An intelligent startup idea is one which makes you go: “Why did this service not exist till now?” Bizom is an app which aspires to be that. The company lets you access the entire supply chain, whether you are a brand, a distributor or a retailer. Bizom is a mobile-first platform for retail commerce, and serves the supply chain for consumer goods and FMCG. Major brands such as Parle agro, Nivea, Airtel, Idea, Paperboat etc. are amongst Bizom’s customers.
A cloud-based application, Bizom was launched in 2012 as the flagship product of Mobisy Technologies Pvt Ltd. Having raised $2,50,000 (Rs 1.5 core) in seed funding from Ojas Venture Partners in 2013, Bizom now serves 125 brands, 10,000 distributors, 25,000 field users and more than 10 lakh retailers, and handles transactions which value more than a $ one billion. Lalit Bhise (CEO), Vasudeva Manjunath (CTO), Supreeth Reddy (CPO) and Shree Kulkarni (COO) make the core team.
The idea for Bizom was triggered by startup advisor Ashwani Garg of Intel. “We were having a casual conversation on how brands and distributors need to be able to manage their outdoor sales force, since 60 per cent of work happens outdoors. Ashwani was saying that it would be great if all data points were somehow connected to each other on cloud,” says Lalit, on the birth of Bizom.
He adds, “Usually, once the brand sends its goods to the distributor, it has no idea what happens after that. Bizom gives you visibility into what is happening in the market.”
Taking the mobile-first approach happened naturally to Bizom. By 2012, the market was ready: smartphones were becoming more affordable, and Bizom could help the users to reach out to everyone in the ecosystem. “Cloud allows them to deploy quickly – so our customers can stay ahead in the competition,” says Lalit.
The team faced some unexpected hurdles in its initial phase itself. There were instances in which distributors did not even know how to operate a computer.
Having talked to about a hundred companies, the team developed a deep understanding of how the FMCG sector worked with its outdoor sales force. “We went to the brands and offered to automate their ecosystem. Then, as part of forward integration of the ecosystem, we went to the retailers and automated them as well,” Lalit says. Once they had the ecosystem in place, the SaaS company reached out to more retailers.
Indian offline retail industry is worth $500 billion, with about 18 million retailers. According to Lalit, the retailers can place the orders directly to the distributors with the app. Through Bizom, distributors can also watch all their retailers even if they (retailers) don’t have an app. Once the distributor registers for a brand, details of inventory become accessible to them.
“For any automation solution, the industry average for implementation is typically six months to a year. Our current model takes only two weeks or lesser,” says Lalit. He claims that their product is configurable; so most requirements for FMCG are met without having to customise for each customer.
With about a million downloads of their app already, Bizom is particular about security. “We have our own security checklist; we educate our customers too. We also get third party verification by KPMG,” Lalit adds.
Space for expansion
Bizom aims to digitise the mom and pop retailers so that they can communicate with the distributors easily. “They can procure goods directly from distributors, thereby solving the inefficiency of middlemen,” says Supreeth.
He is confident that since retail commerce is bigger than e-commerce industry, there is enough space for five or seven large players in this sector.
By design, Bizom can expand in two ways – either by going after more verticals like banking, pharmaceuticals, finance, insurance, etc., or by building a standard product by which all retailers could place orders to distributors, irrespective of whether they are currently purchasing from that particular brand. “We find the second option more exciting. It is the logical next step considering the vast network of brands, retailers and distributors we already have,” Supreeth adds.
While there are a few startups –like Applicate – with similar efforts as Bizom, their real competition will be from biggies such as Alibaba, Walmart and Amazon. Although ‘Amazon Business’ is a similar B2B marketplace for traders in India, Bizom does it at a micro level– by bringing distributors for small brands who are not present online.
India has a lot of small distributors who are not even in the radar of the bigger enterprise technology companies like Salesforce or SAP, since it will be too expensive for both. Supreeth says, “At Bizom, we grew from small to mid to large companies, and we were able to get them on board for incremental costs.” Charges vary from Rs 250 to Rs 1000 per month per user depending on the complex workflows.
Bizom turned revenue positive in January 2015. They are targeting Rs six crore in FY2016, and have already crossed about Rs four crore. Bizom now has 55 members in their three offices in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi.