In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers, and innovators, we bring our next interview with an innovator, leader, investor, and founder of an upcoming unicorn, Mr. Rahul Garg, Founder & CEO, Moglix.
Rahul has extensive experience in Strategy, Product Management, and Operations in the technology space. Before founding Moglix, in April 2015, Rahul headed Advertising & Strategy for Google Asia where he built a US$2 billion business from scratch. He started his career with Ittiam Systems in Bengaluru, where he led the wireless LAN & satellite receiver algorithms team and developed a knack for building world-class products. He has also served as Chairperson of the Marketing and AdTech committee at IAB, Singapore. Companies like Conexant Systems and Freescale Semiconductors also form a significant part of his journey in the technology industry.
Let’s hear from him about his journey, the Indian startup ecosystem, and the supply chain industry.
- From days at Google to the next future Unicorn of India. How has been your journey?
To be counted as the future unicorn of India is both an achievement and a responsibility. Amidst the global disruptions caused by the COVID19 pandemic, this comes as an indicator of us being on track for our mission to reimagine B2B commerce and supply chain with technology.
Being brought up in Faridabad, a key manufacturing cluster in the country, I had a first-hand account of a new wave of opportunities for the country’s manufacturing sector as well as the challenges facing it. During my stint with Google, where I was heading AdX India and South East Asia, I had the opportunity to collaborate with enterprises on advertising and explore how it was enabling new market opportunities for businesses. With deeper research, I envisaged the idea of leveraging technology enablement for the manufacturing sector in India and worked on upgrading the search-based model of advertising to a more advanced transaction-based model to impact distribution and supply chain in manufacturing.
We started with a simple statement in 2015: “How can we re-imagine B2B commerce and supply chain with technology?” The B2B manufacturing segment had not seen innovation in a long while. That is how Moglix came into being. Over time the e-commerce platform of moglix.com for industrial supplies scaled up and today encompasses 300,000+ SKUs spanning 40+ product categories of industrial supplies and scientific tools and 25,000 + pin codes.
The success of the e-commerce platform paved the way for Moglix Business to expand into the enterprise procurement vertical. Today Moglix Business caters to 500+ large manufacturing companies and 5,00,000+ SMEs and offers them a suite of procurement optimization solutions for packaging, MRO, and on-demand artificial intelligence-enabled procurement.
Building on our learning from procurement digitization and supplier collaboration, we next turned to complexities in contract management, and we built our first products in contract management under the Moglix SaaS label iCAT and C-Vantage for contract creation and analytics. Today these products are being used by large global manufacturing companies to stream their contract lifecycle management.
The pandemic has brought a moment of reckoning for all economies and businesses. While we had been present in the United Kingdom since November 2019, the outbreak of the pandemic brought new challenges in the PPE supply chain to the forefront. In response to the challenge, we intensified our focus on providing PPEs (personnel protection equipment). Since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic, Moglix has been actively engaged in reducing the supply gap for PPEs in more than 20 countries across the globe, making them available to more than five million people.
- What are your learnings from your journey as a startup founder?
My learning has been that as a founder, you have to surround yourself with people who believe in the vision with the same intensity as you, who are adaptive to changing dynamics and will be with you in this journey of hustling. If you and your team are aligned on the broader vision, keep learning from the experiences and stay the course you can achieve your vision.
- In the B2B space where you deal with companies, how important is brand trust and how did you establish that trust?
Brand Trust is crucial for all companies, more so for a start-up like Moglix which is focusing on reconfiguring B2B commerce and leveraging technology to transform procurement and supply chain. In the Indian manufacturing sector, traditionally buyer and seller relationships are strong, and they have been conducting business in the same way for decades. Establishing brand trust is a continuous journey that has evolved for Moglix as well.
When we started, the experience and demonstrated expertise of our team, our ability to understand the challenges faced by manufacturing companies, and SMEs lent credibility to our claims and helped us gain our first customers. Over time we have been able to maintain and grow the trust through demonstrating outcomes for our customers who can reach their business goals using our solutions. Today we work with more than 500 global enterprises to streamline their indirect procurement.
The global disruption caused by the pandemic has created an enormous trust deficit at both individual and institutional levels. In the manufacturing sector, trust erosion has emancipated in many forms, including withdrawal of labor from participation in production processes, opaqueness in supplier collaboration, and a lack of visibility into supplier network mapping and key performance indicators of cost, quality, and expected timelines of delivery.
When the pandemic started, we were getting calls from customers across the globe worried about the unavailability of PPEs. We geared up our complete supply network to make sure we supply high quality certified PPEs to keep our customers safe. When Air India needed safety equipment for the crew flying on a critical mission, we provided the right PPEs within 48 hours to make sure the corona warriors were safe.
In the wake of the lockdown, we have continued to invest in staying connected with our enterprise customers and proactively mapping their supply chain challenges through consistent communication and feedback. We have shared a “PPE calculator” that allows enterprises to get clarity on their PPE requirements and procurement timelines to protect the lives of their people. We have also created and shared knowledge resources like the “Back to Work” handbook with our customers to enable an agile resumption of economic activity for them.
We have made sure we are supporting them in every way through these difficult times. Being there for your customers during challenging times develops a deep bond and develops trust.
- How does Moglix work? If you have to explain it in the simplest terms.
Moglix is one of Asia’s largest and fastest-growing B2B commerce companies. We have three main business segments. Moglix.com is a B2B E-commerce platform for small and medium enterprises to conduct business buying and selling of industrial supplies. More than 500,000 SMEs transact through the portal for 300,000+ SKUs across 25000 pin codes. Through Moglix Business, we provide MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations), Packaging, and PPE (personal protective equipment) items in 45+ categories and digital procurement and supply chain solutions to manufacturing enterprises, helping them streamline their indirect purchases through technology. Moglix SaaS is a suite of award-winning products for contract creation and analytics used by enterprises to improve their contract lifecycle management processes. With our portfolio, B2B companies can leverage technology to transform their procurement and supply chain.
- How important is picking the right team for a startup which has just started and how did you manage it?
Picking the right team can make or break for a start-up particularly in the early stages where there is a steep learning curve, speed and agility are crucial. For getting the right team on board I looked at who can better contribute to the mission and vision of the company. Alignment with Moglix values such as Innovation, fearlessness, ownership, and excellence were key criteria. Individuals who demonstrate a clear motivation to chase bold goals and deliver excellence to create a strong impact are right for our team.
- How big of a market is the supply chain industry and what growth you see in upcoming times?
The manufacturing sector in India at current market prices is estimated to be $400 billion, and less than 5% of this sector is digital. Globally, less than 10% of the USD 7 Trillion global B2B commerce is digitally enabled. This represents a significant opportunity for us to leverage technology to revolutionize the way businesses carry out commerce.
- What is the impact of COVID19 on the supply chain industry and how are you guys tackling it?
At the beginning of the lockdown, there were severe demand and supply disruptions, with almost 80-90% of the supply chains not functioning. For Moglix, since we have a distribution hub and spoke model with supply chain infrastructure in 23 cities, we were able to revive our supply chain within 1 week and were able to match demand and supply locally for PPE, medical, and sanitization equipment which was the need of the hour.
As the situation unfolded, most organizations were faced with the challenge of restoring supply as they had limited visibility of their supply chain, they were dealing with multiple offline vendors and struggling to find reliable logistics partners. The COVID situation has also been dynamic with each city or state having unique impacts and restrictions. It has been particularly harsh on the MSME sector that constitutes the supplier base of large manufacturing enterprises, with many of them operating at sub-optimal capacities and workforces.
Moglix being a technology-focused start-up, we were able to leverage our agility to quickly re-orient our resources, supply chain network, and team to support the front-line warriors. While we have been offering MRO supply chain solutions across 45+ categories, “safety goods” emerged as the need of the hour. We extended our product category expertise in essential safety goods to provide certified high-quality PPEs to hospitals, government bodies, and enterprises in manufacturing and healthcare.
We also accelerated our expansion in the UK to supply PPE to enterprises in the UK as they looked to create safe workplaces for the essential workers. Over the last few months, we have supplied PPEs in more than 20 countries across the globe, making them available to more than five million people. In India, we have supplied more than 5 million PPE deliveries to more than 230 cities.
- Failures and rejections are part of the journey of any startup. How did you deal with them?
Being a disruptor in a well-established industry, there are many times when customers, suppliers or other stakeholders will not understand the vision of the future that we can already see, which means there will be rejections. My approach to dealing with failure and rejections is three-pronged, learn from the failure as it gives us feedback on what works or doesn’t work in a particular situation, adapt yourself and your business as you keep learning and have the perseverance to keep going on your path.
- What are your observations about the Indian startup eco-system and how has been the growth?
As a technology entrepreneur and enthusiast, I am a strong believer in the potential of the Indian startup ecosystem despite the transient headwinds we are faced with. Before the COVID19 pandemic, between 2015 and 2018, Indian startup enterprises had filed nearly 200 patents. The fact that the Indian startup ecosystem has been able to attract investments worth USD 50 billion also suggests that it has continued to grow consistently over the last five to six years. However, amidst the new realities of the COVID19 pandemic, many Indian startups are faced with liquidity challenges and may find it difficult to stay solvent due to cash flows being disturbed and working capital challenges. Investor sentiment may also continue to err on the conservative side in the immediate future.
We have been working with the Action COVID Team (ACT) Grants, which provides funding to innovative start-ups that are working to find solutions for containment of the virus and mitigation of the impact of the pandemic. Going forward, the need to look at the supply chain through a new lens of localization presents a new opportunity for the startup sector to transform old-school economics using digitization of every single business process including sales, customer experience, payments, procurement, and the end-to-end supply chain. It can enable Indian startups to take technology innovations under the “made in India” label to the world.
- Any message for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A leader is one who prioritizes the good of the team and empowers others to flourish, unlock their potential, and grow. A leader grows with the growth of the team. As an entrepreneur, when you are building your product, team, or company focus on the long term. Take out time to reflect on the structural aspects of your ecosystem and understand how you can create an impact. Whatever you build, it should be built to last.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Rahu Garg and the amazing team at Moglix. Kudos to him for such an amazing and fun interview, certainly one of the inspiring entrepreneurs I have come across and a huge inspiration for youth out there.
You can check our other interviews here.