[Tech50] This Gurugram startup is helping small businesses find the right matches across various services
Startups and small businesses often find themselves groping in the dark while looking for an agency or a vendor to handle digital marketing activities, public relations (PR), market research, branding, media planning, lead generation and HR needs.
Unlike bigger enterprises, which have deep pockets and dedicated teams to carry out these functions, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are mostly left at the mercy of WhatsApp groups, endless Google searches, word-of-mouth recommendations and their peer network to find the right service providers.
With an aim to democratise B2B service procurement, Gurugram-based, which is among YourStory's Tech50 2021 list of most promising early stage startups, stepped into the picture to bridge this gap using tech and change the way high value services are bought and sold.
Incorporated in 2018, the startup, to date, has served over 1500 SMBs and startups, and has 2,000+ agencies registered on its platform, which goes beyond the typical tech-backed ‘match and find’ service and provides post-deal services like project monitoring and escrow to give the founders and business owners the much needed peace of mind.
Bringing marketplace technology in services
GroCurv founders Vipul Gupta and Venkatesh Rangachari during their corporate careers had both found themselves contemplating entrepreneurship. Their stints at Airtel happened to overlap with the two being colleagues at the Gurgaon office of the telecom giant. Vipul has an MBA from Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurugram, while Venkatesh has two MBAs from IIM Bangalore and INSEAD.
In 2017, the duo launched their first startup called Hypersonic Advisory, an SME and startup advisory firm, which paved the way for their second business idea.
“As consultants to these startups and SMBs, we realised that most of our time went into finding the right partner or agency for their marketing, sales, PR, branding functions and so on and subsequently making them deliver on projects. The in-house teams of small businesses are very small or almost nil, and hence they rely on external agencies for such functions,” says Vipul.
The founders reached out to 250-odd small and medium businesses to understand their needs and requirements while entering the market and carrying out different projects. “The struggle was real. There was almost no single marketplace to match the founders with the right agency partner. It took them almost two months to source a vendor amidst high information asymmetry. It was basically a hit and trial.”
A snapshot of GroCurv dashboard
The GroCurv platform went live in September, 2019. Once an SMB or a startup signs up, they are taken through the platform’s proprietary conversational interface called Dhruv, which understands the requirements.
Based on a mere 10 minute-interaction, a strong ‘project brief’ is created, which captures distinct data points about the SMB and what it requires from a vendor. This brief is then fed into an algorithm, which matches the SMB with top 5-6 agencies along with a matching score. The client can compare, interact, seek proposals and negotiate with the agencies on the platform and subsequently close the deal.
Going beyond the discovery and listing, the platform acts as a data storage centre and provides a window for both the parties to carry out the post-deal functioning via group interactions along with monitoring of the entire process with weekly calls.
“The post deal monitoring and escrow facility differentiates our business model from other platforms. The mission is to make the entire process transparent, build trust and give SMBs and startups a peace of mind in sourcing of services. What used to take almost two months, is now done in a mere 7-8 days.”
The startup follows a strict protocol while onboarding the agencies. To date, it has over 2,000 providers on the platform offering a host of services such as marketing, design, sales, PR, branding, among others.
Its target market and focus lie with SMBs that have a turnover in the range of Rs 5 crore -250 crore and seed to Series-B funded startups.
“We get demand from big enterprises as well, but our platform is designed to help SMBs and startups exclusively. We want to become a core part of their growth journey.”
Moglix, WinUall, Medpho, Riverine, Extramarks, HEM Incense, Finora, SSF Plastics, Ujala Cygnus Healthcare are some of its clients along with international names such as SquireLocks, Acara, Ymetis, Dole Asia, Bauli and Medi-Tech Insights.
Explaining the revenue model and its future, Vipul says, “We eventually plan to build a SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering around service procurement. At present, we earn from the supplier side and charge a percent fee on every transaction from agencies.”
GroCurv raised their last round of seed funding from Singapore-based early stage VC Unicorn Investments and VINNERS (Value Investors Network). It competes with Globality, Sortlist, Agency Finder, Afaqs Marketplace and Fiverr, among others. It has a $0.7 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) with an order booking run rate of $1.5 million.
GroCurv has been seeing “strong demand” from global startups and SMBs looking for cost efficient service providers from India, according to Vipul. This could bring forth a huge opportunity for Indian agencies to outsource their services.
“The South East Asia market faces a similar problem of information asymmetry. There are about 2.5 million Google searches taking place every month just for marketing agencies. This means discovery is a problem and we aim to resolve this globally.”
The startup aims to become cash positive by the end of March 2022. Going forward, it has plans to add more segments, including pure play advertising agencies, media planning, celebrity agencies and scale the overall business by reaching out to more SMBs and startups.
“India has about 40,000-odd sales and marketing agencies. By 2025, we want to have 10,000 of them curated on the platform and drive almost 30 percent of the business for them. In the next 18 months, the goal is to start doing almost $1 million gross booking per month and grow 9X-10X.”
GroCurv is a YourStory Tech50 startup for 2021.