How this father-daughter duo is organising the fragmented non-ferrous metal industry in India
Most startup journeys begin with an individual brimming with creative solutions for existing problems; solutions that cannot be brought about by working for someone else. This story is no different. Saloni Mardia (26), a chartered accountant and a masters from London School of Economics, scoffed at the idea of a corporate job and decided to digitise her father's thirty-year-old family business in non-ferrous metals (NFM) instead. She returned to India in 2013 and set up Mtlexs Research, along with her father, Suneel R Mardia.
The bootstrapped company provides national and international prices of London Metal Exchange (LME), Bombay Metal Exchange (BME) and local markets. Other information includes tenders, import and export data, projects, industry news, technical specifications, demand and supply data and weight calculators.
The company has collaborated with 25 national and international NFM associations, including Indian Copper Development Centre, Metal Bulletin-UK, BME, Aluminium Association of India, and India Lead and Zinc Development Association. Twenty senior professionals from the NFM industry disseminate the abundance of wisdom they've accumulated over the years, to users. Moreover, users will soon be equipped with Mtlexs mobile app (comprising all NFM market content) shortly.
Began by outsourcing…
Mtlexs Research was started by outsourcing research to third parties, which unfortunately did not work. It has, therefore, ended up forming a team of in-house analysts. The company then pivoted its focus to content, collaboration (matchmaking of buyers and sellers) and commerce (solving the business pain points of technology, marketing and finance in NMF ecosystem).
With that in mind, the father-daughter duo are soon launching Mtlexsspot.com, an e-marketplace of Mtlexs Group, powered by NeML, a 100-percent subsidiary of National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX). It brings buyers and sellers onto an online auction and a continuous order-based market. They cater not only to the producers and manufacturers, but also to international scrap dealers and stockists. Moreover, the platform allows members connect online through a secure and reliable system.
“But our main target audience is the SME (small and medium enterprises) sector of the industry, which in itself is a huge market. The agreement with NeML is exclusive. Any revenue from this will be shared in a 50:50 ratio between Mtlexs and NeML,” says Suneel, who brings 30 years of experience in the NFM industry across import and export trade, marketing, business processes, materials and logistics.
He travels across the world to interact with the world’s leading associations and research agencies, and gauges the trends in global metal prices and demand.
Mtlexs has an online catalogue of more than 1,000 products and has witnessed 24,000 digital subscribers from 109 countries with more than five lakh hits per month.
Multi-nodal revenue model
Mtlexs Research has created multiple streams to generate revenue. They gain 50 percent revenue share with NeML on auction platform Mtlexsspot, annual membership fees from users, transaction charges on trades, commission loan to SMEs, arranged through Mtlexs, advertisements on mtlexs.com, sponsorships and participation fees for trade events, logistics and warehousing charges and interest on float money with traders.
According to Saloni, of the cities that they cater to, 20 generate significant revenue for them, including Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai, Coimbatore, Jamnagar and Ahmadabad. Interestingly, of the 48 million SMEs, one million deal in NFM for handicrafts, decorative products, components and ingots.
Our aim is to leverage e-commerce as a global distribution medium and build a premier electronic marketplace, even in the global NFM trillion-dollar industry, ” says Saloni. Mtlexs Research is currently operating out of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Jamnagar.
Since primary products and scrap product categories are depending upon the quality and country of origin, the company hopes to have more than 300 contracts by the year end. It is also in the process of hiring more professionals in the sales and marketing teams and expanding to 10 more cities in India and five more countries.
Overview of the industry
The NFM industry in India has been primarily dominated by companies like Hindalco, Vedanta, Nalco, Hindustan Copper and Hindustan Zinc (owned by Vedanta). However, the industry is largely fragmented, with the presence of a huge number of SMEs that operate in an unstructured manner across industries (such as air conditioning & refrigeration, heat exchanger, automobile, casting industry, power, railways, telecommunication, metro, households & furniture items, housing & construction, electrical, electronics, plumbing and defence)
India Ratings and Research has revised the outlook on the NFM and mining sector to 'negative' for the financial year 2016. For FY 2015, they had set the outlook at 'stable'.
Its report stated, “Although industry players have been maximising free cash flows with cost control and a reduction in working capital cycles, weak demand growth, import pressure, low physical premiums and sub-optimal capacity utilisation are likely to delay deleveraging.”
Today the industry is plagued by several issues such as lack of accurate information, funding for small units, export potential, timely and quality delivery, and volatility in US dollar and LME rates, and the steep 70 percent monthly spend in raw materials for manufacturing SMEs.