Ravi Tiwari, Founder – BizeeBuy, interview on Transforming B2B Commerce!

Ravi Tiwari has always taken tough decisions in life. People doubted the decisions, but he followed his gut and proved them wrong every time. 

After gathering a wide range of exposure and experience throughout his career, he started his entrepreneurial journey. 

With an intent to disrupt the B2B space, he is now soaring into new heights by building – BizeeBuy – An Intuitive Platform for D2C Brands to manage Sourcing, Suppliers & Simplifying B2B Commercial process! 

Let us read through the exciting life journey of Ravi… 

YC – Hi Ravi, Welcome to Yellow Chapter! 

Can we start from the very beginning? What were your parents’ expectations, and what did you experience as a kid growing up with those expectations?

Ravi –1984! I was born in a middle-class family in the remote town Kasganj of Etah district in UP. However, I have my native roots in Almora district of today’s Uttarakhand. My dad was an Electronics Engineer with Indian Railways. I have an elder brother who is a Software Engineer. In that era, kids were supposed to be either engineers or doctors, that’s it. 

My brother Deepak Tiwari, lived up to my parents’ expectations – he is currently the Staff SDE at Apptio. His performance used to set up benchmarks for me. By nature, we both are poles apart. He has always been a very sincere and soft-spoken kid in the family. On the other hand, I was the rebel kind. 

Early on… 

Our typical dinner table conversations were around studies, class ranks, career and growth trajectory. My dad was quite strict. On the other hand, my mother gave me space, never policed around but ensured I scored well.
One annoying experience has been my dad’s friends gauging my IQ and calibre by throwing Vedic math calculations to solve. Believe me, I hated it! But if I think of it now, my parents ensured good academic learning and eventually a stable, well-paying career.
Since my childhood, I have been a huge proponent of two things:

  1. In early childhood, the foundations for each human life are laid.
  2. Everything comes back. People may not acknowledge it, but our behaviour and actions result in our success later.

My schooling has been in Kendriya Vidyalaya. I am a KV product except for the year I was in Nirmala Convent Kathgodam- Nainital. That one year was life-changing for me. It gave me:

  1. Confidence to face people
  2. Confidence to speak for yourself and others.
  3. Strength to be on my own, independent.

@ Family

YC – Why engineering? 

Ravi – I aspired to be a doctor. Based on my performance, I was offered govt—dental and private MBBS. Private medical colleges had an exuberant fee. I did not want to put that much financial pressure on the family and dropped medical 

2004! I joined B.Tech in Biotechnology at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agri & Technology, UP, as I wanted to continue my education in the medical field. 

In my third year, I started developing a lot of interest in Industrial Engineering. I realised irrespective of the branch you pick; everything culminates in it. Industrial Engineering is a techno-managerial aspect of more or less all the engineering domains. 

I qualified for GATE twice in my B.Tech 3rd year as well as final year. 

2008! I joined Birla Institute of Technology – Mesrafor my Masters in Engineering: Quality Engineering & Management [specialisation in Industrial Engineering] with an MHRD Scholarship. 

Post-Master of Engineering, I had professional stints before I got through Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi – Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) – Industrial EngineeringMy Research Theme was Industrial Product-Service Systems (IPS2). Although I paused the present entrepreneurial journey and am yet to finish it. 

Apart from excellent learnings, work, and experience, I met Minakshi. My research partner then and wife now. We together (as a group participant) won the prestigious Dr S. K. Mukherjee Gold Medal for National Research Excellence-2009 awarded by AIU [Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi] in collaboration with VSNU The Netherlands. 

VSNU: https://www.linkedin.com/company/universiteitenvannederland/ 

AIU: https://www.linkedin.com/company/association-of-indian-universities/ 

@ Gold Medal for Research Excellence_Minakshi & I

YC – What would be your suggestions to young grad students? How can they make the best of their college time? How can they find their true calling?

Ravi – Some students might get into engineering without wanting to be engineers. Many pick branches based on their ranking and not having actual interest in those areas. I want to say that it’s ok, what is done, is done! 

Explore!

College days are all about exploring. I mean exploring in a real sense and not just reading on the internet. If you wish to be a coder, work as an intern in a startup. If you want to pursue a career in sales and marketing, work as an intern in any D2C brand. Internships are an excellent way to explore and experience.
My point is to get a taste of the day to day life and get level 2 and level 3 details of the profession you wish to pursue a career in. Talk to college seniors about what options they are evaluating and why. Talk to college alumni and understand what they are doing in their jobs and what their days look like.
Reach out to people and ask them how it feels to live their lives. Take well informed conscious decisions rather than repenting later.

YC – Can we talk about your professional road map, learnings and experiences on the way? 

Ravi – 2009! I started my career as a Senior Engineer (Quality Engineering) with India Glycols Limited – one of Asia’s largest speciality chemical manufacturers. Fortunately, I was engaged with the Joint General Manager, who led the quality initiatives across the organisation. It was dealing with Lean Six Sigma Process Optimization. 

Learnings – 

1. If the senior management chooses you and you work very closely with them, getting things done by others is relatively easy. 

2. In the manufacturing sector, management buy-in is critical to implementing any optimization process. Especially in India, people judge you by age. Your solutions and logic may be perfect, BUTt your age is not ideal for guiding them. 

3. Being a part of the Solution – One learning that I am still using in my current startup is always to be a part of the solution. Once you speak the user’s language and acknowledge the problems, you become a part of the solution. Acceptance Kicks-in. 

2010! I was the Project Manager of Six Sigma (Black Belt) at the American Express in a Global transformation role for New Accounts acquisitions in Japan & APAC region. 

Learning from AmEx would be

1. Do things the AmEx way – To do things in AmEx, you have to do things the AmEx way irrespective of the department you are in. You have to be part of the DNA AmEx has built. 

2. Possibilities are infinite if you can see the larger picture. 

2011! I joined as a Manager and got to Associate Vice President & Head of Business Excellence position at Quatrro Global ServicesThere are mainly three reasons why I joined Quatrro: 

1. Raman Roy, the founder of Quatrro. He is the Ex. NASSCOM chief, also known as the Father of the BPO industry in India. He is an excellent mentor and a great human being. Working with him was a privileged opportunity. 

2. Role – I was given a cutting role across various verticals and businesses. 

3. Team – Working closely with senior leaders like Sriram Natrajan, Sunil Gujral, Monica Kashyap and other CXOs. When we are working with such good leaders, learning would be exponential. 

Learnings from Quatrro: 

1. Entrepreneurship is possible – Working closely with people who have set up businesses gives you the confidence that things are doable, and someone like you can also do it.

2. Working closely with the top leadership gave me colossal exposure and the opportunity to learn and grow. Quatrro has been the most enriching experience of my professional life. 

2017! I became the Senior Business Architect of Global BPM at Lloyd Thompson India (JLT India), the second Largest Specialty Insurance Brokerage House. It was a short stint, JLT was in conversations with Marsh McLennan for acquisition, and later in April 2019, JLT was acquired by Marsh McLennan

I was looking for an opportunity to explore entrepreneurial avenues. Also, at that time, my wife Minakshi had completed her PhD. She is now an Assistant Professor – Operations & Supply Chain Management Area at IIM Jammu. I knew this was the best time to start my entrepreneurial journey. 

YC – Why BizAugmentor, why this space?

Ravi – Very good question; this goes back to my career. In my entire career, I have worked on two things:

  • Business process re-engineering 
  • Digital transformation.

In late 2017 with help from one of my ex-boss at Quattro and a dear friend – Amar Gomber, I started BizAugmentor  A Consulting and Technology Services group actively dealing in the Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Automation space. 

The Game Changer!

I still remember an exciting conversation with Amar; he said, “You, an engineer, working in technology services, in the finance division with a biotechnology background is a complete mess. But this mess is perfect to be an entrepreneur.
The initial idea was to build only machine learning related products. But after talking to multiple clients, we realised any machine learning related product could not work on its own. It has to ride on something. Machine learning products need a continuous data flow to perform the intended function. This data is usually sitting in the accounting system, ERP tools or supply chain management systems.
So we thought of building an end to end solution that itself carries transactional data, and the machine learning tools could deliver insightful business support to the clients in a seamless manner.

2019! Pivoted – So we decided though AI and ML are good to have, we have to first solve for data. We need to have our sources to generate, aggregate and integrate data. We decided to have an enterprise solution that is cost-effective and much more value-generating than the available solutions. 

In India, 90% of the mid-tier organisations, typically 20 Cr to 500 Cr turnover companies, do not have any robust mechanism to define internal processes. Most of the work is still done manually. Approvals are given over an email; orders are placed over an email. Hundreds of emails are exchanged daily just for vendor coordination for Purchase Orders, Invoices and quotations. 

BizeeBuy.com was born – An Intuitive Platform for Brands to manage Sourcing, Procurement and Simplifying B2B Commercial processes! It acts as a one-stop shop for Buying Organizations in managing the Procure to Pay cycle and, on the other hand, helps suppliers manage the Order to Cash process. 

YC – All SaaS founders have three problems: product-market fit, marketing and sales? What’s your take on each? 

Ravi – To begin with, PMF has to be defined differently for different SaaS products. Some products are good to have. Whether your product is a painkiller or a vitamin? Define your product, if it is ‘Good to have’, ‘Must have’ or ‘Pain killer’?

The problem that we are solving at BizeeBuy is “Not at all a good thing to have”. Thus BizeeBuy falls in the “MUST HAVE” category, especially after the pandemic when businesses are bound to be digitally empowered. 

When looking at PMF, the most significant indicator is how many prospects convert into clients and how many clients convert into paid clients. 

At BizeeBuy every ten prospects we reach out to, if a demo is done, our conversion is more than 85%. In India, it is very tough to sell concepts; many people usually do not get it. But the moment they see a demo or some action, things become seemingly understandable for them. 

Hard work pays off!

Initially, at BizeeBuy we started with some budding D2C brands and were offering them the platform for free (a limited period), but they realized our platform is not a small tool. They realized the value of our offering, and we started charging. Tradeshift and Coupa, both US companies, are in the same space. 

Prominent players in the space tried to penetrate the Indian market, but they could capture only the large enterprises in India, mainly because of two reasons: 

1. Expensive tool for mid-tier organisations in India. 

2. Too complex for mid-tier organisations in India. 

Wherein the real need sits in the mid-tier. They are the ones who need to be disrupted. 

Next coming to Marketing and Sales – At BizeeBuy our biggest proponents have been our existing clients. SaaS product growth is very heavily dependent on the network effect. A self proliferating network on the clients and supplier side is the key. 

YC – Can we please talk about some numbers? Typical SaaS metrics TAM, CAC, ARR etc.? 

Ravi – Sure, The current LTV: CAC ratio stands at a healthy 6:1; by this financial year-end, we are targeting GTV close to 250-300 Crs (GTV of the transactions happening on the platform). We are targeting at least 100+ organisations on the platform. We are growing fast and have been adding 100s of suppliers every month and a steady pace of onboarding reputed brands. We are already working with 20+ well-known brands in the D2C space. 

Now, organisations’ onboarding will happen much faster than in the last few months. The trickling and the network effect we have already talked about.

Our conversion is around 85%, and 80%+ of our clients pay us for using our platform. We have two business models – One is the subscription model for the buyers, and the other is the transactional model for the suppliers. I know the subscription model will not be the biggest revenue generator as we plan to introduce Embedded Supply Chain Financing on the platform. 

This is very insightful learning for the Indian SaaS founders – In India, companies want to pay for value. They do not want to pay just for licenses unlike the US market. Therefore, we define BizeeBuy as a business model that has an operating model behind it powered by our SaaS offering. At BizeeBuy, we are not selling SaaS; we are delivering the value SaaS is powering. 

YC – Quick suggestions for fellow founders? Some tips on preparing better and avoiding surprises in their entrepreneurial journey? 

Ravi – Start early in life. It is one thing I would like to change in my startup journey so far. 

1. Most of the time, your academic and professional qualifications will not help you do what you aspire to do. You might have done engineering in a specific branch for a particular reason. You might have picked jobs on the way for some reason. But do a startup in whatever you think you can be “The best.” 

2. Attitude to learn and unlearn a lot of things. 

3. Your startup is your chosen opportunity, so choose wisely. Work on the problem you enjoy and can spend hours, months, or years solving. 

4. Get two people on your team; they might not be the co-founders but should be blind believers in you. I am lucky to have such people around me. Their unconditional faith and utmost support lift my confidence immensely. 

5. Build a strong sales pipeline, do not rely on your contacts for sales. Believe me, we have experienced it. 

YC – Last question but the most important one, people you would like to acknowledge in your journey so far? 

Ravi – First, my parents, my elder brother, Deepak. Dr Minakshi, my co-founder at BizeeBuy and life partner. The early believers Amar Jyoti GomberNeeraj Sahgal Abanish K SinghAshraf Ali. The core pillars of my team are Saurabh Agrawal, and Vikas Kumar. Without them, this journey wouldn’t have been so smooth. 

Thanks to all our early clients for their confidence in us. 

@ Minakshi and my son – Aaditya

It was great talking to you. We feel privileged and wish you all the best in your future endeavours. 

Thank You! 

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