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Co-founders Sandesh Paturi (left), who is chief business officer, and Rajesh Reddy, CEO of Venwiz Technologies.
Rajesh Reddy and Sandesh Paturi, IIT graduates both—Madras and Bombay respectively—joined ITC more or less together, and met on the job in the paper board manufacturing unit in 2007. Their roles exposed them to several projects around operations, maintenance, figuring out manufacturing locations and so on.
This experience, which included figuring out the right vendors for various projects, validated the idea that there was an opportunity to drag industrial services into the internet era—connecting large manufacturers with smaller, medium-sized vendors across the country. Excluding projects that are seen as “core”, even to this day, it is not uncommon that a manager at any large manufacturer will go to a colleague or even a contact at a competitor, if need be, and say “Bhaiyya, iss kaam ke liye kis se baat karna chahiye (who should we speak to for this project)?” Reddy says. An example of such a project is the setting up of a warehouse at a factory. This means the vendor has to have people capable of civil construction work in a factory environment, he explains. This alone will eliminate most prospects, as they typically come from experience in residential or commercial buildings, but not factories.Therefore, it becomes the project manager’s prerogative to find the right people. These are also jobs where the “ticket size” typically ranges from Rs 1 crore to, say, up to Rs 20 crore, he says. For larger projects, like the ones costing Rs 100 crore, say, companies will have a roster of vendors, as they, too, will be bigger and more established. The smaller projects often go to the SMB segment, where contacts are through word of mouth. That’s what Venwiz Technologies, which Reddy and Paturi started in 2020, is changing—one manufacturer at a time and one SMB vendor at a time. The venture is a “SaaS-enabled marketplace”, they say, in the capital-expenditure and maintenance, repair and operations services domain. Also read: Log9 is making India's first EV cells. Can it take on China? They had the idea for Venwiz as far back as 2009-2010, he recalls, and they kept discussing it, but “we didn’t have the courage, or the clarity on how we were going to build this”, he says. In the ensuing decade, they gained plenty more experience, including working at and studying other startups, to figure out how to apply tech to a business-to-business problem. And while consumer-facing ecommerce had taken off, “when we went back to our contacts and asked people if this was still a problem, nothing had changed” for the manufacturers, Paturi recalls. “So we thought it was time to jump in.” Covid added its complications, but today Venwiz has some 15 large manufacturers as its customers, including Nestle, Tata group companies, ITC, SRF, Atul, Valmet, and Fortum, and over 12,000 SMB vendors on their platform. Customers use a discovery module and a procurement module and move on to an execution module. The first two modules are what makes the business SaaS-enabled, Reddy says. And while some subscription revenue is coming in, “it’s early days”, he says. Further, the big money is when more and more jobs get executed via Venwiz. Because the buyers are very large companies, even with 15-20 customers, “if we go deep, we can become a very large company solving this problem”, Reddy says. With some 40 engineers working on the product, they aim to go deeper with their existing customers, and, on the supply side, ramp up the number of vendors to more than 20,000 this year. The duo recently raised $8.3 million in Series A funding, led by Sorin Investments, taking their total to $11.4 million. Existing investors Accel and Nexus Venture Partners joined in. “Venwiz is addressing a huge white space in the manufacturing segment of different industries,” says Mandar Dandekar, a partner at Sorin Investment. “They understand the pain points very well and have the insights to solve the problem through tech in an end-to-end fashion.” Also read: India's trillion-dollar opportunity The immediate area of focus for Venwiz are the capex projects. These typically involve RFQs, or request for quotes, which now the manufacturer posts on Venwiz’s platform. And the platform helps the buyer match the best three or four vendors, engage with them and arrive at a conclusive quotation. In the old way of doing this, it would have typically taken three months, Reddy says. Venwiz compresses the process to a matter of days. With competing vendors who can be compared transparently on the platform, “you also get price discovery and hence a cost advantage”, he says. And since this is all happening on a digital platform, the manufacturers also get to build and keep a database of projects, vendors, cost comparisons, timelines, you name it. “They are making enterprise-grade capex and industrial services procurement radically transparent,” says Sameer Brij Verma, managing director at Nexus Venture Partners, an early investor. The complexities come from the fact that these kinds of procurements are not well defined, Paturi explains. That’s because these aren’t like buying a specific product like a bearing, or a bag of cement. These projects are customised needs and each vendor will have a different ask, leading to a lot of back and fro. “That’s where Venwiz comes into the picture,” he says. “It helps you improve the efficiency of all these engagements and hence get to your purchasing decision very fast.”