Starting from scratch to merchandising 12,000 products, the journey has been challenging as well exhilarating for him. As he had not chosen a conventional business to enter into, there were no benchmarks or industry standards which he could look up to. Every step was a learning and every initiative was a discovery, says Phani N. Raj, Founder and MD of eYantra Industries as he shares his journey of turning a small idea into one of India’s leading brand merchandising and corporate gifting solutions company. Excerpts:

You claim to be the one-stop shop for ideation, designing and execution. What were the challenges in achieving that?
The biggest challenge was to bring together these three critical aspects on to a common platform. Neither clients nor vendors were used to this one platform business ideology, which we had pioneered in the country. Each of these activities was done by different entities and there was no fusion of thought and action, leading to client unhappiness. We mapped the entire set of activities and designed this unique business model where we bring together a set of creative, planning and execution skills to help clients achieve their business objective, which meant that eYantra had to invest in competent and qualified segment-wise professionals to set up this initiative. We also had to invest in a robust technology framework to implement this plan, which today is recognised as an industry-first initiative.

So, any first mover advantages?
Yes, there were several advantages. I did not have any legacy issue to tackle and had taken a whiteboard approach. This enabled me to script the entire business plan and execute it comfortably. Since eYantra pioneered many initiatives in its segment, therefore the recall for the brand was pretty high.

How has the business arena changed in the last 10 years for your brand?
From multiple vendors to single vendor. From orderbook platform to ideas platform. From FOS (Feet on Street) to online sales. From being seen as a supplier to being seen as a strategic partner. There has been a paradigm shift in the way the business has operated in the last decade. Thanks to the Internet and the technology evolution, the gifting and promotional merchandise business is being innovated in a completely new way. As the first organised player in the industry, we were able to implement technology solutions very early and have become the brand leader in online stores, e-commerce reward stores and for using state-of-the-art technology in retail stores.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of dealing in merchandising industry at present?
The benefits are that the industry is coming of age in India and many students are taking up merchandising as a course discipline. Even more and more companies are now learning the importance of BTL activities, which is at the top of the table in merchandising business. It’s slowly being recognised as the most effective and low cost medium to promote a brand. The disadvantage is the eco system around merchandising is still to develop and the adaptation in the industry is still a small base though it’s growing at a rapid pace.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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