Seven startups from diverse entrepreneurial origins based in the sleepy town of Kozhikode in North Kerala have come together to form a single company called ‘Collatree’. They were able to turn the curse of Covid-19 into a blessing, which Manu Ganga, co-founder and chief growth advisor, says has introduced the Terracio model in Kerala.
Under a trasio model, named after an American unicorn, a startup collaborates with or acquires peers in a particular vertical and shares knowledge and resources to best execute them. “At Collatree, we leverage each other’s knowledge base and experience and work under one umbrella to deliver the best value proposition to clients,” said Ganga. Business line
Standing against Covid-19
Entrepreneurs brought together in this way, drawing on a collective experience of over 30 years from and presence in over 10 countries, are Kavitha (IPIX, Software and Web Development). Faeez (Glaube Technologies, logistics); Akshay and Manu (Rushsh Associates, Digital Marketing); Vivek and Basith (Zinfog, software and web development); Rifath (copy, brand marketing); Suraj (Armino Technologies, IoT and software development); and Nias and Shias (Odox, Odoo services).
The idea came at a time when businesses were hit hard by Covid-19 and sentiment was low. Although they were part of different groups of entrepreneurs in Calicut, they came together and decided to explore alternative ways of expanding the business, says Ganga. The startups are all in Kozhikode, which some employees also call home.
Ganga lists its benefits in an interview. One, the need for less capital when expanding into newer markets, and two, more experience and a bundle of technology and services under one brand, which larger brands seem to enjoy – which would not have been possible for individual Collatree companies.
What brought you together – the need to optimize cash flow or dramatic synergy?
It was a combination of both, but above all, the uncertainty during Covid-19. At first, it was just to figure out how to individually withstand the pandemic. Later, a group was formed to discuss how we can best leverage each other’s strengths to expand and expand overseas.
We now have a joint sales and marketing team in several countries. This was the greatest achievement of the union. As service-based companies, we never had to deal with inventory. We were able to optimize the sales and marketing teams and free up money for other things.
Did the partnership require you to put resources invested in personal assets into the business as stocks?
It was not a requirement, but we imported personal assets in India and other countries to accelerate our growth. We have several angels who are interested in investing to support our expansion in other countries. We evaluate each one and then decide to move it forward.
What are the destructive ideas that converged on you? Did they start a new line of business?
We have always tried to be a one-stop solution for the client – from financial compliance and other matters to software development and technology consulting to digital marketing. We were fortunate to have clients who chose to go with us for all of these needs. We are also expanding into blockchain development and data warehousing. This is only possible thanks to our exposure to self-expansion.
Can you explain how you innovated the services/products after coming together?
We have several products such as CRM and a procurement platform in our offerings. When we got together, we got used to getting better and giving each other suggestions to get better. Each director’s experience and exposure is different and we get valuable advice from each other.
Did you also focus on digital growth as that was the only platform that thrived 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). Even now, we focus on digital first approach. With the current growth outlook, we are reluctant to seek partnerships outside of this ecosystem to pursue growth or enter new business.
Do you think SMEs in Kerala can come out of Thrasio’s books?
There are great software and digital companies from Kerala, some of which are doing exceptionally well and have expanded into larger markets. Unfortunately, there are many smaller companies without the knowledge or capital to do this. We are working as a group to resolve this issue. Collatree is ready to add new partners with unique offers and services from Kerala to the global stage.
We have only received funding for development needs. Discussions are ongoing to enter more geographies. But we need to study the market to understand if it is worth it or not and also the investor/investing institution to understand if they have the same goals as us.