It all began in 2010, when Quebec resident Mathieu Desmarais, pursuing his degree in marketing and politics, got a month-long internship halfway across the world: under an engineer in Punjab.
Landing in a village between Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, his senses opened to the incredible dynamism of India. When he returned to Canada, Quebec no longer felt like home and it took him weeks to get back to routine. He realised he had fallen in love with the land of jugaad. He knew he would be back and he did, a couple of years later.
But it was not just a romantic notion that beckoned Mathieu to India; it was also his keen business sense. Entrepreneurship wasn’t a new word in his dictionary. At 18, the precocious Canadian, whose family has its own fair share of entrepreneurs, had built his own ice hockey team. With such DNA, he did his homework in Canada, checking the pulse of people who wanted to outsource projects to India, but didn’t know how to. He knew then what he had to do.
Coming back to India, he did a recce of Jaipur, New Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore before dropping his bags in the IT capital to start NPM Technologies, his mobile and web applications firm, in a Banashankari garage.
Says Mathieu: “People across the world are moving to Asia to make great things happen. India especially shines for its motivation, its commitment as well as the energy it exudes. Even though it’s demanding (especially for SaaS businesses), I’d still never choose any other city or ecosystem to start my business.”
He proudly says he scaled the business with little investment, breaking even in the first year of operation. Having completed over 100 projects for 60 clients across France, UK, Hong Kong and Australia, NPM Technologies at present caters to the hospitality, industrial and retail sectors. Well settled in the thriving startup environment, the canny Canadian brought his brother Alex on board.
The year 2013 saw another business opportunity. A client from Miami called in to check whether his firm could build something around the subscription e-commerce segment. Of course it did, leading to the birth of RecurRex, NPM’s flagship product, and the brothers were well on their way to another enterprise.
Subscription e-commerce is a model where customers sign up for recurring payments with an e-commerce firm providing either a certain set of products or services over the subscription period.
Say you buy your groceries from a hyperlocal startup every month. Now, think if you could order the same cluster of groceries every month without having to go through the same process. All you have to do is to subscribe to the vendor, with the latter’s preferred mode of payment. It’s something like buying magazines or other media content on subscription, but with a vast usage.
Essentially a B2B dashboard engine, RecurRex allows companies to deploy subscription e-commerce by opening its APIs (application program interfaces) to be plugged and used.
On the front end, while helping e-commerce companies to turn one-time customers to subscribers, RecurRex, enables the payment option for customers even as it helps them manage their subscriptions. Enabling customers to cancel and upgrade subscriptions on the vendor’s website, RecurRex also helps with customer invoicing, sending SMS receipts of transactions, and enabling the ‘Please Pay’ option (every month) either through email or SMS.
But the majority of the work happens at the backend. Moving from launching to managing, RecurRex helps companies to manage their subscriptions by providing analytics. The analytics map the number of orders coming in, churn rate of subscriptions, earned vs. unearned revenues, active subscriptions and subscribers along with notifications on expirations and orders to be delivered.
Having launched in February 2016, the platform has already boarded five clients, including Café Noir (in Bangalore) and ShopZeko, besides working with players in dairy and charity.
RecurRex takes the number of subscriptions and subscribers as its growth metrics. This is because it charges companies on the number of active subscribers monthly, putting a variable pricing (or ticket size) of Re. 1 to Rs. 50 on every active subscription.
At present it is managing close to 1,000 subscribers and 5,000 subscriptions, with a target of 50,000 subscribers by the year-end. With a seven-member team – comprising Canadian and French nationals too -- working on the platform, RecurRex recently raised a round of seed investment from Canadian and Indian angel investors.
The well-entrenched Mathieu is upbeat about the future, confident that RecurRex will continue automating recurring purchases in India. He and Alex have big plans of enabling IoT (Internet of Things) to ease the hassle of ordering and payments in subscription e-commerce. The brothers are also actively working on data science to enable artificial intelligence (AI) on the platform, making it intuitive and helping companies capture the market better through customer experience.
There are multiple players today in the subscription e-commerce market, including
Geek Crate, an Indian service catering to those who love comics, pop culture, and gaming. Another, called Fab Bag, is a Mumbai-based beauty and grooming discovery service, besides sundry like myenvybox.com and Bakebox. In September 2015, The Man Company, a content-based subscription e-commerce platform for men’s grooming and essentials, got funding while Voonik has personalised apparel selections as a subscription.
Subscription e-commerce still remains a highly niche sector in India but Indian SaaS companies are expected to reach the $10 billion revenue mark in 2025, according to a report released by Google and early-stage investor Accel Partners.
With RecurRex landing itself in an interesting juxtaposition of subscription e-commerce and SaaS, it will be interesting to see if it will be able to find ground and convert e-commerce players to subscribers.