This year, Bizom, a retail intelligence SaaS company, will exceed $5M in annual revenue with more than 95% generated from Indian customers. They are one of the very few (if not the only) SaaS companies in India to do so.
The company has more than 350 enterprise CPG brands as its customers, and over 150K distributors and sales executives use its platform. Thanks to the $10 billion worth of CPG business that passes through its platform, Bizom captures the data of more than 5 million unique retailers in India.
These are all impressive figures given that building a fast-growing SaaS business with only Indian customers is often considered “mission impossible”. Here is the “art of war” if you want to pursue a similar mission.
From its early days, Bizom adopted the “inch wide mile deep” focus. According to Lalit Bhise, CEO and Co-founder of Bizom, it’s about channelling the company’s resources to win a significant market share in a small segment rather than spreading the business too thin. From the beginning, Bizom wanted to be a market leader. But they decided to be a market leader in small regions or small segments rather than have a “worldwide” focus.
Lalit and his team broke down the universe of CPG into mini verticals like beverages or fresh foods and regions like Mumbai and Bangalore. “We did not even start selling Bizom to Mumbai-based customers until we had more than 10% market share in our home market in Bangalore. We expanded to Delhi only when we had a good market share in Bangalore and Mumbai. Only in 2019, when we were the undisputed leaders in this space in India did we started looking outside,” commented Lalit.
The company’s focused approach made sure the sales and marketing rupees were spent to create maximum impact. It also generated word-of-mouth referrals in their focus markets which is critical in India. Mid-market companies base their buying decisions on referrals which the company was able to leverage with its “inch wide mile deep” approach.
Today, the company adds 10-15 new customers each month, more than 90% of which are inbound via referrals.
When Lalit started Bizom, industry experts told him that India is a price-conscious market. It would be difficult to build a large SaaS business. What Lalit and his team discovered though was that India is not as price-conscious as it is value-conscious. Customers are willing to pay for the right product as long as Bizom could customise the platform to meet their needs.
Bizom sold its platform as a customised product from day one. That was the secret sauce. They built a configurable platform which behaves differently for each customer or product line despite having one codebase for all their customers. It is a technological feat, and the credit goes to the company’s engineering and product teams.
This innovation has poised the company to win in global markets. What is perceived as a complex customisation challenge, Bizom executes with a click of a button. In a market where six months is a norm to onboard a product or platform, the company consistently takes two weeks to go live. This platform approach has helped the company grow fast and expand its customer base.
“I have seen a lot of SaaS companies attempting to acquire large enterprise customers before achieving “product-market fit”. I think It’s suicidal. We started working with tech-oriented CPG startups like iD Fresh. The growth achieved through our tech helped put us in the next orbit of mid-market companies like Parle Agro, Jyothy Laboratories, Fena, etc. From there, we made inroads into MNCs like Reckitt, Mars, Hershey’s, Pepsico, etc. But going up the value chain is not just about acquiring customers. It involves continually adapting our creativity, thoughts and approach to the needs of each industry segment. While ensuring, we retain the sanctity of scalable, repeatable and automated solutions. We call this organisation wide culture of constant learning as Algorithmic Jugaad,” said Lalit.
Every year, at least half of Bizom’s growth comes from existing customers alone. The secret behind it is the company’s customer success team. Unlike most other SaaS companies, their customer success team is made of business analysts and not glorified support executives. These business analysts help customers drive their business outcomes using Bizom. They measure success by the success of their customers. Since no one expects software vendors to help drive business outcomes, customers are satisfied and expand the scope of business year-on-year, and continue to give the company rave reviews and referrals.
While in retrospect, this all sounds simple, there is one thing that makes this possible, the team and the culture Bizom has built within the organisation. As a company, they follow People=>Product=>Profits philosophy. Which means they want to work with the right entrepreneurial people with the hope that they will build a great product that brings revenues and profits. If there is one thing Lalit will tell SaaS companies is to focus on working with the right team throughout their journey.
Bizom provides insights and intelligence to CPG brands and has just started to make inroads into other emerging markets. The company helps brands achieve smart distribution by tapping into its vast network, and by improving the customer’s manpower efficiency, channel performance and product performance.
It first helps businesses to digitise the customer’s entire sales functions and supply chain. Once the digital transformation is activated, the company helps its customers move from a push-based distribution to a pull-based distribution using solutions that facilitate assisted- and inspired-selling.