'Tech-led personalisation is vital to serve retailers in India'
"Technology will consolidate the supply chains in India because it can lower the cost of doing business, and personalise trading experiences for retailers," said Sujeet Kumar, Co-founder of Udaan, on the Grand Finale of TechSparks 2021, India's most influential startup-tech conference hosted by YourStory.
With the theme 'What's Next: Rethinking the future', TechSparks 2021 is providing a platform for the most defining conversations on how disruptive technology innovations can shape our lives post-pandemic.
"There is no 'one size fits all' solution for India," Sujeet told Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory Media. "With more than 70 percent of India's retailers in small cities and towns, technology can enable personalised trading for them."
Udaan was founded by Sujeet, Amod Malviya, and Vaibhav Gupta in 2016. In five years, it has found users in nearly 13,000 of the 24,000 pin codes of the country, Sujeet said.
He cited cities like Samastipur and Katihar in Bihar, and Chhatarpur in Odisha, as examples where Udaan is seeing fast adoption and surging order volumes.
"Retailers in the remotest parts of India don't get the benefit of selection and price because traditional distribution systems don't reach them," Sujeet explained. "With technology, we have to find infrastructure solutions and services for them to be able to source efficiently."
With the COVID-19 curbs and restrictions, more retailers began to use Udaan, he recalled, adding that the cohort had been resistant to go digital before the pandemic.
"Before the pandemic, it was difficult convincing them because they had existing relationships (with large distributors) for several years. When there were so many restrictions and retailers had to sell, they began to look for alternatives."
The past 18 months have proven to be pivotal, as Udaan's network of retailers crossed the 2-million mark. "People realised what all is possible on the platform—they can source better to sell in the same geography.
"In more than half of the 900 cities Udaan has reached, retailers are able to get their supplies within 24 hours," he said.
Sujeet said Udaan, which recently appointed Co-founder Vaibhav Gupta as CEO, is eyeing an initial public offering (IPO) in less than two years.
Towards the same end, Udaan has created distinct business units and leadership for logistics, credit, collections, and supply chains, he added.
Sujeet also spoke about angel investing, and why key leaders and founders from startups that have successful exits carry the responsibility of re-investing in the startup ecosystem.
He recalled an anecdote from his Flipkart days of a 2012 meeting with a Silicon Valley VC investor. "He told me that in any ecosystem, a founder getting an exit should have the confidence to reinvest in the ecosystem."
When Sujeet asked why, the investor replied: "As an entrepreneur, if you’ve been lucky to succeed and get an exit, but if you’re not investing in that ecosystem, then why should I?"
"That philosophy keeps things real," Sujeet reflected, "because entrepreneurs are putting their own money in the startup ecosystem. That’s what will make our ecosystem massive."
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