The right growth metrics and learning to say ‘no’ is helping Rapidor make headway in the SME market in India

While the strength of the platform and the uniqueness of the solution was key, pulling out the right metrics and tracking it regularly helped this Kochi-based startup showcase impact.
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In 2019, Rapidor, the Kochi-based startup, which runs a single-window platform for SMEs to manage their sales orders, inventory, invoice, and payment collections, was selected to represent India in the Comet Competition – the world’s largest B2B startup summit hosted by cloud leader Ingram Micro. A big feat, considering the four-year-old startup outdid more than 2,000 other startups from India.

“While the strength of the platform and the uniqueness of the solution was the key, we were able to pull out the right metrics to showcase impact,” shares Co-founder and CEO Thomson Skariah. And, it was during their time at the JioGenNext Basecamp a few months ago, that Rapidor was able to zero down on the key metrics that the startup could focus on to drive growth and showcase impact. “We had the benefit of leveraging the experience of experts in the space.” The discussions with the experts also helped Rapidor filter out the non-core activities that kept them occupied.

Being a part of the JioGenNext programme unearthed further.

“We realised as a startup we had to learn to say no - say no to building unnecessary features for clients or even to working with the wrong client. With that learning, we now focus on a clear, reduced feature set, serving niche customers whom we’ve now decided to target and scale with. We have decommissioned a significant set of features even though we did burn time and money on them.”

In addition, the JioGenNext programme helped the startup establish close ties with the startups part of the cohort.

Thomson says, “During the programme, we had the opportunity to interact with other startup founders - all making significant contributions in their own area. We realised some of their products and services were complimentary. So, today, we have been able to establish a working collaboration with some of them.”

Hitting the right notes with the decision-makers and users

Thomson co-founded Rapidor in 2015 with his IIT Delhi batchmate Pawan Kumar (now the CTO) and Prabu Chanduru (an expert on Risk Analytics), who worked with Thomson at an International Bank. Rapidor began as a software solutions company in the SME space. Today, it has metamorphosed into a powerful B2B platform that helps the business owner know the pulse of his business. With fast and easy sales order management, crafting crisp product catalogues, controlling inventory, overseeing payment processes and empowering the dealer-manufacturer equation, it is not just involving the employees of the business, but also the counterpart that the businesses engage with.

The business owners of SMEs have always been closely associated with the day-to-day operations of the business. But, they faced challenges because operations were people-intensive, and needed to be micromanaged. In the age of AI and ML, a lot of the processes in the day-to-day operations in SMEs rely on paper-based filing systems or simple software like Tally or even Excel. Which means that more often, the business owners and business counterparts do not have up to date information on something as basic and as critical as the information on the orders they need to fulfill - which is the lifeblood of the business.” This is where Rapidor fits in.

“Rapidor easily wraps around a SME’s current workflow and technology and democratises the data needed to run the business efficiently; and makes it actionable.”

Rapidor combines manufacturers, distributors and dealers on a single platform to enable employees to be task-oriented and thereby ensuring last mile connectivity in sales orders, payment collection and sales activities in the field. The platform enables business owners to manage all business functions and processes on a single system and gives them absolute control.

With competition getting stiffer, the need to be on top of the business has become a priority for business owners, and Rapidor no longer needs to make a hard case to make its point. The introduction of GST and circumstances such as demonetisation added further impetus.

”While we saw business owners finding Rapidor necessary, the business owners were not the users. The users were the teams supporting the business owner. Unless you had the team’s buy-in, they can pretty much switch off the engine even before you can get started. So it was important to showcase how Rapidor brought in value to the overall business, and showcase how we could help the users, specifically the sales, payments and collection teams, be more efficient and meet targets.”

The startup found the solution in Rapidor mobile. The app can instantly communicate with the Rapidor web in the backend with all the relevant information and empower the service delivery team to process orders much better and faster, and enables critical business actions to be performed offline. Both the business team and business’ counterparts can connect and effectively communicate on Rapidor to enhance their respective businesses.

Today, Rapidor businesses are seeing an increased efficiency of at least 60 percent. “What used to take 3-4 days now takes just 10 minutes, and communication with business counterparts is seamless.”

Making steady headway in the SME market

As a sector-agnostic product, Rapidor has worked with over 100 SME clients. Today, the benefits of the platform are also being experienced by 54,000 retailers and traders. They have worked with brands like Popees, an organic certified kidswear brand, VStar, an intimate wear brand, Dev Snacks, a popular savoury snacks manufacturer, among others.

“A Rajasthan-based wheat flour manufacturer is leveraging Rapidor to manage his distributor network across 3,500 retail stores. Today, we have deployed our solution for clients from Jammu and Kashmir to Kerala. We have inbound interests from SMEs in Mexico, Europe (Spain, The Netherlands), The Middle East, and SouthEast Asia. We have a few clients in some of these locations and look forward to scale only after meeting certain numbers and ensuring service via established distribution channel partners. But, our focus is currently on the SMEs in India,” shares Thomson.

While there are a number of key competitors in the market, Thomson believes these competitors play only on price. “Where as we ensure reliability on the solution, continuous enhancements to bring in seamless business automation and the quality of service – all of which eventually brings down the overall operational cost.” But this price war is not the only challenge that Rapidor faces.

“The bigger challenge is that SMEs expect you to be their one-stop solutions provider. To make them understand that a certain task is outside their area of focus and something that you will not cater to even if you are capable of it, is challenging.”

But, over time, Rapidor has realised that to break through the clutter, “you need to have clarity about what you will not do as much as having clarity on what you will, and what can be channelised through your platform”.

Armed with this vital learning, Rapidor has accelerated its growth in the last few months. The startup has big plans for 2020.

“We want to help businesses owners scale their operations on auto-pilot. When we say scale, it can be either way - up or down, to suit the market conditions. Because, that’s how SMEs will survive. It’s not always about scaling up. And, we have been working on the platform to enable this for some time now.”

While that is on the technical front, Rapidor is also going after the opportunity. “India has over 50 millions SMEs, of which 14 million fall directly under Rapidor’s target audience. We want to onboard at least a million of them on our platform in the next two years.”

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