How this events management company survived COVID-19 and is building a logistics platform for MSMEs

Sonal Jindal launched Medusa, a fashion events management company, in 2014. In an interaction with SMBStory, she discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the fashion industry, and how she pivoted and built a logistics platform during the pandemic.
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Sonal Jindal always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but her desire to become one did not materialise until she reached her mid-30s. 

“After getting married and having two kids at the age of 32, I thought this was the right time to start a business,” she says. 

Having pursued an MBA in marketing, Sonal started scouting for opportunities to start a business. Her inclination towards fashion compelled her to launch her own label. But things didn't work out, and she had to shut down the business. 

Around the same time, another opportunity came knocking. 

“I was a frequent visitor to fashion exhibitions and I started liking the idea of organising exhibitions. I realised that this industry needed a push and I could do that with the right ‌marketing mix,” says Sonal.

After doing market research and analysis, she launched Medusa in 2014. The Delhi-based company organises exhibitions and events for the fashion industry. 

Decoding Medusa

Sonal started Medusa after she realised that many talented people, including small business owners and fashion designer students, needed a platform to showcase their products and creativity without burning a hole in their pockets. 

“Very few have been able to reach the scale of success that designers like Ritu Beri, Tarun Tahiliani, and Manish Malhotra have,” she says. While many people have the potential to reach the scale, they need support in their initial days, says Sonal. 

She adds that if you talk about prominent and celebrity designers, they pay around Rs 15-20 lakh a month to rent a place in a luxury mall or to buy a place for themselves. They have an inventory that is worth Rs 2-3 crore. 

“Students and small businesses don’t have this kind of capital,” she points out. She further adds that the Indian fashion industry lacks a council or community of stakeholders who can take action for the members of this industry. “Everybody is busy eating into each other’s market share rather than thinking at large about the industry.”

Sonal says she wanted to introduce a platform that is affordable and helps designers showcase their work. Medusa charges between Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh per stall from individuals who wish to showcase their work. 

“We promote designers and their work on social media, which helps them with their publicity. During the exhibitions, they get recognition, their products get recognition, and get sold off. They also get to interact with other designers, which helps them with visibility and to enhance their products,” adds Sonal.

Sonal organised her first exhibition on April 24, 2014. “We were expecting a footfall of 400 people, but ended up having 1,500,” she says.

From then till now, she has organised over 20 such exhibitions across Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata in India, and in overseas destinations like New York, London, and others. 

India houses numerous companies that organise exhibitions including Franchise India, One Events, Sunshine Exhibitions, etc. 

Diversifying into other branches

Around 2019, when Sonal was scaling up the business, she realised that small business owners or MSMEs were finding it difficult to connect with international buyers. According to Sonal, being traditional and conservative was one of the reasons ‌why it was challenging for Indian SMBs to connect with international buyers.

This gave her the idea to start another business called Medusa Exim to connect local small business owners with international buyers. Medusa Exim connects MSMEs present on platforms such as IndiaMart and TradeIndia with international companies looking for fabrics, raw materials, etc. It also directly connects some of them through the company’s business development teams.

Sonal says they charge a commission between five to 20 percent for connecting the two parties. However, she refused to disclose the revenue numbers. The company is registered with the Federation of Indian Exports Organisation. 

As Medusa Exim was finding its place in the market, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, bringing the business to a grinding halt. 

However, the pandemic gave Sonal the idea to look beyond the fashion industry and she tied up with MSMEs in the pharma, agro, and handloom segments. 

Today, she is building Medusa Exim to be an end-to-end supply chains solutions. In the last two years, around 1,000 MSMEs have joined Medusa Exim’s network.

For the next 12-18 months, she says they are focusing on educating MSMEs to digitise themselves. “They have to go digital big time and integrate artificial intelligence systems into their factory in sourcing raw materials, production, etc.”

Commenting on how relevant online models will be in the future, Sonal says, “Both online and offline are relevant in the new normal. Online because they provide ease and comfort and offline because people want to go out and indulge in retail therapy.”

Edited by Megha Reddy

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