and Sumit Mehrotra as Director, Client Services, after their stints at IndiaMart.
Speaking of what sets them apart, Manish says, "Laser-sharp focus on what our customers really need. The SME retail space is riddled with companies that have sold trendy half-baked solutions to customers that don’t actually produce results. The secret to our success is that we’ve focussed from day one on solving real problems faced by SME retailers."
Team building and future
Manish says that the team looks for two core values while hiring: a proven ability to work hard and perform and adaptability to change.
The team believes it can reach 2,00,000 customers in India. Additionally, it also feels similar opportunities exist in other emerging markets, like Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia, where retail patterns are similar to India. The company is bootstrapped and is looking at funding. The retail market is India is expected to touch USD one trillion by 2020. A report suggests that the retail spends of top seven cities of India at present is USD 57.76 billion.