Increase font size Decrease font size Reset font size

A startup digitising the supply chain networks

By Mutaher Khan 2020-05-31
RETAIL is a messy world, with supply chains more complex than even the Targaryen family tree. Networks spanning across hundreds of miles in diverse geographies, paper invoices and dealings in cash all make up for a confusing jungle, leading to inef ficiencies. And that`s exactly what a local tech company is betting to solve.

Salesflo is a Karachi-based startup that offers a sales and distribution management platform to help streamline the flow of consumer goods.

Connecting all ends of the supply chain manufacturer, distributor and retailer through web/ mobile applications, it lets stakeholders digitise operations, including inventory management, invoicing etc. There are also ef ficiency tools with features like vehicle load maximisation, route optimisation among others.

Using a software that can be integrated with Oracle/SAP, businesses using Salesflo can keep track of the entire supply chain down to the kiryana store. From daily orders to live cash position, broken down by geography and product and everything in between. Similarly, distributors, through either the web or mobile app, can viewtheir order despatches, sales or other relevant metrics. Finally, retailers have access to the Android application where they can see the listing of all manufacturers available, along with pricing.

Over the past years, they have amassed a notable clientele including the likes of Unilever, Nestle, Hilal and Shan and claim to float goods worth more than $2 billion through their portal.

The startup was launched as Retailistan by Yasir Suleman Memon and Sharoon Saleem former Unilever employees who wanted to help digitise the retail landscape of the country. `In 2015, we resigned from our jobs in order to address some of the pain points of the wider industry. We started a couple of services including online grocery deliveries a new concept back then,` Memon recalls.

`Around that time, we also launched our sof tware product, Salesflo, which soon took off and made us abandon the rest of the projects and rebrand the entire entity af ter it,` he adds.

Money-wise, Salesflo has quite a few revenue streams, some already introduced and some in the pipeline. First, there is the existing one-time setup fee along with subscription charges from the software, then the commissions on their mar-ketplace. But going forward, Yasir also plans to venture into micro lending for retailers and scale up the add-on services.

The startup is also rather unique in one aspect: it hasn`t raised a single dollar in external funding to this date. `Raising capital is very timeconsuming which we prefer spending to onboard new customers and grow with our revenues instead. But in the future, we might go for it, says Memon.

Unsurprisingly, the market for consumer goods is massive. In Pakistan, alone, this segment reportedly accounts for 40 per cent of the GDP. But Memon`s plans are not bound by borders as he is already on to grabbing a share of the global pie, with focus on Southeast Asia.

In fact, Salesflo has already a couple of clients in Myanmar and Indonesia, thanks to its close working relationship with multinationals (MNC). `Once you onboard an MNC here, the global deployment becomes fairly easy since they already have operations all around and as a software company, it is not that much of an operational challenge,` explains the CEO.

Within this space, Salesflo is up against NewsPage DMS, backed by the global management consultancy Accenture. So how does asmall company out of Pakistan plan to take on a giant? `They obviously have much stronger connections with the MNCs but that doesn`t mean we haven`t positioned ourselves to grab a share. In fact, Nestle recently bought our software for some of the markets where they were initially planning to deploy NewsPage. Then our solution offers more value for money compared to theirs, which has become more relevant in Covid-19times,` he says.

However, the startup is not limited to just sof tware. Of late, it has ventured into the businessto-business marketplace arena through its new platform, Jugnu. But based on the experiences of another local tech company, that is one rough journey.

For instance, was forced to shift focus from its marketplace towards SaaS in order to stay afloat. So what makes Salesflo more suited to pull it of f? Could it be the fact that the latter operates in the retail consumer goods segment? `Absolutely, it`s all about repeat customers which is where we are lucky as the frequency of transactions is much higher in the f ast-moving consumer goods category,` Memon explains.

With approximately 700,000 retailers across the country, of which the majority are not even served by the consumer goods company, Salesflo has a mammoth task at hand. But would they manage to achieve the same level of success in onboarding kiryana stores as they did in landing big clients? The writer is member of staff: Twitter:@MutaherKhan