Subin Mitra, the co-founder of Groyyo began his entrepreneurial journey at a very early age. Trying his hands at portfolio management services and content discovery platforms at college, he worked for an established firm and a startup alike to gain knowledge of the industry.
He then set up his startup, Groyyo, helping SMEs & micro-manufacturers across Asia. Guiding them to expand their business end to end, Groyyo is now spearheading the market.
It goes without saying that he is “an early bird”, and his vibrant and spirited nature to take the plunge is commendable. Let us read through the inspiring journey of Subin and his brainchild Groyyo.
YC: A person’s life is deeply influenced by their childhood days. How was yours?
Subin: I am a Bengali born and brought up in Bombay. My father was an IRS officer and my mother a homemaker. I have two siblings who are significantly older than me, both of them live abroad.
My parents were quite particular with studies but my elder siblings did not let that pressure pass on to me. I was always told to pursue my dreams. They only wanted me to be the best at whatever I did. I think that is the prime reason why I ended up being an entrepreneur. I was asked to do what I love, and love what I do!
YC: How were school and college days?
Subin: I did my schooling as well as graduated from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. It was a very transformative experience. I developed my social skills and worldly outlook there. The institution is predominantly a research-oriented culture and I made the most of it.
AcadMap – Content discovery platform.
Problem – Students from various teams researched various topics. Students from other streams never knew about it, because it’s too complicated. We wanted to remove this gap between various streams of academics.
Solution – We got 10 people who could break down the content and make it more presentable. This decreased the interdisciplinary gap among students.
PMS – Portfolio Management Service
Problem – I was keen on investing. A lot of my friends wanted to start investing as well. But we were unaware of the technicalities.
Solution – So we built a portfolio management service. It helped people in their investment objectives.
These activities changed my professional outlook. At that young age, I was able to set up two successful ventures. Even though the scalability was less, the confidence it provided was immense!
YC: What are your suggestions to students to make the best out of their education?
Subin: My humble advice to them would be to;
- Avoid pressure. It is never ‘make or break’. The world is not ending with exams. Focus more on the values.
- Exploit the time of leisure. You are at a phase where you figure out your potential. It is a time when you have no big responsibilities on your shoulders. Make use of it.
- Find your passion. If one is pursuing his passion, he is bound to win. Having clarity on what you want to do, what you’d relentlessly pursue, and what you’d never give up on is crucial.
YC: Even after trying out two different niches, you never pursued it for a career. Why was it so?
Subin: The finance intern role was interesting. It was a great career option for someone who is happy dealing with money all day. For me, I still check out options for investing, but I cannot do it every single day. You ought to dissect between a passion and a liking.
The content management team was more of an arm of Xavier’s. We didn’t see it becoming a massive commercial venture, hence didn’t pursue it out of college. These experiences gave me an idea and clarity of myself. I found joy in creation. Building something, and taking it to new heights was what I wanted to do in life.
YC: What were the options post Xavier’s?
Subin: A bit of a Quandary
- The first was a master’s degree.
- The second was a job in banking or financial services.
- The third and the one I chose was Management Consulting.
It was pretty clear that I wanted to be a founder, but unsure of the niche. My sister Kamalika who is working with Accenture as a strategy consultant advised me to join a consulting firm. She said consulting will give me the diverse exposure I am looking for. I followed her advice and chose Consulting. I cracked the interview for Bain & Company and joined them.
YC: What were the takeaways from Bain & Company?
Subin: It was a great experience. The time spent at Bain & Company laid the foundation for my professional career. Consulting promotes ruthless execution. The work culture there created this habit in me. No matter what happened, I had to get things done.
At Bain, we were mentored by our senior batches, and this culture helped me a lot. We had great mentors and a great community for support. Even today, I look forward to the community, when it comes to hiring or reaching out to people.
I then had an opportunity to work closely with team Oravel Stays Private Limited – OYO. They were expanding to Europe, and this was my first exposure to the startup ecosystem. Working in close proximity with the team gave me a fair idea of how the startup ecosystem works. But I missed the zero to one journey. I decided to leave Bain & Company and join an early-stage startup. Zilingo came at the right time with a great opportunity, and I decided to join them.
YC: Why Zilingo?
Subin: B2C is relentless marketing, I realised this while working OYO. B2B business models, on the contrary, have core business fundamentals. It has gross margins and can increase volumes fast while also staying profitable. It has credit, working capital, understanding of how debt works and all such things. I found it more relatable, given the exposure and bend towards finance.
I also felt there was massive untapped potential in B2B space. B2C has largely been digitised and very much saturated. But B2B is yet to be explored. So I was very clear that I wanted a job at a B2B startup. Hence Zilingo!
YC: What were the major learnings in Zilingo?
Subin: Zilingo gave me two things, great learning and my co-founder.
Learning – I learned about the Indian factory mentality. They will not get excited by fancy SaaS offerings or multiple features. Their business is about fundamentals, to make more products and save costs on production. That’s how they make money. Unless you convince them in two minutes that you are doing something to help them with these, they don’t care.
Meeting my co-founder – Pratik was the Head of Supply & Merchandising at Zilingo. If I hadn’t joined Zilingo, I would never have met him. He is an instrumental part of everything about my existence today. So meeting him was indeed the biggest takeaway.
I joined as a general employee, I ended up leading the entire South Asian business at Zilingo.
YC: What gave you the conviction to stop working with Zilingo and pursue Groyyo?
Subin: I would like to put it in 3 phases:
- Phase 1 – Identifying the gaps, current solution and opportunity.
- Phase 2 – Finding the Co-founder
- Phase 3- Finding the CTO
Phase 1 – Many small and medium enterprises would approach us seeking help during our Zilingo days. But because of certain limitations, we were not able to help them. I could sense an opportunity there. I could see the small-scale manufacturing industry is still waiting to be digitised. I figured out there is immense potential in it and went for it.
Phase 2 – The second inspiration was my Co-Founder & COO Pratik. An industry expert with great knowledge and network in garment manufacturing.
Phase 3 – The third was, of course, finding Ridam, who is my co-founder and CTO. I consider technology as the true differentiator of a business. Without technology, any B2B Business is fundamentally an offline trading company.
YC: Any suggestions to the founders who are probably looking for Co-founders or CTOs?
Subin: Anyone looking for a Co-founder or a CTO should check for two basic things:
1. If he/she is interested in the sector you are planning for and,
2. If he/she also sees the same opportunity and believes better solutions can be built to solve the gaps.
This worked for the three of us at Groyyo. Manufacturing was the connective layer among us. We all had the fundamental belief that “SMEs and micro-manufacturers across Asia need digitalization and there is a gap as well as an opportunity there”. Based on our experience we also agreed upon the thought that relentless execution is the key to success.
YC: What is Groyyo? Which part of SME are you currently focusing on?
Subin: There is a rise and dominance of D2C brands. There is a pressing need for transparent, compliant, quality manufacturers who can be affordable and scalable. This made us go after life-manufacturing, with apparel and home textiles as our key categories.
What we do in a nutshell is;
- We help our factories get more revenue, we help them increase their sales.
- We help manufacturers optimise their procurement. Whatever raw materials they need to manufacture the goods, we help them procure that.
- We help them enhance their factory floor. This is through more of our tech layer and our SaaS offerings.
We are the end to end partner for all three pain points of SME Manufacturers.
Groyyo also specialises in connecting manufacturers across nations and within the country. It is currently focusing on increasing efficiency for its factory partners, boosting 15% in revenue and 20% profitability.
YC: What were the initial challenges?
- The initial challenge for us of course was COVID 19. We set up during the second wave, and our customers were the low-end manufacturers. This was an initial hindrance, and we adapted accordingly.
- Resources. We have a significantly large team now, but initially, it was just the three of us. This slowed us down.
- Aversion to technology. These businesses are not friendly towards technology. They were more like, “we have nothing to do with technology”. So convincing them for tech adoption was a challenge.
YC: The funding journey.
Subin: We bootstrapped initially. The idea was to build something on our own, figure out the dos and don’ts. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we can execute on the ground. I consider it unfair to get money from investors and then try to figure out what to do.
When the time came for funding, I was very privileged. A lot of my batchmates and seniors at Bain community had gone into Venture Capitalists. Another advantage was that the market was good. We started at a very good time when the startup ecosystem was booming. We also got a lot of support from my friends and peers. All this honestly gave me an edge.
YC: What are your suggestions to the young entrepreneurs?
- Don’t waste a lot of time at the idea stage. Ideas in a startup are not that useful. It’s all about execution. Get on the ground and start executing. It will teach you more than research and ideas ever do.
- Don’t do it alone. Being a founder is a scary journey, and you should not be on that journey alone. Finding a co-founder is more important than raising funding or getting customers.
- Ask for help. If you don’t know something, ask for help and don’t be shy. Everybody doesn’t know something or the other. My experience suggests that people in the startup ecosystem are super helpful.
- Be connected to your customer. Have awareness of the changes on the ground and stay connected to your customers. Your goal as a founder is not to raise funds and increase your valuation. It is to make your customers’ lives better.
YC: Can you please talk about Marketing strategy at Groyyo?
Subin: It’s important to understand how marketing operates in one’s space. We realised very early that SEO, SEM, or digital marketing is not that important for us. None of our factories is on Instagram checking ads. Marketing for us is people-centric. My advice would be to figure out how and where to approach your customer and act accordingly.
YC: What is your sales pitch to potential clients?
2 min sales pitch…
Subin: “We will help you get more orders for the products you manufacture”.
We would never tell them that we will help you digitise your factory or procure raw materials. We will always pitch, “we will help you get more orders for your stuff!” They tie everything into cash flow and are willing to go for things that would increase their revenue. It’s a trade-off, where they don’t trust you very easily. Once they trust you, you can sell anything to them.
YC: How do you see Groyyo in the next few years? How is competition in the industry?
Milestone 1 – End of 2022, we see ourselves working with 1000 manufacturers.
Milestone 2 – End of 2024, we aim to reach 10,000 customers.
Milestone 3 – End 2027 , cross the million mark.
Quite ambitious, but we believe in this relentless execution.
We have a few competitors. None of them are into SME manufacturers though. We have the first movers advantage, so we have to make the most out of it.
We are now building our presence in Bangladesh, the United States, and the Middle East. We have also realised that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a critical problem statement and are focusing on it.
1.No child labour in our partner factories.
2. Have basic fire safety norms established.
3. Our factories have labour data tracked on our app.
YC: Any suggestion for others to conclude with?
Subin: Have more faith in future entrepreneurs who believe in the startup ecosystem. Don’t be wary of doing cold LinkedIn, reach out. You will be surprised that in most cases people come forward to help you. Have faith in yourself and have faith in the other person to help you! With relentless execution to accompany your efforts, you will find success!
It has been great talking to you. Yellow Chapter wishes you all the very best for your future.
Interviewer: Divya Jain