Please walk us through your entrepreneurial journey and background before you started? Any interesting stories?
I (Viral Thakker) have 13 years of corporate experience (prior to starting up), primarily as a corporate banker (Relationship Manager) working at ICICI, HSBC and JPMorgan amongst others and managing a portfolio of the largest of top 10 Indian Conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies. A Chartered Accountant by qualification, I had started career in audit, though business (sales) was always my calling. Audit happened by chance (or brutally put for incorrect guidance and then lack of opportunity) and a Sales role was by choice. My last role was an Executive Director at J.P.Morgan providing Trade Finance and Working Capital Loan products for North and East India markets.
I also have 20yrs+ of experience as a grocery retailer, in a family business. We grew our business operation from a small time packaged milk retailer to one of the biggest milk wholesaler/retailer in our catchment and add a convenience store to the equation few years down the line. Have first hand experience as a milk delivery boy to procurement, selling at the cash counter, keeping track of margins, SKUs, what inventory to push and how to build a loyal customer base built on customer service and trust.
Entrepreneurship was always lurking as part of what I wanted to do (aspiration-wise) as much as wanting to do Banking (deal-maker) as a career). I wanted to grow our family business manifold in to a big organised set of retail stores – it may be fed by mix of fiction novels with deals, acquisitions and M&A being a central theme and, the fact that as a Kutchi (Gujrati) business is in DNA. As a young executive director & being a banker (+ a deal maker albeit not of the investment banking kind!) for most part of 13 years, the next part was to set on a journey for the other aspiration I had cherished. The eco system seemed just right along with a bit of savings that could be put to use as a bootstrapped capital for the venture aided the decision to do it now (this is back in early 2014 when I decided to quit, and Jul 2014 was the last month of my job).
The Story of how ebzaar was conceived:
300 million out of 1.2 billion people have internet access in India, there are over 40 million SMEs and nearly 98% of retail are small and unorganised, with the largest share being of the corner retail stores a.k.a as Kirana store. The scenario is fast changing though, with over billions of dollars invested in Indian eCommerce marketplace, with the likes of Amazon, Grofers, Nature’s Basket among others are leveraging the power of technology to thrive at scale in retail business. In doing so, they are disrupting the conventional kirana store, perhaps it is only a matter of time until the divide between the internet haves and have-not deepen to completely wipe out the kiranas.
It is important so that these Kirana stores can stay relevant to customers moving online and do not lose out to well-funded rivals due to lack of tech, it is a matter of their livelihood and right to do business too. At a personal level, I have had a very humble beginning, from a tiny little packaged milk retailer to a milk wholesaler to a dairy products wholesaler to a reasonably decent grocery operation (ie a Kirana Store) over a 25 year journey. Now that I have had such a successful career and had chosen to chase my aspiration (of being an entrepreneur), I was researching on a number of things to do. Doing banking / payments / finance would have been a natural extension and which the network of friends, professionals and clients built over the past 13 years would have easily supported and related to. However, spending few weeks to research some ideas, I found that the retailers or even slightly more evolved local supermarket had not evolved at the clip when compared to the consumers. The consumer was moving online while retailers largely remained offline.
How can a kirana store do more than survive the big technology and ecommerce wave that’s coming? This thought was over powering, like a mountain of challenge and a sea of opportunity. The local Kirana stores have grown on the foundation of trust, more importantly their customers became extended family members and few would also avail unsecured credits. Today’s internet business still lacks this kind of trust. I had found my calling in going back to where I started, it was a moment of inspiration for me. After all I could relate to them and their need to stay afloat even in the tech enabled world. The obvious question was: What if I could add a layer of technology to create convenience on top of the existing trust and goodwill already built by the local kirana stores? Thus eBZaar was born.
To the end consumer, eBZaar empowers them to shop online from real world stores without the need to visit one. To the local supermarket, we empower them from going obsolete due to changing dynamics of technology. ebzaar thus marries the conveniences of online shopping with the comfort of getting quality groceries from real world stores.
ebzaar is poised to have a great positive impact for these offline stores, it allows them to retain their unique strength – which is being on top of their supply chain and procurement expertise; and retain the customer bonding and customer’s business even when the customer has moved online.
About founding team
Viral Thakker is the founder of the venture. The above paras cover most part. He has workex in grocery as also in corporate career, has travelled extensively in India and overseas (loves travelling), has worked in multi cultural multi regional teams & matrix organisations. He is also amongst 2% of most read reviewers on trip advisor; prefers to blog occasionally and likes trekking, adventure, good coffee and a good read. More here: https://in.linkedin.com/in/thakkerviral
Tell us little about your product/ platform
ebzaar empowers them to shop online from real world stores without the need to visit one. eBZaar thus marries the conveniences of online shopping with the comfort of getting quality products from real world stores.
We have started with online grocery. To the local supermarket, we empower them from going obsolete due to changing dynamics of technology. ebzaar will help them sell more, sell better. Eventually we would look to replicate it into other local business segment, transforming eBZaar from a local online grocery marketplace to a online local marketplace.
Tell us about your customer traction
We are still early stage.
- Serviced 300 orders generating a sale of more than Rs. 400 thousand
- 1000+ registered customers with 100 odd active customers
- 12 stores, live in pockets of Mumbai and covering almost all of Surat
- 11,000 + SKUs catalogued
How has been your association with IBM Global Entrepreneur? How important do you think IBM Global Entrepreneur is to help and improve the ecosystem?
Our association has been good, and we look forward to more and better help from IBM GEP – including on marketing, investor connect and visibility.
What’s your take on the IBM Cloud? How is it helping your start-up grow?
We use IBM Cloud extensively (more specifically Softlayer) for hosting our applications. We recently understood Bluemix in more detail and will look forward to leverage those technologies too.
What is your road ahead for your start-up?
We are looking to get seed funding to now start marketing and selling ourselves better. We have all financial business plan, numbers, vision and mission set for next three years. We are also looking to strengthen our core team further including getting a consumer / digital marketing person and a tech co-founder.