Bizom Founder Lalit Bhise On How Their Startup Helps Bring India's Offline Distribution Online
After graduating as a computer science engineer in the year 1999, Lalit Bhise started working as a software engineer. The entrepreneurial bud him took sprout in the year 2006 when he founded Mobisy, a company dealing with Sales Force Automation and enterprise mobility solutions. The latest product from Mobisy is Bizom - a mobile-first retail commerce solution bringing India's offline distribution, online.
In this exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, we got Lalit (Founder & CEO of Bizom) to talk about his venture, the initial challenges, his mentors, their team and their first biggest client. Read on!
Lalit Bhise, Founder & CEO - Bizom
CE: Tell us about your growing up years and family background. Did you think about running your own company some day?
Lalit Bhise: I was born and brought up in a typical middle class family in Mumbai suburb. My father was working with Maharashtra Government and Mother as a school teacher. My parents gave me immense freedom since childhood and from that age itself being a leader was one of the ambition. I always had without much clarity on how. Later I did my computer science engineering from Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli. In lot of ways, those were my forming years. My ambition to build a product and company of my own was born there. I also met some life long friends and my wife-to-be there and the environment in the hostel gave me a self belief that I could achieve this.
CE: Why Sales Force Automation domain?
Lalit Bhise: In 2011 while discussing business with my advisory board a thought popped out about enterpirse mobility and gaps in it in India. I then went around and met at least 100 business leaders in India who validated the problem of being able to increase the productivity of their sales team due to lack of automation specifically using smartphones. Being a team of techies those problems were straight forward for us to solve and we decided to solve them using Sales force automation tools.
CE: When did you first think about creating Bizom? What kind of research & planning went on before you took the idea to the inception stage?
Lalit Bhise: Somewhere in late 2011, we started working on Bizom in making it a full product. It was launched in September 2012 after a year's hard R&D work going in to it. We started building sales teams in early 2013 while streamlining sales started happening only in 2015.
CE: What were the initial challenges that you faced while running Bizom? How did you tackle them?
Lalit Bhise: As any other startup, there were many challenges we faced while building Bizom -
- Capital availability
Fortunately, Rajesh from Ojas ventures liked our idea and team quite a lot towards end of 2012 and funded us which took care of the capital
- Team building
This is an ongoing challenge to build quality core-team. Currently we are are a 10 member core-team handling various areas like R&D, Sales, Operations, Finance, Delivery and Product. I have been very lukcy to have come across such kick ass people who showed faith in the product and the team to come and join us in such early stage and build it to a profitable venture that we are now.
CE: How does Bizom system work?
Lalit Bhise: Bizom has 3 main parts -
1. Sales force Automation
Bizom's sales force automation allows large FMCG brands and companies to automate daily work of their field sales teams using standard Android smartphones and 2G networks. Using this application, sales teams track their own sales, get intelligent suggestions on what to sell and how much to sell, get notified through system on sales trends in their areas, product lines and help them surpass their targets. It also provides extensive analytics and alerts to middle and top management teams to take actions at right time.
2. Distributor / Channel management system
Bizom's DMS (Distributor Management system) is an online and mobile application which allows distributors to manage their inventory, procurement and sales along with banking. It comes fully integrated with Bizom's sales force automation and helps distributors view orders coming from market in real time and act on it.
3. Retailer App (Distiman)
Bizom's retail app is our latest innovation to forward integrate the supply chain to end retailer. India has more than 18 million mom and pop (kirana) retailers. This application allows retailers to order all the products they need right from a smartphone application and get them delivered within 24 hours. This kind of right stocking allows the retailers to make up to 2x profits by addressing their stock out issues.
CE: Who was your first big client and how was the experience of dealing with them?
Lalit Bhise: Bizom's first large enterprise customer was Parle Agro Ltd. (Makers of Frooti). We had to deal with lot of problems including perception of a startup while acquiring the deal. But honestly once we were associated with the team, the Parle Agro team has been extremely helpful and professional in dealing with us. They gave us lot of inputs on improving the product at the same time the appreciated our efforts when we made the product live faster than their expectations. It's been an extremely mutually beneficial association for past 2 years or so.
CE: Who are your biggest mentors? Whom do you attribute your success to and why?
Lalit Bhise: I have been thankful to many people who have mentored and advised us over aperiod of time and continue to do so. Some of the more involved ones include -
1. Ashwani Garg (Head of SME Business Intel) : Ashwani has always been thein through tick and thin for the founders to bounce their ideas on. An amazing person who is always available to give ear to our latest crazy thought.
2. Rajesh Srivatsa (Managing Partner, Ojas Ventures) : Rajesh is one of the best VCs I have ever interacted with. He is a friend in need, a shoulder to cry on and supportive in all ways possible,
CE: What is the typical work culture at Bizom office like?
Lalit Bhise:Typical work culture in Mobisy is about working hard, partying hard. We provide lot of freedom to individuals to achieve the best they can in their area of work. Delegation and team work have been some of the mottos ... Most of the team is entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs or people who have worked in early stage startups before. This helps us in achieving our growth targets while still maintaining profitability.
CE: What feature of Bizom are you the most proud of?
Lalit Bhise: It's unfair to tell which features I like more. I have coded the first version of Bizom myself so I love everything about it. I love the way retailers, sales teams and management all love Bizom and are eager to give references (more than 70% of our sales happens through references and word of mouth)
CE: Share a feedback story that lives in your memories.
Lalit Bhise: Here is a story of a retailer who loves using our retail application
CE: What do you love the most about being an entrepreneur? What is your advice to those who are just starting up?
Lalit Bhise: As an entrepreneur, I could build a team of other entrepreneurial people and working with such an awesome team is the first thing I love about the journey. We are also making real difference in 10s of thousands of people's lives and that gives us lot of kick as well !!
As an advise, I would just want people who are starting up to focus on building sustainable business. Raising VC money is not a validation for the business .. so would strongly recommend them to build a business rather than chasing VC money.
CE: What is your message for your readers?
Lalit Bhise: It's lot of fun to build a startup but it demands lot of sacrifices on a personal level in terms of amount of time you can spend with family as well as amount of stability in financial life. I would want only those who are ready for hardships to delve in to this.