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September - 2014 - Special issue > Company of the Year: Business & Social Networks

TrepUp: Serving the Underserved SMESegment

Susila Govindaraj
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Susila Govindaraj
Growth, scale, venture funding and partnerships? If you're a small and medium-sized business (SME), you can't possibly be thinking about these things, because they seem to be the prerogative of disruptive start-ups and audacious young entrepreneurs. But soon this might change. Launched in beta in May 2014, TrepUp wants to ensure a more level playing field for SMEs across the world. Founder John Verbic is a U.S. expat who moved to Mumbai, India after 15-years on Wall Street. In India, where SMEs are the backbone of the economic structure, he started TrepUp when he saw that SMEs get shortchanged on resources. Why does this happen, especially since SMEs worldwide account for over 90 percent of businesses and 50 percent of employment? Ask John and he says, "It's purely about access. While big business has the tools and the money, the smaller companies function within market conventions. They need to have access to each other and to the resources that can help them scale. TrepUp is building a solution to this problem". By revolutionizing business interactions, TrepUp aims to bridge the massive resource gap between large enterprises and high-impact SMEs. The free-to-use site combines networking software, with business intelligence capabilities to tap into market wisdom, business opportunities, and potential customers.

TrepUp’s striking unusualness is that it is a business networking platform out of India with a current reach of more than 50 countries. Could this impact TrepUp's brand perception? Only if it does not meet international best practices in design, service, and data security. It's more likely that by taking this unusual path from India to the world, TrepUp is going to mark its place in business history. India, for generations, has been a hotbed of SMEs that are poised to become global game-changers, given India's growing significance in world economics. By serving India's SME diversity, TrepUp may be playing a role in building an indomitable business force that promotes glocalization and thus environmental sustainability and social equality.

Unlike other business networking platforms, TrepUp's focus is not on building connections. The team at TrepUp believes that connections are limiting; in business networking what's needed most is openness and access. That may be true if viewed from a real-world perspective. "OnTrepUp, you can find business contacts across the world, whenever you look for them. Just present yourself well: make your business page credible and give extensive coverage on your products, services, and business accomplishments. Then simply reach out and grow," says John.Sure, TrepUp's visual interface is neat and good-looking enough to generate interest, and we agree that ultimately even the greatest products need more than a product description to sell: striking visuals and ample room to show your products are part of the packaging. But TrepUp's plans are not restricted to visibility and interest. They want to help bring in the numbers that count. "We want to convert likes into buys. If you're an SME you can't possibly care about garnering 5000 likes but not one buyer. Besides building a good product, a business needs smart and targeted marketing to ensure a profit. SMEs simply lack ways to market their products," says John, "Even if your business doesn’t directly sell to customers, it needs a buy-in from stakeholders. How do you get to this point?"

Networking and marketing according to TrepUp don't have to be big budget initiatives; they can be managed effectively with smart data integration, and the right communication tools. TrepUp's network is being underlaid with business intelligence capabilities, which will allow businesses to use TrepUp for their direct and database marketing initiatives. Filter-enabled timelines and searchable contact directories are just the beginning, and they seem to be working well not just for TrepUp that already has 339,000 registered businesses and counting, but for some SMEs as well. Wizikey, a Gurgaon, NCR, India-based, do-it-yourself public relations provider got the visibility that led to more business. By actively posting on TrepUp, they managed to get an inquiry from a potential customer in the U.S. without spending a rupee on advertising and social media. SweetLilly Maternity, Australia; Prisma Production, Indonesia; and Miracle World, U.S., are some of the other businesses that are working their way into TrepUp's business ecosystem.

What should we expect in the future from this fast-growing startup? All that TrepUp is willing to say right now is that the future is about mobility, not just through a mobile app, but with feature interventions that take the site to people's inboxes and mobilize SMEs worldwide to get out of their silo, so that they can equalize the playing field, and drive opportunities that in-turn drive progress. Angel funded, with $1 million in its coffers, and a team of 14 people, TrepUp is geared to help SMEs to reinvent markets and experiences. We at our end wish them luck.


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