Local business directory or sites are the best way to reach out to your targeted audience and to improve your presence in the market. Sulekha.com is helping small businesses connecting to customers and vice versa since 2007 in India. Its founder and CEO Satya Prabhakar in conversation with SmeFutures exchange his views on how local digital services can be a big thrust for small and hyper-local businesses in India.
What's the scope of digital local service platforms in India? What's driving the need in this space?
Digital services today is in a particularly good position and finds itself in the midst of three mega trends in India.
One being – India – one of the five largest economies of the world.
Two - the rise of digital mobile industry which has a remarkable growth. Three – the local services business is pegged at $ 100 billion.
The opportunities in this area of business is ever growing and evolving. With the growing number of smartphone users and other mobile devices, the trend is fast paced – to look for services as well as match that particular requirement. These devices are part of a consumers buying journey and therefore a digital marketer or services provider have this ever growing opportunity to deliver content at the origin of the need.
You serve a huge community of SMEs! What trends did you observe in today's evolving SME business?
With Indian economy being one of the fastest and 5th largest in the world, the SME sector is seeing a lot of push by current government. It’s almost as good as – reinforcing the basics of the economy – the SME sector which is the biggest contributor of employment, and therefore a direct contributor to the GDP of the country.
Technology is opening up several avenues for this sector. The sector is witnessing a strong B2B presence with efforts for access to ecommerce which is bringing the producer and the seller together in a platform.
Smartphones and network providers are becoming affordable, making adoption of technology easier, resulting in a faster reach.
Government initiatives to empower this sector has been simultaneous and is expected to contribute to Indian’s growing GDP.
Please share some insights on challenges Indian SME face! Anything new?
SME is a rising sector and an emerging one for potential job creation in India for low-skilled jobs. But not without challenges faced amidst a growing economy.
One of the biggest challenge they face is not being able to advertise its product and services in a cost effective way. Besides this, there are regulatory norms to be followed by SMEs depending on region of its origin, financial support, shying away from technological know-how are some of the problems that continue to exist.
How do you serve the needs of Indian SMEs? Can you give some examples? Who all are your SME customers?
Sulekha helps in providing actionable, affordable, targeted, easy-to-use leads to SMEs to grow their business.
We deliver more than 23 million leads annually and these are converted into business by thousands of businesses each day.
We estimate that Sulekha helps in generating more than Rs 1,000 crores of sales for our 65,000+ SME customers each month. (besides helping some of the 4 million free listing customers listed on our website)
Our customers span is about in 200 categories in local services that include home services (packers-and-movers, pest control, cleaning services etc), coaching services (home tuitions, sports coaching etc), computer training courses (SAP, Oracle, Cloud training etc) and a variety of business services (security guards, security systems, office equipment services etc)
Are you planning to foray into new areas to be able to serve SMEs even better?
Sulekha is launching a range of hubs to aggregate user needs and offer them to its customers. These include the recently launched wedding hub (https://www.sulekha.com/wedding-services/) that helps more than 1,000+ caterers, wedding photographers, priests and others to list their portfolios, blogs and source leads.
Sulekha plans to launch 5-6 more hubs in the very near future and grow thousands of SMBs.
What are your top challenges and how do you address them? Does being an early adopter of technology help you stay ahead?
Sulekha is going to several more Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in 2018 to serve them better. Growing the user traffic from Sulekha’s smaller cities is a key focus area for Sulekha.
Further acquiring and retaining SMEs from Tier 2 and 3 cities and serving them through a small inside sales team based out of Delhi and Chennai is a key challenge.
Sulekha is solving the challenge by helping SMEs to onboard themselves on the Sulekha business app and getting Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 worth of free leads. Once the customers have exhausted their free wallet, Sulekha’s inside sales team calls them to convert customers on the phone.
Sulekha has now acquired and retained 10,000 customers from these Tier 2 and 3 cities and hopes to grow them to 50,000 customers in the next few years.