Imagine a manufacturer of ethnic wear in Surat, who has to supply to stores across India. He or she would first need to print catalogues, courier them to the distributors, get inputs from them and then process the orders. This can take a few days to over a month. The process is then repeated between distributors and store-owners/retailers.
This tedious cycle consumes time and money, and messes up inventory management. According to Dipti Singla, co-founder and CEO of Bnext, 93% of trade in India is done this way.
Although, there are sophisticated back-end technologies used by e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Flipkart, competing to reach every nook and corner of the country — a majority of Indians still prefer to shop from their neighbourhood stores. At a great distance away from digitisation, these smaller store-based businesses continue to function in their traditional comfortable ways, with a network of trusted distributors and manufacturers.
Started by Singla and Sriram Subramanian in 2018, Mumbai-based Bnext is an enterprise SaaS platform for wholesale distribution, which is trying to digitise these supply-chain networks. Here, manufacturer or any other node of the chain can register and invite fellow retailers and distributors on to the platform and create a network. The platform’s most basic feature is its digital inventory, where the manufacturers can create their product repository and let retailers and distributors access the data. This would also help in removing errors such as the same product getting listed multiple times. Manufacturer no longer needs to send catalogues and distributors can see their final orders through video calls.
“Due to lack of technology and innovation in this space, even getting people to adapt to such platforms is taking time. But those who have registered are now able to understand data analytics, transparency and business intelligence,” says Singla.
At present, the start-up has 2,000 registered users and a network of 20,000, invited by users across 60 categories. Despite multiple categories of products and services, Bnext is currently focusing on fashion and lifestyle where customers too can directly place orders from the website, just like an e-commerce platform. But Singla maintains that Bnext is not a marketplace with fulfillment centres (warehouses) such as Amazon, and the customers directly get in touch with the sellers. Majority of the users are manufacturers from Surat and Mumbai.
The platform has monthly subscription plans priced between Rs.1,000 and Rs.25,000, based on the size and requirements of the businesses. They are also opening quarterly and annual subscriptions and advanced white-label offerings. The white-label plans allows enterprise customers to create a system with their own branding, having complete control over the product, separate database etc. They can even integrate their existing ERP and other systems with it.
The start-up is also in talks with various banks, NBFCs and trade associations to bundle up Bnext’s software with insurance products for SME clients such as warehousing, equipment and logistics insurances. The launch of this scheme though, is at least six months away. “It's a long cycle of approvals and negotiations. There are multiple parties involved and these sectors work in a tight regulatory environment,” Subramanian explains. The founders believe that such a tie-up would help them get more visibility.