Seven start-ups from different entrepreneurial roots based in the sleepy town of Kozhikode in northern Kerala have joined together to form a single company, ‘Collatree’. They have successfully turned the curse of Covid-19 into a blessing in what Manu Ganga, co-founder and chief growth advisor, says introduced the forward-thinking ‘Thrasio’ model to Kerala.
Under a Thrasio model, named after an eponymous American unicorn, a startup collaborates with or acquires peers in a specific vertical and shares knowledge and resources to manage them more effectively. “At Collatree, we leverage each other’s knowledge base and experience and work under one umbrella to deliver the best value proposition to customers,” Ganga said. activity area.
Entrepreneurs who have come together in this way and draw on a collective experience of more than 30 years and a presence in more than 10 countries are Kavitha (IPIX, software and web development); Faeez (Glaube Technologies, logistics); Akshay and Manu (Growth Associates, Digital Marketing); Vivek and Basith (Zinfog, software and web development); Rifath (Capio, brand marketing); Sooraj (Armino Technologies, IoT and software development); and Niyas and Shiyas (Odox, Odoo services).
The idea was born at a time when businesses were being hit hard by Covid-19 and sentiment was low. Although part of different entrepreneurial groups were in Calicut, they got together and decided to explore other ways to grow their businesses, says Ganga. The start-ups are all based in Kozhikode, which some employees also call home.
In an interview, Ganga lists the benefits; one, low capital requirements when expanding into new markets and two, more experience and a bouquet of technologies and services under the same brand, which the big brands seem to appreciate – which would not have been possible for individual businesses in Collatree.
What brought you together – need for cash optimization or impactful synergies?
It was a mix of both, but it was mostly uncertainty during Covid-19. Initially, it was just to understand how to individually cope with the pandemic. Later, it became a group to discuss how best to use each other’s strengths to grow and expand overseas.
We now have a common sales and marketing team in several countries. It was the union’s biggest gain. Being service companies, we have never had to manage inventory. We were able to optimize sales and marketing teams and free up costs for other things.
Did the collaboration require you to contribute resources invested in personal assets into a business as equity?
It was not a requirement, but we brought in personal assets in India and other countries to accelerate our growth. We have a few angel investors interested in investing to support our expansion into other countries. We will evaluate each one and then decide to move it forward.
What are the disruptive ideas that have converged in your case? Have they thrown in a new line of business?
We have always tried to be a one-stop solution for a client – from financial and other compliances to software development and technology consulting to digital marketing. We were lucky to have clients who decided to accompany us for all these requirements. We are also expanding into blockchain development and data warehousing. This is only possible because of the exposure we have gained from our expansion.
Could you explain to us how you innovated on services/products after your collaboration?
We had several products in our offers, such as CRMs and a logistics platform. Once we got together, we got into the habit of improving ourselves and giving each other suggestions to improve. Each director’s type of experience and exposure is different and we receive valuable advice from each other.
Have you also focused on digital growth since it was the only platform that thrived during Covid-19?
Our full growth has been digital, we have focused heavily on digital channels to achieve our current growth ($1M+ sales in 12-15 months). Even now, we focus on a digital-first approach. With the current growth prospects, we do not tend to seek collaboration outside of this ecosystem to continue our growth or embark on new activities.
Do you think SMEs in Kerala can learn from Thrasio’s books?
There are excellent software and digital technology companies in Kerala, some of which are doing exceptionally well and have expanded into larger markets. Unfortunately, there are many small businesses without the knowledge or capital to do so. We as a group are trying to solve this problem. Collatree is open to adding new partners with unique propositions and opens up Kerala’s services to the global stage.
We took funds only for expansion needs. Discussions are underway to capture other geographic areas. But we have to study the market to understand if it is worth it and also the investor/investment institution to understand if they have the same goals as us.
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