Located in the sleepy town of Kozhikode in North Kerala, seven startups from diverse entrepreneurial backgrounds have come together to form a single company called Collatree. They managed to turn the curse of Covid-19 into a blessing, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Advisor Manu Ganga introduced the trend-setting model ‘Thrasio’ in Kerala.
Under the Thrasio model, named after the US unicorn of the same name, a startup partners with or acquires peers in a specific vertical and shares knowledge and resources to manage them most efficiently. “At Collatree, we leverage each other’s knowledge base and expertise and work under one umbrella to deliver the best value proposition to customers,” said Ganga line of business.
Standing up against Covid-19
Entrepreneurs who come together in this way, hailing from 10+ countries and drawing on 30+ years of collective experience, 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 comes at a time when businesses have been badly hit by Covid-19 and morale is low. Ganga says that although some of the various groups of entrepreneurs were in Calicut, they came together and decided to explore alternative ways of expanding the business. The startups are all based in Kozhikode, where some employees call it home.
Ganga lists the benefits in an interview; one, lower capital needs when expanding into newer markets, and two, greater expertise and a bouquet of technologies and services under one brand, which larger brands seem to enjoy – something that would not be possible for individual Collatree companies.
What brought you together – a need to optimize money or an amazing synergy?
It was a mix of both, but above all the uncertainty during Covid-19. In the beginning, it was just figuring out how to individually resist the pandemic. Afterwards, there was a group to discuss how we could use each other’s strengths to expand and expand overseas.
We now have a total sales and marketing team in many countries. This was the union’s biggest gain. As service-based companies, we should never have dealt with inventories. We were able to optimize our sales and marketing teams and free up costs for other things.
Has the partnership required you to bring resources invested in personal assets into the business as capital?
It was not a requirement, but we brought in private assets, both in India and in other countries, to accelerate our growth. We have several angels interested in investing to support our expansion into other countries. We will evaluate each one and then decide to take it forward.
What are the disruptive ideas that converge in your work? Have they established a new line of business?
We have always strived to be a one-stop solution for the client – from finance and other compliances to software development and technology consulting to digital marketing. We were lucky to have clients who decided to go with us for all these requirements. We are also expanding into blockchain development and data storage. This is only possible because of the exposure we get from our expansion.
Can you elaborate on how you’ve been innovating on services/products since coming together?
We have many products in our offerings such as CRM and logistics platform. After we got together, we made it a habit to improve and give each other suggestions for improvement. Every director has different experience and exposure and we get valuable advice from each other.
Are you also focused on growing digitally as it is the only platform that thrives during Covid-19?
Our entire growth has been digital, we have focused heavily on digital channels to achieve our current growth (over $1 million in sales in 12-15 months). And now we’re focusing on a digital-first approach. With the current growth prospects, we are not inclined to seek cooperation outside this ecosystem to continue growth or enter new business.
Do you think SMEs in Kerala can take a leaf out of Thrasio’s books?
There are some big software and digital companies from Kerala, some of which are doing quite well and have spread to bigger markets. Unfortunately, there are many small companies that do not have the knowledge or capital to do this. We are trying to solve this as a group. Collatree is open to adding new partners with unique offerings and opening services from Kerala to the global stage.
We have taken funds only for expansion requirements. Discussions are ongoing to enter more geographies. However, to understand whether it is worth it, we need to study the market and understand whether the investor/investment organization has the same goals as us.