Gernot Mӧtschlmayer and Narjeet Soni both worked at Adidas and both decided, in different moments, to leave the company and undertake the entrepreneurial avenue. Gernot has 20 years of experience in IT retail and has worked in Europe, Russia, and China, whereas Narjeet has built his career between IT and business development in India and Germany. Now they are respectively the CEO and CPO of Infinia Retail, which provides digital solutions for retail chain stores.
When everything started
The idea came up when Gernot realised that European store retail management was still almost exclusively offline. “I did some research and I found out there was something coming but it was more focused on the mum-and-pap shops, whereas there was nothing on the enterprise level. That’s how we got started. I know retail, Narjeet knows digital, and can we bring something on another level for chain stores. This is the idea we developed in 2013–14,” he says.
How it works
Infinia Retail allows retail chains to manage sales digitally, providing integrated payment options, inventory management, centralised management of all the stores, and digital cashbooks for tax accounting. They have three types of monthly subscriptions according to the type of users, which vary from €60 to €170. Gernot says that this is one of the biggest markets at the moment, with a size beyond 100 billion Euros between retail and e-commerce technologies.
Looking at India
Infinia Retail is not an innovative idea per se, but its model is pioneering in Europe. “We have several competitors in the US, but their market follows a complete different logic. Some of them have tried to replicate their model in Europe but have failed, in some cases even twice.”
It is for this reason and for their working background that Gernot and Narjeet chose to point at Europe and Asia for their expansion. Infinia Retail launched in October 2015 and, so far, has four costumers with a total of 15 shops across Germany and the Czech Republic, and is closing a pilot project in India.
Their choice of India is not casual. Besides Narjeet’s Delhi origins, the team has an Indian presence in Pune, where the development operations happen. “One of our former colleagues at Adidas was very interested in the idea and I really wanted to bring him in the team because he’s got a strong technical background. He wanted to stay in India and we agreed that he could work from anywhere he wanted,” says Narjeet. Now, he manages a developing team of eight.
Moreover, Gernot adds that, “There’s a big lack of IT experts in Europe and you have to pay them a high salary while not being sure of their skills. If we want to build a sustainable company, it is definitely a good decision to be in India, where every year you have one million fresh engineering graduates who cost less and have great competencies.”
The team says they want to test their product properly in Europe and then mould it to the Indian context. Narjeet says there is still a lot to learn in India and this is why they work with local advisors, but the research has led to some interesting outcomes which could further improve their existing business model. He adds, “Just to give you an idea, big e-commerce platforms in India such as Flipkart or Snapdeal are also trying to go offline somehow. We’re building a solution to unify offline and online together so we could be of great help.”
Itching to expand
Gernot, in fact, explains that while Infinia Retail’s original idea was to help offline businesses have an online presence, they can also do the opposite. “This is an interesting development and several e-commerce companies have approached us saying that our product perfectly fits in their system environment.”
These projects of expansion well serve the aim of making Infinia Retail a global company, which was Gernot’s intention since the beginning. The most challenging area so far, however, is Europe, due to its multiple regulations. “When you have an idea in Europe, you cannot immediately scale it up, and it’s not only language; it’s a political problem too. For example, I need to expand in the Czech Republic, it’s a small market, it’s not interesting for an investor but I need to open an office there. So, I need to make a contract in Czech, and for that I need translators, people who help me understand the local laws, and so on. If I have to do it for every European country, it kills me!” shares Gernot.
Moreover, the team adds that the fragmentation of the European market discourages the presence of VCs. “We’ve started now with investor search in Europe and the access to VC here compared to the US is quite challenging” says Gernot.“Europe is a very segmented market and you cannot scale as our competitors in the US, therefore the proportion of VC is much lower here. This makes it tougher to be competitive.”
The team strongly support the EU initiative of a digital single market, which would finally facilitate the expansion of companies throughout the continent. But they also argue that Infinia Retail is a digital revolution in the retail sector, and will surely be disruptive.
To check out what Infinia Retail has to offer, check their website here.
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