As businesses go online, this platform is helping distributors bridge the digital divide
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way business is conducted in India. The successive lockdowns imposed across the nation accelerated the pace of digital adoption in almost every sector of the business ecosystem. For small and medium businesses (SMBs) this pivot has been crucial.
As most of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) of India and small businesses had traditional workflows, the shift to digital operations has been quite a challenge.
A strong distribution network is important for any company that wants to widen its reach. However, during the pandemic, companies faced pain points in distributions when it came to quality manpower, channel partners, and consistent service.
On the other hand, distributors who were searching for new projects and work struggled to crack a deal. This is where New Delhi based B2B marketplace TradeIndia’s platform Getdistributors.com comes into the picture.
Getdistributors.com is a virtual platform that helps companies expand reach by appointing distributors pan India. It also enables companies who want to be a distributor to connect easily with the brand.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Sandip Chhettri, CEO of TradeIndia unpacks Getdistributors.com and how it is connecting distributors with companies.
SMBStory [SMBS]: What is Getdistributors.com and what problems does it solve?
Sandip Chhettri [SC]: Foreseeing the growing need of companies looking for distributors, franchisees or sales agents, we launched Getdistributors.com which has emerged as an online gateway that comes with an informative listing of prominent stakeholders.
Getdistributors.com users avail the directory of available partners and search for their applicable details. We have a huge database of companies across different categories who have shown interest to become distributors. We have built technology that helps to do matchmaking and connect with the right companies.
Amid the pandemic many entrepreneurs suffered losses. Let me give you an example of a school uniforms dealer who is now a registered distributor with us. As the schools got shut (and continue to remain closed), entrepreneurs like these uniforms dealers were hit. They had the network, and process in place but no work. We connected these dealers with the companies who were on the lookout for distributors. Similarly, we help distributors and companies in their smooth functioning of the business.
Getdistributors.com was started in 2013. However, we saw huge traction and surge in this portal amid the pandemic and witnessed massive growth.
SMBS: How many distributors and companies are listed on the portal? Is there a subscription fee?
SC: Over 1.1 lakh companies are listed across 38 categories including agriculture, apparel and fashion, automobile, brass hardware and components, business services, chemicals, computer, hardware and software, consumer electronics, F&B, furniture, health and beauty, jewellery and gemstones, toys, and more.
We offer both free services as well as paid memberships to SMEs. For SMEs, registration is free of cost. As soon as they register, they are added to their industry category. We ensure that they get online visibility and have leads. We also provide them with continuous CRM (customer resource management) support. To get more visibility, free users need to upgrade their profiles and need to pay a certain amount.
Our business model involves charging subscription fees from suppliers in exchange for listing their products on our platform.
SMBS: What pain points do small businesses face while creating a distribution network?
SC: In India, the distribution of products has always been traditional and unique. The structure of the distribution channel varies across industries, to put it simply, every business has its structure of the distribution channel. Every business organisation has its ways of maintaining the important data of their inventory, sales information, and much other important information that will support and help them make decisions and will help them understand their growth at a glance.
Some of the key challenges faced by businesses today include:
- The absence of well-organised information and data. Lack of good data lowers the efficiency of the business and decision-making.
- Increased distributor churn: It has become very difficult to maintain the relationship with the existing distributors in the fast-moving brand competition.
- There is also increasing channel conflict on pricing, discounts, and range between general trade, ecommerce, and modern trade. While the end consumer may be benefiting from this conflict through lower prices, the pressure on margins across the value chain continues to grow.
SMBS: What policy changes and govt initiatives can help SMBs with distribution?
SC: The development of an effective business support system is key for the success of SMEs. It requires business support agencies including financial institutions, which are customer-oriented and which have a demonstrated capability of penetrating the SME sector. Some of the policies which government can include:
- Take steps to strengthen the business support system, through an intermediary role, by building capacities in business services, both public and private (e.g. market, product and process information provision, accounting, market analyses and research, transportation, express delivery);
- Develop an SME linkage ‘offer’, based on the ‘fit-to-supply’ principle and, which includes the following elements:
- Improving the flow of information about potential market opportunities via development of a national website, supplemented by 'meet-the-buyer' events.
- Targeting suppliers based on proven abilities and commitment to future improvements.
- Working closely with corporations by inviting them to help potential suppliers to (a) understand their supply requirements (b) identify areas in which they have good opportunities to supply and (c) draw attention to weaknesses they must overcome to succeed. Such an intermediary role helps to build mutual understanding and trust between Corporates and potential suppliers.
- Helping SMEs/suppliers identify needs and then access the public and private support services they need.
- Offering some form of a monetary incentive to corporates and local SMEs to participate in the linkage programme and subsidized training and consultancy necessary for enhancing supplier capability.
- Developing capacity building programmes that include supply chain and cluster initiatives, which recognize the potential for developing tiers of suppliers to improve trickle-down effects, including micro-enterprises as lower-tier suppliers.
SMBS: What is the future of the distribution network in India?
SC: The concept of omnichannel retailing or a hybrid business approach has become increasingly popular among offline retailers. Given the complementary strengths of the physical and online channels, a hybrid structure is beginning to emerge as the new face of retail. Today it is not just about offline or online but a hybrid business model comprising both offline and online channel business.
Hybrid brings a mix of both traditional and online channels into a digitally enabled ecosystem. This also includes an interplay of tech solutions and fully leveraged digital-savvy employees and customers. The factors enabling the rapid transformation of the offline retail sector are personalised experience, digitised operations, integrated supply chain. Fintech solutions act as the backbone of this hybrid business framework.
The most popular narrative of this concept comes out is the way Kirana stores owners have adopted digital technology, from receiving orders online to the fulfilment of the order through hyperlocal integrated chains and to digital payments.
YourStory’s flagship startup-tech and leadership conference will return virtually for its 13th edition on October 25-30, 2021. Sign up for updates on TechSparks or to express your interest in partnerships and speaker opportunities here.
For more on TechSparks 2021, click here.