While India had 48 million registered SME businesses, the US, in spite of housing a bigger economy, had only 30 million SMEs. SMEs in India contributed nearly 45% to the GDP in 2016 besides providing employment to 460 million in 2016.
These fancy numbers conceal the pain of running an Indian SME. Almost every startup story has been commenced following some tragic personal incident. These could be as cliched as the ones of those who skipped college life, to the ones who had to make do with limited financial resources.
Unsurprisingly, a good number of these startups have chosen jugaad , tweaks in order to make ends meet. But with, GlobalLinker's all-in-one module, SMEs can skip this jugaad. The module smartly integrates the functionalities of social platforms such as Linkedin, Taobao, and Kickstarter with productivity tools to make life simpler for an SME.
There are plenty of chances that you have already heard about GlobalLinker. To begin with, Jet Airways has been busy promoting a free subscription to GlobalLinker for SMEs. ICICI bank too runs a similar campaign.
Take a look at their website GlobalLinker.com, and there are chances that you would want to refer to it as the 'A to Z of SMEs'.
The registration is a breeze, and only essential details such as GSTN id, or Aadhar Card number, and TAN number are needed to establish your identity. In case, you are employed with an SME, you could still join the platform by selecting your company name from a drop-down menu.
The module blends the best of features from social sites such as Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and yet remains relevant by offering curated offers and productivity tools for SMEs. Besides the social tools, the module also houses an analytics dashboard, and customer engagement tools that helps you manage an online store.
There are up-to-date offers, besides the tools that every small business yearns to lay hands on. For instance the module has integrated CRM, ERP, ecommerce analytics and website building tools. You certainly will not want to compare these with enterprise grade or subscription based ones, but these modules still end-up doing a decent job for most SMEs.
The platform blends diverse features including social tools into widgets, making it convenient to do almost everything within a single tab. For instance, at one moment you could be reading an article posted by a user from the platform and the second moment calculate tactical ideas to improve traffic metrics of your e-commerce store.
A win-win product
It has taken just about three years for the module to develop. But in the process, Sameer Vakil, the CEO and co-founder, and his team of 50 have succeeded in constructing a win-win product that connects resource-starved SMEs with the corporate sector. 50000 SME registrations and clients like Jet, ICICI, and Retailers Association of India have joined by now.
Vakil explains, "corporates such as ICICI, Jet, Mastercard or even RAI trust that engagement with the SME sector will lead to customer churn, and trust GlobalLinker as a tool to build loyalty." Typically each contract with a partner is valid for a period of four years, and Vakil shares candidly that it is the best model to work with. But could there have been a possibility of the product launching solo than with partners such as Jet? "Yes we could have opted with a direct to customer model too," he says.
"It's effective and obviously, names such as Jet or ICICI adds to the overall value, which also gives end-users the confidence to use the program. It makes sense for us to go with a select few brands, but once that is exhausted and there is a need to connect more SMEs, then we may look at other options," he adds.
Since inception the business has remained self-funded on projects that DigiVation (the parent company) implemented. Vakil remains tight-lipped on the revenues considering the fragile nature of the ecommerce sector itself, but opens up that the platform will break-even in the current financial year.
Commission from transactions that SMEs consume through the portal is a major revenue driver, besides the fees partners like Jet pay for the portal. The company is yet to raise venture capital or equity but Sameer is confident that capital should flow in due course. After all, being a banker, he understands the flow of money better.
Vakil's reason of starting the venture was his firm belief in the adage of "delivering old-fashioned things digitally".
He says, "music that played on the gramophone has moved to the iPhone and the Kodak camera has been replaced by the smartphone. But that hasn't changed music and the sensibilities of photography or art. Why should business then?"
SMEs world-over have faced the typical challenge of growing more with limited resources, and Sameer's vision is to build a tool that everyone could make use of. He is certain about onboarding India's 48 million SMEs, but suggests that he also wants to make it a global outreach initiative to touch the lives of SMEs in more meaningful ways.
Nine pins on a global map at his workplace figuratively explain his ambitions for expansion. UAE, Malaysia, Lhaos, Indonesia, Thailand, Philipines, Mexico, and India are where he has sighted his observations. "ASEAN is only our conscious market. Of the 4, we have started discussions in 2, and 2 we should launch shortly. The others end up becoming some opportunites and relationships," he concedes.
Could this be a unicorn? A unicorn startup is one which is valued at over $1 billion. There is hope - An able product built on a major reason, and above all a unique use-case to connect SMEs. Vakil has the faith his product could turn into one. On a lighter note, having four ex-bankers on board could always ensure better valuations and thereby a new unicorn.
.@sureshpprabhu, Hon'ble Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation of #India Suresh Prabhu, launched FIEO.Globallinker. @GlobalLinker, a global business networking solution, in partnership with @FIEO is looking to enable #IndianExporters and #IndianTrade.#SMEInExports pic.twitter.com/9kdB0PpPXW— GlobalLinker (@GlobalLinker) April 17, 2018