[The Turning Point] How the change from a SaaS to a market mannequin labored for the B2B unicorn Zetwerk

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B2B production startupPleading, which recently entered India’s Unicorn Club at $ 150 million in a Series E round at a valuation of $ 1.33 billion, was formed three years ago because the four founders were “in the right place at the right time.” “said Amrit Acharya, co-founder and CEO of Zetwerk.

The startup was launched in May 2018 by four IIT alumni: Amrit, a former associate at McKinsey & Company and a former ITC manager; Rahul Sharma and Srinath Ramakkrushnan, who previously worked at logistics company Blackbuck, and Vishal Chaudhary, Rivigo’s former business unit manager. Srinath was also part of the founding team of OfBusiness.

In a conversation with YourStory, Amrit Acharya, CEO and co-founder of Zetwerk, says that the startup actually started as a SaaS platform but soon became a business-to-business marketplace for the production of items. This was the turning point for the company.

The Zetwerk team: Amrit Acharya (L), Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary

Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds. It joined the Unicorn Club within three years of its inception with 500 team members and more than 100 customers in 15 countries in India, North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Amrit attributes success to its corporate culture, which is focused on solving problems quickly, being technical first and loving their work.

The beginning

Amrit Acharya spent his first four years at ITC after graduating from IIT Madras in 2010. His first role at ITC was building a new factory. “That’s when I understood how production works,” says Amrit.

He then went to business school for two more years and spent some time in the United States. But he always wanted to do something of his own, quit his job and returned to India in January 2018 to get into entrepreneurship.

On his return he met Batchmate and former ITC colleague Srinath, who had already started his entrepreneurial journey at OfBusiness. But Srinath was also interested in solving supply-side manufacturing problems, which he understood well because of his career at ITC, Blackbuck, and ofBusiness, and because he was born and raised in a family with a manufacturing company.

“I understood these issues from my time at ITC. When I and Srinath got back together to do something together, we thought of a manufacturing convergence that would help people better manage hundreds of suppliers, ”says Amrit.

He recalls managing hundreds of suppliers on Google Sheets for nearly 500 billion rupees in procurement at ITC. The idea was to help managers with this task as the role was very “manual and error prone”.

Together with Rahul Sharma (IIT Roorkee) and Vishal Chaudhary (IIT Kharagpur), they started Zetwerk in May 2018 with a SaaS platform aimed at project managers to better manage their existing supply chain. The team even raised a round of funding for the SaaS product, but had to switch within six months.

According to Amrit, the team spent two months developing this software and reaching out to potential customers including large global corporations. “They all really liked the software, but still said no,” he recalls.

He adds that the companies were very fond of the software but were unable to log in due to decision issues. However, they asked if they could use the software to discover new suppliers. That was our eureka moment, says Amrit.

“We had raised capital for SaaS, but we went back to the investors and told them we were going to start a software company. We felt that this marketplace model had a higher probability of success and the investors supported us, ”says Amrit.

All of this happened between May 2018 and August 2018; since then there has been no turning back.

Growing zetwork

Zetwerk is essentially a global manufacturing network that helps bring digital designs into physical manifestations, from simple items like pipes to complex products like aircraft engine parts. Zetwerk’s platform ensures proper compliance with specifications at competitive costs and lead times.

Since 2018, Zetwerk has concluded deep strategic partnerships in three important manufacturing categories: precision parts, capital goods and consumer goods. These cover a wide range of manufacturing, from bridges and rigs, electric vehicles, custom aerospace components, defense equipment, televisions, luxury clothing, etc.

The platform’s acceptance increased worldwide and increased threefold annually in 2020. “In the pandemic, we became an indispensable solution from a good-to-have solution,” says Amrit.

Zetwerk wants to continue to grow rapidly in the future and play a key role in India’s growth story. “We believe manufacturing will play a huge role in the next decade of India’s growth story, catalyzing both small manufacturers and large customers to reach their full potential,” says Amrit.

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Edited by Teja Lele Desai