Connecting Global Opportunities While Ensuring Indian SMEs’ Perspective: Connect2India

Addressing these and many other issues faced by Indian exporters and importers with an innovative and proactive way, Pawan Gupta founded Connect2India. "Global trade barriers such as lack of reliable data on overseas markets, inability to contact potential overseas customers, unfamiliarity with export rules, procedures & documentation, lack of trained export staff for trade facilitation, difficulty in identifying foreign business opportunities, insufficient access to export finance etc. are difficult to overcome for Small and Medium Enterprises (sme) with limited knowledge, information and resources available," says Pawan while having an exclusive interaction with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet.

Absence of any trade intelligence and detailed analytics of trade, and complete analysis of the total cost of identifying the market and also cost of procuring wrong product, are some common but very major challenges of global trade. Large exporters have somehow managed to resolve these challneges but SME entrepreneurs in the exports are finding these challenges really suffocating.

Addressing these and many other issues faced by Indian exporters and importers with an innovative and proactive way, Pawan Gupta founded Connect2India. “Global trade barriers such as lack of reliable data on overseas markets, inability to contact potential overseas customers, unfamiliarity with export rules, procedures & documentation, lack of trained export staff for trade facilitation, difficulty in identifying foreign business opportunities, insufficient access to export finance etc. are difficult to overcome for Small and Medium Enterprises (sme) with limited knowledge, information and resources available,” says Pawan while having an exclusive interaction with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet.

Here goes the detailed excerpts of this interaction:

Faiz Askari: As an initial start of our conversation, please share a glimpse of the story behind the starting of  Connect2India?

Pawan Gupta: Though I come from a strong techno-business background, with B.Tech Hon’s degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering from NIT Kurukshetra, I always have been passionate about global trade. It was very exciting to see and understand how companies in different countries are able to successfully trade with each other!

After my MBA from London Business School, I joined as a Group CTO of Trilogy / Versata Enterprises, one of the largest privately held Enterprise software companies in the world with the primary objective of ensuring 100% customer success. I was involved in due diligence, integration, transformation and growth of acquired businesses, including solution selling to Fortune 100 customers.

Even though I was consistently rated amongst the top performers in the company, surrounded by amazing colleagues in a company known for its great results-driven work environment, there was this insatiable itch that I wasn’t exactly able to put a finger on. After spending close to 4 years there, a chance conversation with another C level executive from the firm finally seemed like a moment of epiphany for me. A simple statement “to be truly happy, just being great in what you do is not enough, you need to follow your passion” saw a renewed enthusiasm in me.

Connect2India Founding Team

Connect2India Founding Team

I have always believed in the power of technology to impact large scale positive change. The potential of leveraging technology for delivering tangible business outcomes whilst positively impacting millions was something that always fascinated me. Probably, working with large scale organizations, those results were not visible or apparent.

It was around that time when there was a lot of talk from the Government on implementing policies to increase the exports to USD 900 Billion in couple of years. I did some preliminary analysis and figured out that finding and qualifying trade counterpart was a major challenge for Indian SMEs and there was no single stop source where they could get the end-to-end export/import related insights and information. Overall, they perceived it to be a very risky and complex proposition to start global trade business in India without access to the relevant information and with the existing knowledge gap.

I realized that global trade in India had not really evolved with time and advancements in technology, and that there was a big gap which has never been addressed. If with my trade and technology background, I was finding it difficult to find relevant information; I could assume how difficult it would be for those MSMEs with no or little background in this area. I realized probably that’s the biggest reason that out of 51 million MSMEs in India, only 1% participates in global trade.

That’s how Connect2India was born, with vision of becoming the most trusted one stop global trade source for India, enabling Indian SMEs to effectively export/import from India and Overseas SMEs to effectively export/import with India. I believe the timing was good for our venture with basic infrastructure in terms of connectivity, speed, reliability either present or in progress in India and host of initiatives from Government such as Digital India, Make in India and Skills India, making progress which I believe are enabler for our venture.

This venture was an opportunity to make a large scale difference and positively impact millions of MSMEs in India by providing real business value.

Faiz Askari: As per you, what are the current pain points of Indian manufacturers looking to export?

Pawan Gupta: Indian SMEs are not able to export/import because of multiple reasons. For example, finding and qualifying global trade counterparts is a big challenge, especially in trade from and trade with developing nations. Further, in absence of any trade intelligence and detailed trade analytics, the cost of identifying the wrong target product, country or trade counterparts in global trade is really high.

Further, global trade barriers such as lack of reliable data on overseas markets, inability to contact potential overseas customers, unfamiliarity with export rules, procedures & documentation, lack of trained export staff for trade facilitation, difficulty in identifying foreign business opportunities, insufficient access to export finance etc. are difficult to overcome for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with limited knowledge, information and resources available. Additionally, the lack of a credible platform to identify and verify global opportunities, limited access to trade intelligence and market research, and the high cost of trade information have been dissuading SMEs to enter into the unchartered territories of global markets.

At present, there is no holistic solution for end-to-end export/import. There are only workarounds such as trade fairs, trade agencies, consulting companies and market research companies etc. and these existing solutions/approaches are tactical, manual, expensive and prone to error with no focus on sustained or strategic growth.

The best practice for an SME for global trade would be to take the partnership approach. They need a partner that would go till the last mile and help them export/import globally. Additionally, technology today has the power to enable SMEs to gain meaningful knowledge about global trade, and understand prevailing trends and potential.

Connect2India came up with a holistic approach to address the actual concerns of Indian SMEs by providing them with an integrated global trade platform, enabling and empowering them for end-to-end export/import. From initiating to executing trade orders successfully under a single roof, Connect2India offers a technology-driven integrated platform with a focus on overall trade execution.

Faiz Askari: Why do SMEs need to Go Global and what are the consequences of SMEs not going global?

Pawan Gupta:It’s not an exaggeration to say that SMEs are the lifeline and backbone of our economy. A vibrant and financially inclusive India needs a vibrant SME sector! One thing these SMEs need for sustainability is ‘more business’. It’s apparent that dependency on domestic markets is no more an option.To become sustainable, get ‘more business’ and explore new business opportunities, the SMEs need to Go Global and explore the ‘blue ocean’, explore new markets, grow beyond borders and become a global player.

Access to a larger market allows SMEs to sell more of their products and spread the fixed cost of the production over a larger number of units, thus achieving economies of scale and higher profit margins.It also helps in diversifying business and mitigating the market risks.

With all the technology advancements, integrated platforms and access to knowledge and information, SMEs which are leading their way in going global would emerge as industry leaders whereas the ones lagging behind might even risk their survival. Even the Commerce and Industries Minister Sh. Suresh Prabhu mentioned last year at International SME Convention that we need to promote SMEs in the fastest way, aiming at enhancing the global supply chain and that there is a complementary relationship between big enterprises and MSMEs. Only if the small survive will the big prosper.

However, within this framework, for the SMEs to survive, they have to ‘go global’. With integrated platforms and solutions that could manage the end-to-end process, today global trading can become second nature for these SMEs as all they need to do is to keep doing what they are best at, i.e., producing quality goods at competitive prices, while their global trade partner would do what it does best, i.e. enable them to go global effectively and efficiently.

‘Going Global’ is no longer a luxury for SMEs, it’s a necessity they shouldn’t ignore!It will not only halt their growth but hamper their domestic existence amid increasing competition.

Faiz Askari: Can you provide brief information on your service offerings and how does it benefit your clients? 

Pawan Gupta: Whether an SME is just getting started with export/import business, or needs to know the market to target for export/import, or wants to gain access to verified and trusted business partners, or wants to arrange and execute export/import orders with access to network of genuine service providers worldwide – Connect2India does it all.

We are a one stop source to enable and empower SMEs for end-to-end export/import.

  • Analyzing Target Market – We provide complete trade analysis and trade intelligence for your product for you to understand the market in a better way.Our unique data science simplifies everything for you by providing the key trade insights and analytics, making it easier for you to make informed decisions.
  • Finding Genuine Trade Counterparts–We help you gain access to global importers/exporters with complete holistic view, trade history, sentiment analysis, find prospective customers, get buyers/importers due diligence done, get real-time global Leads notification and much more to do safe and easy trade.
  • Preparing & Arranging Export/Import Orders – Sit back and relax while we arrange the export/import orders for you with our strong worldwide network keeping your business requirements as our topmost priority.
  • Facilitating & Executing Export/Import Orders – With our network driven model enabled using technology; we handle all the aspects of processing and successfully executing an export/import order. Further, if anyone needs financial assistance, we help them too with our network of financial providers.

In a summary – “From Getting Started to Executing Export/Import Orders–Connect2India does it all”

The customers can choose from our different packages available on the platform according to their need and can execute end-to-end export/import with the help of our integrated technology platform and our global trade experts.

We are currently arranging and executing orders for our customers across India for multiple industries such as agro commodities, textile, apparels, footwear, handicrafts, metals and chemicals.

Faiz Askari: How does Connect2India verify the genuineness of the buyers?

Pawan Gupta: We make it easy for you to gain access to verified and trusted business partners for your products and provide you with the most relevant results of trade counterparts for your requirements using our advanced search and scoring algorithms.

We provide a holistic view of the trade counterparts including details about the company, financials, registration details, product details, contact information etc.built from multiple genuine and reputable data sources. We also provide counterparts behaviour and selling & buying patterns calculated from the trade history of multiple products for this company.Further, on-site third-party inspection of the manufacturing units and report is also available on demand to get fully satisfied and build trust in your chosen trade partner.

Faiz Askari: What is the future of your business opportunity?

Pawan Gupta: Indian Global Trade is expected to rise to USD 2 Trillion in coming years and we are here to seize that opportunity. Further, the world is full of opportunities in the shape of unexplored global markets. The world’s export by WTO members in 2017 was USD 22.45 Trillion and WTO has predicted a 4.4% growth in global trade for the coming year. This means more demand in the global markets, which eventually means, more opportunities for SMEs to sell their product and take advantage of the vacuum between current supply and foreseen world demand.

India is home to around 65 million SMEs, which contribute to 11% of GDP, 45% of total manufacturing output and provide employment opportunities for more than 100 million people.Also, India is the world’s fastest growing economy and is expected to grow at a healthy rate, according to the released IMF Economic Outlook.

Being a developing nation, the role of SMEs is very crucial as their performance have a significant impact on the country’s GDP. With the government initiatives like Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, a major boost is expected in this sector. Today, a very small percentage of the Indian SMEs participate in global trade and it is difficult for them to enter international markets because of challenges and complexities associated. Moreover, there is no easy and effective way for overseas SMEs to connect, partner and trade with their Indian counterparts. This clearly indicates a huge market size and opportunities that are completely unaddressed as of now.

Connect2India is a single stop platform where the SMEs get everything under one roof for end-to-end export/import. We are increasing the size of the pie in global trade. More SMEs in global trade will be vying for more global opportunities. We just need to make them globally aware, globally visible and globally competitive. Once we become a trusted brand for end-to-end trade for products, we can get into exports of services as well.

Faiz Askari: What are your expansion plans and goals? 

Pawan Gupta: We plan to increase our presence to 50 countries and to 30 top industrial cities in India by next year. We have more than 1 Million organic business visitors per month on our global trade platform and we plan to increase that to 5 Million per month by Q3 and to 50 Million per month in 2 years time. On the technology side, we continue to make global trade safe and easy with technology, including enabling end-to-end trade execution using the platform.

The focus since the beginning has been to build a very strong foundation and deliver value to customers and the strong foundation not on one aspect but on multiple aspects such as technology platform, leadership team, company culture, sales & marketing channels etc. I believe if the foundation is strong, it makes it easy to scale and grow very aggressively. Further, you need to develop trust with customers and there is no better way of creating trust by delivering value and we continue to strive for 100% Customer Success.

Future plans of the company include establishing the company brand as the most trusted global trade source for India and do whatever is necessary and required for doing that. The market and the opportunity in enabling global trade from SMEs are huge as this is a completely unaddressed need. We will continue to scale our sales and marketing operations to expand nationally and internationally and continue innovation in our trade platform to make trade safer and easier.

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