Sanjay Kaul, former Country Manager – Apple India, today announced the launch of an exciting startup – Sofyx, a social commerce platform for general traders dealing in smartphones and accessories. Once celebrated for building two key smartphone businesses from scratch, Kaul is now dedicating himself to making technology accessible & affordable for small retailers.
To help achieve the vision, Kaul is supported by his Co-founder Mukesh Kachroo, former Chief Technology Officer – Gain Capital Group, USA, ending a 16-year-long tenure with the company. Mukesh had joined GAIN in its early formative years as a start-up and saw it through public IPO to being the No. 1 FX firm in the US.
During his days at BlackBerry & Apple, Kaul observed and identified various challenges in the unorganised retail that constitutes 93% of the total retail business in India. Although a significant contributor to the country’s economy, the unorganized General Trade sector in India has been disconnected from the digital ecosystem. With the smartphone industry growing at a double digit rate, Sofyx bridges the gap and brings together the mobile reseller community along with other stakeholders like telecom operators, device manufacturers, distributors, and other vendors on a single platform. To put things in context, in 2018 140M smartphones were sold in India with just over half of those selling from general trade retailers.
The platform enables business networking, engagement, real-time feedback, and community building amongst the stakeholders. Besides, it helps drive business transactions between various partners. Sofyx also streamlines and digitizes in-store operations, buying, as well as customer interactions. One of the key goals for the company is to improve customer retention and drive footfall to these small retailers. With this intent, the company is launching its services with top smartphone selling shops in Delhi NCR. These shops contribute to over Rs. 2000 crore in smartphone revenue per year.
According to Kaul, while larger businesses may be positioned well to plug into a rapidly evolving digital India, smaller businesses still lag behind. “I firmly believe we can transform these small stores into a significant channel that brands, distributors and customers would love to engage with.” he says.
Sofyx is backed by a team of seasoned professionals that bring deep experience in mobility business, fintech, CRM, and sales/marketing. The team understands and appreciates the issues faced by general trade in India and leverages that to build a customized product that solves some of the deeper and unaddressed issues. The four key challenges that Sofyx aims to address are:
1. Customer Loyalty & Connect: Sofyx provides a plug-and-play loyalty program through its App to the retailers. Within few minutes shop owners can design and launch a simple program to retain loyal customers and reward them for referrals. Through this program, exciting rewards, offers, and digital gift cards can be pitched to attract local customers to a specific shop.
2. Exclusive Product and Financing Offers: Sofyx bridges the gap and enables brands and distributors to provide exclusive deals to GT retailers. So far this has only been done in online and OT environment. Through Sofyx, brands, distributors and financial institutions can easily bring exclusive and differentiated offers to GT retailers.
3. Streamlined Purchase & Efficient Store Management: When new brands enter India or incumbents launch new products, they rely on the same age-old distribution channel. It is a very tedious and complex process relying on archaic tools and ineffective information flow. With the Sofyx platform, city distributors and GT retailers can engage and buy/sell products instantly. These features will be released in the next version of the platform which will be launched shortly.
4. Demand Generation & Discoverability: General Trade has never been able to communicate their value proposition to customers due to their inability to invest in advertising. Sofyx is helping bridge that gap. Through Sofyx Platform retailers can collectively advertise their offers, promotions and special festive deals in their local areas. This service has been launched in Delhi NCR with the top 100 retailers on a paid basis. The first such program is a collective campaign in July and Aug built around Rakshabandhan and Independence Day.
“Our estimates show that general trade in India sells over $12B worth of mobile phones a year. In the next five years, this business will grow to about $16B a year as feature phone market transitions to smartphones. There are more than three lakh general trade shops selling mobile phones in the country and they are spread out in every nook and corner of India. Sofyx will enable a significant number of these stores by partnering with them as their single point technology partner.” Kaul further added.