Rahul Zaveri is passionate about three things: sales, tech, and people, and his success is a tapestry of the three. Though Rahul belongs to a family that owns an ad agency, he jumped into the tech business right after completing his college graduation, in 1992.
Entering tech before the era of big tech
1992 was a pivotal year for the Indian computing industry. Just a few months prior, owning a computer was not just expensive, but difficult: citizens had to wait for years to get government approval for it. Then low-cost computers emerged on the horizon, just in time for the Indian 1991 moment of liberalisation. The economy was unshackled, the legacy of high duties ended, and the sector was free to expand. For Rahul – who had just finished his bachelor’s in electronics engineering – it was clear that computers were soon going to be an unstoppable force. That pushed him into the world of tech.
There was also a clear vacuum for a player who could bring together sufficient volume and streamlined distribution support, and Apex Enterprises emerged as the first movers. “We are master distributors for a lot of hardware companies. We buy from the company and bring bulk into the system integration channel, after which the tech products are sold to customers,” he says, explaining their business model.
The business has done well. “We must have billed to almost about 7,000 customers in just the last 29 years, and we regularly connect with around 700 to 800 partners,” he says. When the pandemic pushed all of India to work from home, they couldn’t keep up with their clientele’s sudden demand for laptops and peripherals.
Keeping the supply chain running
Along with distribution workers, the Apex team comprises sales staff, distribution workers, product managers, the accounts and finance team, among others, many of whom are constantly on the move across warehouses, offices, and client meetings. All are pressed to ensure that the inventory keeps moving and that the cash flow stays lively. And the real-time bridge connecting them is a lightweight app that they keep checking throughout the workday -– Biz Analyst.
Though they had been using it for almost three-and-a-half years, the app proved its mettle during the pandemic. “We didn’t send laptops or desktops to our employees to enable them to work from home. Everything we needed to know was on Biz Analyst, and the business was happening fine. The app told us the outstanding and delayed payments, the inventory stock levels, and more.”
The app’s ability to pull up data about the latest inventory numbers makes it great for planning supply and sales decisions on the go, he says. “Based on this information, we can decide what to dispatch and what to bill to vendors. We sometimes use warehouses across multiple locations, and the app also lets us know what is available where. Sometimes, our teams ask us to dispatch inventory from a specific warehouse, and now we instantly know how to respond.”
This takes us to a challenge that the app is helping solve – pricing. “There is a lot of volatility in the market, because pricing, which operates on demand and supply, is not fixed. Before the app, Apex Enterprises relied on their business analysts to understand their last selling price, the price movement in the last 10 sales, the movement trends, and more. Now, the app gives them all that. It also tells them the inventory that is lying stagnant, helping them quickly pivot to new sales priorities. “For us, an item which does not move will eventually impact the rotation of money. So I ask my teams to check why something is not moving,” he says.
The app also frees up bandwidth, he explains, by reducing his dependence on the back office for the latest numbers on a particular account. It’s all right there, at the touch of a button.
Turning reports into rapport and impact
Another feature that speaks to Rahul’s people skills is an instant report of his top customers. “Once I get this list, I give it to our logistics person, and tell him to dispatch sweets to them for Diwali or anniversaries.” Along with rapport building, the app also gives him the clearest indication of up-selling potential within the company’s database, rather than a scattershot pitch to new customers.
“I inform my sales teams that a good customer isn’t touching certain products. Look into why he’s not buying it,”. The result, he says, has been fabulous. “Of 100 customers who aren’t buying a product of ours, at least 10 are converted. And that is a new source of business revenue.”
More than finance
Effective billing, which is the backbone of strong sales, has also become tremendously faster. “I am no longer dependent on my accounts team for financial receivables and can directly push the outstanding to our business unit owner via WhatsApp. This immediately triggers a red flag and pushes people to clear it,” says Rahul. The app has also shaved days off the more tedious aspects of collecting payments. “When our people would demand payments from customers, they’d raise excuses like pending invoices or ledgers, or missing bills. Now, we can immediately push this information to the customers, without ever opening up our laptop.”
The near-real-time speed at which they can summon up the necessary paperwork once surprised a customer, who once cited to them an email server glitch that had delayed invoices. Rahul sent the invoice via WhatsApp and email within minutes – a process that usually takes a day, if nor more. An hour later, the customer called him sounding incredulous. “Sir, how did you send it so fast?”, Rahul recalls.
Though they had onboarded onto the app for finance paperwork, it is now a cornerstone of how they work. Instead of relying on the old-fashioned Daily Sales Report, the app does it all: it lets Rahul know where his sales staff is, their check-ins and check-outs from client offices, and the sales being done. Parsing this information, Rahul knows, on a daily basis, the monetary impact of the sales teams’ hours. Wherever Rahul is, the app is there to inform his next moves. “Even if I don’t come into work, I’m not worried because I know what’s happening just by just opening the app.”
According to a business peer to whom he recommended the app, “It is now my lifeline.”