NEW DELHI :
Sanjay Kaul, former country manager of Apple India, is now the founder of Sofyx—a startup for general traders dealing in smartphones and accessories. Kaul, who has also worked at BlackBerry, realized that small retailers in India had no digital presence, making it hard for consumers to discover them.
In an interview, he shares how he wants to make an impact on small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the help of technology and the internet through Sofyx. Edited excerpts:
What is the idea behind the startup?
During my days at BlackBerry and Apple, I observed and identified various challenges in unorganized retail that constitutes 93% of the total retail business in India. Although a significant contributor to the country’s economy, the unorganized General Trade (GT) sector in India has been disconnected from the digital ecosystem.
With the smartphone industry growing at a double-digit rate, Sofyx bridges the gap and brings together the mobile reseller community along with other stakeholders like telecom operators, device manufacturers, distributors, and other vendors on a single platform. For instance, in 2018, 140 million smartphones were sold in India with over half of those selling from general trade retailers. While larger businesses may be positioned well to plug into a rapidly-evolving digital India, smaller businesses still lag behind.
How does Sofyx propose to bridge this gap?
Sofyx is an app-based social commerce platform and our first and foremost objective is to strengthen and improve the GT business in India. At the basic level, the platform will enable information exchange, engagement, real-time feedback, and community building amongst the stakeholder group. At a functional level, we will help drive business transactions between various stakeholders. Our platform will streamline and digitize in-store operations, buying, as well as customer interactions.
How will you help companies address digital challenges with your startup?
There are four key primary challenges that we will be addressing. The first is exclusive product and financing offers. At present, GT resellers are not able to seek exclusive product or financing deals with manufacturers and banks. We intend to bridge this gap by providing a single platform that will enable brands and distributors to provide exclusive deals to GT resellers. Also, we will build effective loyalty programs for retailers to engage and retain their customers.
We will be connecting customers to GT shops by improving the discoverability of these shops on a digital platform. Additionally, we will help in streamlining purchase and efficient store management. For instance, when new brands enter India or incumbents launch new products and want to pitch their products to resellers, there is no single platform for them to engage with the reseller community. With the Sofyx platform, city distributors and GT resellers can engage and buy/sell products instantly.
Finally, we believe GT owners provide unparalleled customer service and engagement. However, I believe it is under appreciated. We Indians still love the personal touch. We will improve discoverability of GT stores on internet and also help them communicate and deliver their value propositions effectively to end customers.
What is your long-term vision?
We have onboarded 200 top retailers in Delhi-NCR and Mumbai and over the next few months we will go deeper in Delhi and Mumbai and are looking to expand to the next 10 cities such as Chennai, Pune and Bengaluru.
But, within the next few months, in Delhi or Mumbai, when you are searching for phones on Google, it will show nearby locations and the shops powered by Sofyx, what offers they have on those phones and we will guarantee delivery within 1 hour where ever you are in Delhi and NCR and you will get some peripheral services also. The sales will be through retailers only but we are making the retailers smarter digitally. So our vision is to transform the brick and mortar space digitally and create a new way of e-business.