This woman entrepreneur’s startup aims to provide FMCG brands with effective digital sampling solutions
Hailing from an entrepreneurial family, Sneh Soni has always seen her father build several businesses during his career.
Perhaps the entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off on her too. After completing her Bachelor’s in Statistics from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi, she teamed up with Konark Sharma and Kavach Chandra to start FreeStand Sampling Solutions, a B2B SaaS platform that enables FMCG brands to digitise and automate all their product sampling operations.
The Freestand team
Sneh and Konark met during college to work on a book while Konark and Kavach were classmates pursuing computer science together. Sneh brings in her data analytics expertise while the men contribute their technical knowhow to the business.
Explaining the pain point behind the venture, she says, “We were looking to launch our own D2C FMCG brand and while planning the marketing operations we wanted to highlight the taste as a USP and that is when we realised that there was no effective way to execute a digitised sampling campaign. The manual sampling method didn’t align with our digital-first brand strategy and that is when we started to build for digital sampling. It was much more intuitive for us to build for digital product sampling compared to building an FMCG brand.”
The FreeStand platform enables an FMCG brand to deliver physical product samples to digitally targeted customers at scale. Using its platform, a brand can directly interact with targeted customers, enable a product trial, measure feedback, and drive a purchase decision at scale.
The startup chose Delhi as its base city, but since the onset of the pandemic, it has been working remotely.
FreeStand serves FMCG enterprises, SMBs, and D2C brands. “Digital sampling is the most effective way to launch a product or to build customer relationships. We have a solution for FMCG products of all shapes and sizes,” Sneh adds.
SaaS for digital sampling
Being a SaaS company for product sampling for a domestic market, Sneh believes FreeStand has no direct competitors but indirectly competes with product discovery platforms and BTL marketing agencies. The startup counts Anmol Industries, Keeros Foods, Soch Foods, Wild Vitamin Drink, Evocus Alkaline Water, etc., among its clients.
“FMCG marketers are the sharpest of any industry considering the impact they have had on the society. To build a marketing software for this industry is both challenging and exciting at the same time,” says Konark Sharma.
Besides investments from friends and family, FreeStand has received a seed grant from MeITY’s Tide 2.0 scheme. This month, it raised a seed round of Rs 1 crore led by SucSEED Indovation Fund. The angel investors who also participated in the round include Dr Krishna Nehra, Surpiya Kumari, and Mamta Nehra. The startup plans to utilise this capital to expand a pan India operational capability.
It is incubated with AIC at Banasthali Vidyapith (WE Invest Accelerator Program), receiving both mentorship and help with fundraising.
Presently, FreeStand is an eight-people team, working with nine FMCG brands across four different categories and has evolved the product with over five iterations. The founders declined to share details of expenses and revenue.
“The new-normal is better suited for digital transformations and digital sampling does take advantage of these tail-winds. Globally, digital sampling has seen a significant increase in venture funding and domestically also there has been greater intent directly from FMCG brands. We believe that digital sampling will be as ubiquitous to FMCG marketing as Television Advertising or Outdoor advertising today,” says Sneh.
She avers that starting and succeeding at building a venture is a very difficult journey to begin with, being a woman does add to the complexity primarily while navigating some male-dominated sectors, but she believes it is both a challenge and an opportunity.
Going forward, the firm plans to be present across the southeast Asian market before 2022.