With 10,000 sellers on board in four months, B2BSphere looks to become a leading online B2B marketplace
B2BSphere was started by childhood friends Babu Jayaram (35) and Sudhi Seshachala (35) and the Beta version of their platform went live in September 2015. The founders describe it as an effort to provide an ecosystem for businesses to connect, initiate and close transactions through a suite of tools and integration points. Currently, some of the platform’s featured products include footwear, clothes, machine components and other accessories.
Buyers and suppliers can interact over messaging channels to share conversations and connect with each other. Once connected, B2BSphere offers buyers and sellers a suite of tools to share files on integrated cloud storage (or attach from services such as Dropbox, Google Drive etc.), chat, and message over secured channels and even engage in audio-video web conferences. The platform currently claims to have about 10,000 sellers on the platform.
Story so far
Between them, Jayaram and Sudhi have over five decades of combined work experience in startups, enterprise and international trade. Their previous venture, Xervmon.com, a hybrid cloud management platform, was bootstrapped but in the end did not scale as per their expectations.
Jayaram has experience in the manufacturing space and has worked with several international B2B trade marketplace platforms and customers and suppliers all around the world. He had a clear understanding of the pain points most SMB/SME industries faced in India in marketing their products and daily communication/collaboration issues with their business partners.
B2BSphere is positioning itself as a virtual office, where buyers can bring their supplier relations online, create private chatrooms, and bring all communications with suppliers to one place. Suppliers have the added flexibility of showcasing their products and services in the business directory and also accessing an ecosystem of market network.
The startup is currently a team of 12, with six employees looking after technology and rest in sales, marketing and other roles. B2BSphere counts Govind Seshadri (VP, Capillary) and Ashish Kasi (CTO, Capillary) as their advisors. After a few months of being in Beta and focussing on product-market fit and their technology, the startup recently confirmed that it has closed multiple customer subscription accounts and is a post-revenue company.
The ride so far hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing and the founders have relied on their past experiences and missteps to ensure they make better decisions, this time around. Their biggest challenge, so far, has been in hiring the right talent in product development and marketing departments. Sudhi says, “With the potential of the product and its uniqueness, we have been able to attract talent slowly, competing against some deep-pocketed startups in Bengaluru.”
How does it work?
B2bsphere.com offers SaaS subscription plans for buyers and suppliers and has a monetisation model through marketplace sales. There are four different subscription plans for sellers based on their need and scale of operations. Buyer services through their marketplace provides several services through their partner network to manage suppliers all over the world. As trust plays an important factor between buyers and sellers, B2BSphere is currently relying on Escrow powered by Armor Payments to handle transactions on their platform.
Talking about how the startup reaches out to potential customers, Sudhi says, “Given the global reach of the SaaS offering, online marketing is the most effective way to reach our target segment. Along with this, event representation in regional tradeshows is another strong and effective way to get the awareness. Partnership with other B2B product companies, channel partners, resellers will be effective in scaling and growing the user base in the short term.”
Sector overview and future plans
With the e-commerce industry booming globally with more consumers coming online, the B2B marketplace sector has a long way to go in India and other Asian countries. B2bsphere.com looks to compete with the likes of Alibaba.com, Indiamart.com, TradeIndia.com and others in the B2B trade marketplace space. Sudhi says, “Although the overlap is probably minimum, B2BSphere.com is ahead of many traditional B2B marketplaces. Our vision is to be a true market network to search, connect and trade all in one place from around the globe.”
B2BSphere is currently focussed on India and the sub continent and aims to make an impact around the government's ‘Make in India’ initiative and help support Indian MSME/SMB/SMEs to target global customers. The startup is currently self-funded and is looking to raise a seed round to scale its product and marketing team. It aims to grow 10x and have around one lakh companies registered on the platform within the next twelve months. Sudhi added, "We currently have GMVs of around $10K per month and it is projected to grow to $100K by March 31st 2016. We have enough orders in pipeline to hit those numbers"
Many traditional small and medium-scale businesses in India and other parts of Asia are seeing a slowdown in local consumption of their products. But with more people going online, B2B trade marketplaces are their best bet to run sustainable online businesses with minimum investment required. Sellers do not need to go through the hassles of setting up a website from scratch and investing heavily in marketing. Instead, trade marketplaces provide a plug-and-play platform for buyers and sellers to run their business.
With an experienced core team backed by industry-recognised advisers, B2BSphere is in a good position to solve the multiple pain points of buyers and sellers. It also recently launched a mobile app and it will be interesting to see how the team goes about scaling their platform to reach the target of one lakh sellers.