When one hears of businesses bootstrapped in college dorms, it conjures images of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Larry Page, and the life lesson that you don’t have to wait till you graduate to start up.
Northwestern University alumni Nupur Goenka and Sushant Goel were still in their last semester when they first decided to work on uplifting the small business community in India. The duo did months of groundwork and realised that 95 per cent of SMEs in India are yet to harness advancements in the fields of technology and Big Data.
To democratise the SME’s access to data, they started Clustr in early 2014 to provide information about products, peers, and market behavior allowing SMEs to save time and money, optimise their resources, sell better and grow faster. Clustr procures data on product details for various industries such as FMCG, mobiles, white goods and pharmaceuticals.
SMEs usually take decisions based on data within their organisation, and do not have access to information across peer, market, and product lines.Our first set of products will cater to a market size of one lakh SMEs across various industries,” says Sushant, a graduate in Chemical Engineering and Economics.
Incubated by Tally
Once they had conceptualised their product, both Nupur, 25, and Sushant, 24, spent a couple of months discussing their idea with Co-founder and MD of Tally Solutions, Bharat Goenka, who is also Nupur’s father.
The partnership with Tally will help Clustr create an impact by bringing information to small business owners’ fingertips. According to Sushant, Tally has provided a very strong mentorship to them on many levels. Since Tally has been associated with the SME industry for the last 26 years, it helps the startup better understand the needs of SMEs. With Tally’s more than one million customer data base, Clustr can get hold of right set of customers.
Goenka, who is the chief mentor and advisor at Clustr says, “Clustr is changing the game from mining enterprise data to cross-enterprise data. On the one end, an individual business will have insights for decisions and business opportunities, and on the other, economic patterns emerging across geographies will aid Governments and Large Enterprises do their planning and interventions against starker realities.”
Building the product
Understanding the complexity and heterogeneity of the way businesses maintain data was a huge challenge for them. Clustr can process vast amounts of diverse, heterogeneous data from various sources and analyse the data of millions of businesses.
“SMEs need market information to run their business better, but they do not have the resources to create or access such data. Clustr’s objective is to structure the enormous complexity of data, which is uncurated and spans a variety of languages, semantic variations, and business practices,” says Nupur, a graduate in Cognitive Science.
Clustr’s platform includes standard big data components like Cassandra, Spark, Kafka, and Solr. Moreover, it uses algorithms to convert high volumes of heterogeneous and unstructured data into information and insights. In order to produce a standardised catalogue of products, the startup deploys various techniques to extract product level details (Name, Brand, MRP, and Barcode).
“The methodology to extract this data involves crawling the Web, engaging with brands, distributors, and retailers, and assimilating this information using manual and data science techniques. As customers come on board and start engaging with us, we use crowdsourcing techniques to constantly improve the quality and scope of our data and analytics,” says Sushant.
Bengaluru-based Clustr currently does not have any financial projection, but will soon generate revenue on subscription-based pricing models depending on the types of services. Within the next five years, the startup plans to cater to five million SMEs.
With the requirement for making a business decision eventually shifting from hindsight- to foresight-based, companies are increasingly banking upon Big Data and analytics. According to an industry report by NASSCOM, in partnership with BlueOcean Market Intelligence, the analytics market in India is set touch $2.3 billion by the end of 2017-18.
Founded in 2004 by Dhiraj Rajaram, Bangalore-based Mu Sigma has been the pioneer in this space, and was later followed by a handful of emerging startups. Heckyl, Sigmoid Analytics, Flutura, Fractal Analytics, Crayon Data, Germin8 are some of the players in this space.
“As our data grows and our capabilities expand, we plan to offer services to third parties as well. Clustr will be both an analytics platform and a provider of specific data and services through partners or directly to customers,” says Nupur.
Clustr currently has 17 employees in product management, data sciences, technology and engineering, data operations. By the end of this year, it is expected to be a 50-member team with a strong focus on hiring across multiple technical and functional roles.