At Sugermint Media, our aim is to bring to our entrepreneurs community some of the inspiring and motivational success stories from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur Sourabh Arora for an exclusive interview with us.
Sourabh Arora is a young entrepreneur and son of a shopkeeper from Amritsar. He is the Founder & CEO of Sample Hall. Let’s learn more about his inspirational journey and his advice for our growing community!
This is the interview of Sourabh Arora, Successful Indian entrepreneur and founder of Founder & CEO of Sample Hall – Order Booking App.
Tell us a little about yourself
Sourabh Arora: After completing my schooling from The Lawrence School, Sanawar, I did MSc. Innovation Management from Manchester Business School, UK. Thereafter, I went off to Stanford University, US, for Technology Entrepreneurship.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I’ve always been fascinated with the growing Startup ecosystem in the country.
I had been studying Digital Transformation across different industries, understanding the challenges & opportunities it creates for the entire ecosystem. I am now determined to transform this industry that has fed my family for over 40 years.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Sourabh Arora: Ever since my childhood, my father would often travel to big cities to buy fashion apparel, which we could sell at our shop.
There were times when he would take a night train to New Delhi on a Saturday, purchase the goods on Sunday and then take the night train on Sunday itself to return home next morning at 6 am, before heading to the store at 9 am.
To be honest, since my father was always traveling or busy at the shop, I rarely got to spend quality time with him. I often used to feel sad about it.
In December of 2019, I started working on a mobile app which would let shopkeepers place orders online – to their existing suppliers.
Why only to existing suppliers? Because 85-90% of a retailer’s purchase is from the suppliers he has been working with since long.
The thought was that this app would perhaps save retailers some time, which they could spend with their family. At least other kids could have what I missed out on.
And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Everybody was locked into their homes, let alone travelling to another city.
Even after the lock down was lifted, we were all skeptical of travelling and fearful (we still are) of being gripped by the deadly virus. It was during this time that we launched Sample Hall.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer?
Sourabh Arora: Sample Hall is a Business-to-Business (B2B) online order booking app for Buyers & Suppliers who currently have to travel to book orders. Our app is available on both iOS & Android platforms.
What is unique about your business?
Sourabh Arora: Our offering is designed from the bottom up, with the Seller’s need for Privacy of their Designs at the core. Like shared earlier, below are some of our features that Suppliers really value:
- Only the Buyers they allow, can view their collection & place orders.
- They can allot limited time to their Buyers for the same, eg. 2 Days, 5 Days, 10 Days or they can keep their collection open forever.
- Buyers cannot save, share or take screenshots of their collection. Now, they can upload their collection without the fear of their designs being copied.
What made you choose this type of business?
Sourabh Arora: Being a retailer myself, I have to travel often to Mumbai to buy goods that I can sell at my store. My family does not want me to travel due to safety concerns.
I face this problem myself. Manufacturers don’t want to share their entire collection on WhatsApp, as it becomes easy to forward it to others.
To address this need of privacy, we have disabled Buyers from saving, sharing or even taking screenshots of product images.
Also, as desired by the Sellers, they can allot limited time to their Buyers to view their collection and place orders.
Being a part of the industry, we understand their perspective very well and have incorporated the same in our online order booking solution.
What was your mission at the outset?
Sourabh Arora: Our Mission is to Digitize Existing Business Relationships.
What’s your company’s goals?
Sourabh Arora: We want to eliminate the need to travel for order booking. According to a Google’s research report, digitizing B2B sales would lead to 17%* growth in annual business.
The reason for this is that the Buyers could order small quantities more frequently. Currently, if Buyers have to travel for purchase, they do so only when their Stock-in-Hand has reduced tremendously.
But with the option of ordering even small quantities regularly, Buyers would not only improve their cash flow (as it won’t get blocked in payments), but also ensure that their customers find something new in their store every time they visit, thereby increasing customer loyalty.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Sourabh Arora: The only way to build a successful customer base is to build a product that solves their core problem, a product they love, a product they can confidently talk about to others.
We are doing the following to acquire new customers:
- Network of Agents: In B2B, Agents play an important role of connecting Buyers & Sellers. By partnering with Agents and getting them to share about our digital solution with their business associates, we will not only help them reduce their travel, but also increase their yearly business, as Buyers are highly likely to order more frequently, as and when they need.
- YouTube Influencers: We are finalizing terms with various influential YouTubers who make videos on business & startups. As they can explain our offering & its benefits to their viewers in their local language, we are confident that this medium would help us achieve the desired results.
- Online Marketing: SEO, SEM, Play Store & App Store Marketing.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Sourabh Arora: During my college days, I launched a social networking website for moms called MumGum.com.
The idea was to build a platform where mothers could discuss about parenting, pregnancy, relationships, their child’s schooling etc. with other mothers in the vicinity. But this was in 2010, when not many Indian mothers were online. The timing of the business was not right.
Then in 2012, we launched FlirtyBags.com. This was a online shopping portal for colorful ladies handbags.
I noticed that college/party going girls have a desire to match their handbags/wallets with their outfits.
As the shops for this category are often fragmented, we wanted to aggregate it all online, thereby making it easier for our target market to find what they love.
But during this time, all other VC funded e-commerce ventures were offering heavy discounts/burning money like crazy.
Since we were putting our own money in the venture, it did not make economic sense for us to offer such discounts.
We sold all our inventory offline. As most of those VC funded e-commerce startups have now shut shop, I learnt the importance keeping Unit Economics at the center of every business.
I also realized the importance of knowing your own self, your own strengths & weaknesses and focusing on the domain that you have in-depth knowledge of.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Sourabh Arora: Steve Jobs. He was a genius who could build the team of A players & foster a culture of innovation in the organization.
He understood human minds better than anyone else and changed the world for ever through his revolutionary products, be that iPod, iTunes, iPhone, App Store, etc.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
- Not building an A-class team early on.
- Not realizing my own strengths & weaknesses & doing things I don’t have complete domain knowledge of.
- Not moving/iterating fast enough, so that we could fail faster to succeed faster.
- Not getting out of my comfort-zone of Amritsar. Being in a city like Bangalore or Gurgoan/NCR, where the ecosystem of talent, mentors, investors is strong, has its own advantages in moving fast and in the right direction.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Sourabh Arora: Know yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses & your passion before doing anything else!
Does your company help the community or society?
By helping businesses grow, we directly & indirectly help create employment at different levels, be that hiring people with technology skills or labour at the factory. This surely helps our community progress.
We hope you find the inspiring story of Sourabh Arora – Founder & CEO of Sample Hall useful and inspiring through your entrepreneurial journey and will keep you inspired.
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