A startup based out of NCR that operates in the e-commerce space is doing what most e-commerce companies are not – standing at the tip of a breakeven phase. The company is a cloud based warehouse and inventory management system provider, Unicommerce.
For the last 15 months, Unicommerce has had a run rate of Rs 40 lakhs every month in revenues. All it took was a simple observation by them to capitalise on the SME market in India.
Ankit Pruthi, Karun Singla and Vibhu Garg, three friends and IITians had gotten together in November 2011 to set up their own venture. They knew that the Indian e-commerce market was booming, but did not want to take the traditional route.
They had two options in front of them – start a payments related venture, or go for the lesser known warehousing solutions. The only thing they were sure about was that their product would be technology related.
“We spoke to all the different players in the ecosystem to know what’s missing,” narrates Ankit Pruthi, CEO and co-founder at Unicommerce, “Warehousing solutions seemed like a complex problem to solve, and there were very few companies who were dealing with the problem,” he says about their decision.
It took them four months of intense research and discussions before they finally decided that SaaS based warehousing solutions would be their forte. The following February, the trio went ahead and registered their company.
The company started reaching out to the market in April of 2012.
Getting E-commerce Companies to Believe in Uniware
What followed was an effort in getting e-commerce companies to put their faith in their warehouse and inventory management system, Uniware. Ankit admits that it was not easy convincing companies, but a detailed explanation into the working of Uniware won them over.
“Our first client was a company called Histreetlabels, then Bluestone. We closed the deals over a phone call with them. We did have to convince them about the solutions, data safety and security since this was cloud based but once we got the first few clients on board, the rest were easy to bring aboard,” says Ankit.
They had initially set themselves a deadline of 18 months to make their mark. 9 months into their venture, the company already had 10 e-commerce clients using Uniware. A few months later, they got some of the biggest and well funded e-commerce clients on board. Companies like Jabong, Urbanladder, Snapdeal, Caratlane and many other use Uniware now.
All was not rosy however, and there were times when Unicommerce had faced glitches when their clients went out of business.
“We lost a couple of clients because they ran out of business. We were wondering how will these e-commerce companies sustain, and how many of them will survive. As we diverted and moved on, our product to the merchant side, we saw that it was not a small market as such, because in terms of clients we have a much larger base to cater to,” says Ankit.
Team-building was one of the most important and most challenging points in the course of their journey so far, says Ankit. It is also the one thing that he would change if he could start over again, he says.
“Team building could have been pre-poned by 3 months or so, we could have hired people earlier and moved on aggressively. I believe this would have helped us expand faster,” explains Ankit.
The company had hired its first employee in February 2012, immediately after registration.
“While hiring we looked for younger people for tech related roles, since they can learn new things and adapt fast,” he says. Currently, a majority of the employees working in tech related roles at Unicommerce are all under 30.
They now also have a new founding member in Manish Gupta, the former National Sales Head at Indiamart.
“He is the also the oldest in terms of seniority in the team,” adds Ankit, “He has over 15 years of experience in the field, and going forward will be key in helping us expand faster,” he says.
Expanding Beyond India
Unicommerce’s order management system provider is being used in over 200 warehouses and has over 5000 users. While they are at a breakeven stage, that is not their priority right now.
“We are already at a breakeven stage I would say, at any point if we want we can breakeven. We’re not burning too much cash. Breaking even is not top priority for me. Expanding fast is priority for us,” Ankit says.
The company has grown over 10 folds in the last 15 months and plans to take services abroad in a bigger way. The company has already expanded to parts of South East Asia. Going forward they seek to experiment internationally and explore Australia and the Middle East.
After Uniware, A New Offering
Unicommerce has more up its sleeve than Uniware, going forward. While Uniware came to be recognised immensely by SMEs in the country, Unicommerce currently has a new offering for its clients. The company has formulated a multi-channel order and inventory management solution that seeks to cater to distributors.
“The product automatically fetches orders from different marketplaces and order processing can be done in a centralised system. We do the inventory management, and the inventory automatically gets updated on these platforms, so you avoid issues of overselling of stock,” says Ankit
The new system provides support for supporting the invoicing and integration of accounting systems. In terms of retail shop integration with their point of sales systems, the company also provides payment reconciliation with these channels.
The multi-channel order and inventory management system is already a hit with clients. The company has over 150 SMEs using it.
The key lesson that Unicommerce has learnt from its journey? Get your product right, and always listen to the customer.
“We got our product right and listened to our customers right from day one. Most SMEs will tell you we want this or we want that, but they won’t tell you exactly what the problem is. So you have to concentrate on the product and figure it out,” Ankit says.
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