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A 20-Year-Old Tries To Disrupt The $500 Billion FMCG Market In India Pravas Chandragiri, founder and CEO of Soptle

By Teena Jose

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Pravas Chandragiri, founder and CEO, Soptle

In a country that still hasn't gotten rid of the conservative mindset of having a government job, Soptle is the name of a revolutionary breakthrough made by a nineteen year-old boy, Pravas Chandragiri. Probably because the business in his blood cannot be avoided, at the age of 12, the boy learned his baby steps in business while managing his uncle's kirana store at Balasore (Odisha).

From there he practically experienced the hardships and inefficiencies of a kirana store such as, limited assortment, low margin, zero bargaining power, no potential to grow business beyond a threshold, and so on.

At the age of 17, he started his entrepreneurial journey with a venture which primarily focused on connecting regional manufacturers to retailers. He was the youngest CEO of that networking platform known as RFT (Rural Future Technology) where he connected 1200 kirana stores across 9 districts of Odisha and successfully introduced more than 20 regional brands from India to them. It was a profitable venture with annual turnover of INR 60 lakhs. Soon, he realised the potential of that business to be scaled in a tech- led asset-light manner. That was his eureka moment and the idea of Soptle conceived.

In a nutshell, Pravas's story starts from managing a retail store at the age of 12, to enabling 50,000 retailers at the age of 20.

Evidently, it is really curious to know about the inception journey of Soptle, as the foundation stone is young and energetic. In a traditional supply chain there are so many consuming components present in between the manufacturer and retailers such as C&F, General C&F, Superstockist, Stockist, distributors, wholesalers, then comes the retailers.

"We at Soptle identified some of these consuming components as unnecessary. They are not even required for movements of goods. We believe C&F, General C&F,

Superstockist, Stockist as unnecessary consuming components. So we eliminated these unorganised and inefficient consuming components from the traditional supply chain and we used only the necessary consuming components," the founder reminiscences of the company's initial establishments and mode of operations.

Chandragiri added that, "We believe the last-mile components (distributors and wholesalers) are necessary consuming components. These stakeholders really matter for general trade transactions. So we used/enabled them in the FMCG supply chain to build a high growth and profitable business."

The young brain is on a mission to uplevel the lives of over 8,000,000 general trades retailers and approximately 5,000 manufacturers of India.

"We enable the FMCG manufacturers to increase their income by providing access to country-wide distributions at zero fixed cost, through our tech-enabled sales and distributions channel-cum-market linkages which helps them to; geographically expand their sales, enhance their utilisation capacity, scale up their business and improve their net margins by 3-4 times," said Pravas Chandragiri, founder and CEO of Soptle.

He also added that, currently the company's distribution network consists of over 50,000 retailers and distributors, and has been growing 2-3 times month-on-month consistently.

Where there is innovation, there will be investment. The same logic applies with the case of Soptle also. While giving the insights about the company's investment rounds, the CEO stated that, "In Sep, we had closed the first tranche of the Angel round. We extended this round due to heavy demand. Moreover, we are fully subscribed for our pre-seed round and will be closing that over the next quarter."

As per market estimates, India accounts for 11.69 percent of total global FMCG distribution; it contributes to 18 percent of India's GDP; Yet across the 12 million Kirana store owners in India, the average sales is only $700 per month. Out of these 12 million kirana shops across the country, 7 to 8 million retail stores remain under served by the majority of the consumer brands due to the high cost structure of traditional distribution networks.

Amid all these, there exists immense challenges and competition in this ecosystem. A prodigy in business will always be the one who faces enormous challenges. Undoubtedly, so does Chandragiri also. In his words, "We have seen various transformations in B2B retail segments in the last 20 years but no one cracked the code for the B2B market and one fundamental problem still remains unsolved- geographic expansion at zero fixed cost. And we believe that a manufacturer-centric approach is the next step in the evolution of B2B marketplaces and we are going to monetize our first mover advantage."

"After we identified them as a necessary consuming component, we changed our approach to solve this using technology and partnering with them at various levels," the founder accorded the solution as well.

We live in an ever-evolving society where social media trends ebb and flow, consumer trends come and go and what works today is probably not going to work tomorrow and there comes the significance of future planning.

It was evident that Pravas Chandragiri got exhilarated while sharing the plan of action of the company. He said, "We are planning to scale about 100 times from here over the next one year, build onto our technology teams and grow our distribution network by 15- 20 times. Post that the next frontier is going global with our technology and playbook in place by 2024."

For more newfangled innovations to come in the business field, the young entrepreneur advised his followers that, "If you are thinking of a startup, then Start Up Today!"

Teena Jose

News Desk Reporter with Entrepreneur India

Teena is a post graduate in financial journalism. She has an avid interest in content creation, digital media and fashion.
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