But Bhise and his self-professed geek co-founders couldn’t figure out a way to earn enough through the platform. With hardly any money left to pay salaries, Bhise came clean with his employees. “We have less than two months of salaries left in the bank. If we are to survive, we cannot pay you for the next six months,” he told them. His four co-founders left and found new jobs. All but two of his employees left as well. Everything he had built over the last three years was gone.
“But I’m not done yet,” Bhise told his wife. They had been married eight years, with two kids, aged seven and five. Worse, Shree Kulkarni, his wife, had quit her job with IBM years ago. He half-expected her to tell him to take up a job. Instead, Kulkarni surprised him. “You may be good at technology, but you have no idea how to do business. I’ve been looking through your accounts. I’ll let you continue with your startup only on one condition—I will join you to take care of it,” she said.
It was more instruction than the offer, Bhise realized. He agreed.
And just like that, the mild-mannered software engineer and young father went from excruciating guilt and stress at the failure of his first startup, to doubling down on it with his wife in tow. This would be the first of many contrarian decisions Bhise and Mobisy would make. Or be forced to make.
On 21 May, Mobisy, a twice-reborn avatar of the company that Bhise was shutting down in 2010, announced that it had raised $3.5 million in its Series A funding. The investment was led by SIDBI Venture Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SIDBI, a government-owned bank chartered with lending to small businesses.
Mobisy’s current avatar makes Bizom, a SaaS (software as a service) offering aimed at industries that distribute and sell consumer products via the millions of mom-and-pop Kirana stores across India. Industries such as consumer packaged goods (CPG), auto parts, electronics or fashion. Bhise claims Bizom is used by over 120,000 end-users across 300 customer brands like iD Fresh, Parle Agro, Jyoti Labs and Hershey’s.
The number of unique retailers that Bizom’s reach extends to.
It competes with other specialized sales force automation and customer relationship management tools like Accenture’s NewsPage, StayInFront, eBest and Ivy Mobility.
“We’ve been using them for six-seven years now. We use them for sales and tracking, order automation and also for suggestive ordering,” says Musthafa PC, the co-founder, and CEO of packaged fresh food brand iD Fresh. Suggestive ordering for iD Fresh means being able to predict what products to stock at each of the 20,000 stores that stock its products based on years of past sales data, weekday patterns, seasonality, etc.
Bhise says Bizom’s differentiator is its speed and flexibility. Unlike its competitors, it was developed as a software platform from day one, allowing it to be configured and taken live for a new client in under two weeks. Bizom’s speed of implementation also accidentally opened up a new source of business growth—large consulting companies doing transformational work with retail brands. Such engagements typically run for a year, with the consulting companies increasingly responsible for delivering measurable value by the end of it.
As a result, for a B2B sales company, Mobisy does no outbound sales at all. All of its growth is generated via referrals and inbound leads, upselling to existing customers, or via channel partners who recommend it to their clients.
But getting here wasn’t easy.