Startup Interview with Harsh Kohli, Founder of Peri CRM

SoftwareSuggest

SoftwareSuggest

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: January 21, 2021

The Indian FMCG industry is going through a lot of positive changes and is looking at technology start-ups to support their growth journey. The first wave of SFAs had introduced concepts of digitizing sales and distribution business processes. But, does the transition of manual entry from paper to excel sheet or cumbersome applications really define the extent of what technology are capable of? Challenging how the market looks at sales force automation is the new kid on the block- Peri CRM. In their words, Peri wants to fundamentally change how sales force automation is adopted in the industry. Let’s hear it from the founder himself about what makes Peri so unique.

In conversation with Harsh Kohli, the founder of Peri CRM

What motivated you to develop Peri CRM?

I have been consulting small and mid-sized Indian companies for almost 10 years now. From my first assignment with Ortel Communications to increase their broadband penetration in Chhattisgarh, to Thyrocare technologies to setup model sample collection centres in metros with special focus on preventive testing, to Suture India private limited for development of an in-house CRM with surgeons as the key stakeholder, to Matrix cellular for development of an in-house CRM to augment corporate sales, to finally Cremica biscuits to work towards adoption of an existing SFA (Bizom). 

Those rich experiences offered a unique opportunity to observe technology from a human resource and business standpoint where I could spot mistakes that technology market leaders were making and how the real benefits of automation were not translating into business gains.  

My biggest motivation to develop Peri CRM is Sales enablement, i.e., to support Indian organizations, business leaders, function managers, and, most importantly, the front liners to sell better in the wave of digital transformation (2020-2025).

With numerous Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms available on the market, what makes Peri CRM different?

One has to look at competition with the right perspective. Firstly, there are generic CRM like Zoho, Freshsales, Salesforce, and then there are industry-specific CRM like Bizom and FieldAssist. Peri falls in the latter, a specialized CRM for the Indian FMCG industry with a strong focus on the Sales function. Secondly, in a SAAS model, the cost of replacing a CRM is not expensive. Thirdly, and most importantly, the Indian CRM landscape is changing and is expected to transform in the next 5 years completely. During this departure, a lot of players will go extinct as markets and customer needs evolve. 

Peri is different because we are not only a technology company with a great product; we are an FMCG consulting, advisory, and training company with in-depth subject matter experience. We are agile with our development process, incorporating the unique needs of Indian businesses. We are positioning ourselves for the long haul.

What is your vision for Peri CRM?

To makes every FMCG salesperson a better selling agent using technology and to create an ecosystem where an FMCG brand can go-live, pan-India in a matter of minutes.

What unseen opportunities did you see that may result in making your start-up a huge success?

The most significant opportunity that we see currently is to bring back the “Service” element in the “Software as a service” market. These services include brainstorming solutions, advisory, consulting, data cleanup, data analysis, training, on-ground support, and upskilling are required to be a part of the SAAS model from a holistic standpoint.  I have seen companies and their sales managers struggling with basic adoption, whereas the SAAS vendor was pushing for jazzy features like AI and Machine learning. 

Our first customer Cremica was struggling with India’s biggest SFA player in terms of data management (cumbersome administrative tasks), quality of interactions (fancy account managers instead of FMCG experts), and response time (typically a few weeks). Our second customer, a startup named Super DK, was approached by multiple vendors but no one who would sit with them and create a roadmap of sales automation and real business benefits. 

We quantify our success by the number of value-added FMCG relationships we will develop, not just by the monthly users. 

How do you drive innovation in your product?

Disruptive innovation is in our DNA. Picture this, the first month of our existence, we threw out the old school way of beat management and gave our customers a unique, self-managing way of mapping a territory. In the second month, we offered complex stock management on mobile to small and mid-sized Indian companies who cannot afford a DMS. In the third month, we gave a proprietary joint working mechanism to middle and senior managers. 

We are creating an organization of listeners (not calling agents) and solution givers (not programmers) who would work hand-in-hand with clients and innovate every day (if required) to offer technology that works for the business (not the other way round). 

What obstacles are you working through?

We believe in treating obstacles as opportunities. Right now, we are working towards the opportunity of meeting as many FMCG stakeholders as possible to understand their barriers to technology adoption and their expectation of real business benefits from a CRM. Our message to the CXO’s out there is this, ”throw us a problem.”

How do you measure success? What are your metrics for it?

Peri defines its success in three phases, i.e., implementation, adoption, and benefits. Implementation is considered successful if the company’s master data is rightfully migrated from spreadsheets and legacy systems onto Peri. Adoption typically takes between one to three months, depending on the maturity of the organization. The success metrics here are 100% attendance, validation of more than 50% of the retail universe, and average TC, PC per territory of 30 and 10, respectively. Benefits are unique for each organization based on their goals. We help them achieve their objectives for the quarter or the year so that the metrics may vary.

How do you motivate and elevate your workforce to be at their very best?

I believe a startup’s success or failure depends 100% on the cultural fit, motivation, commitment of its team. I endeavor to give each employee certain ownership in the company through multiple avenues like ownership of functionality, or a customer, or company’s shareholding. 

Where do you see Peri CRM in the next 5 years?

By 2025, Peri will be a nation-wide consulting and training organization with a state-of-the-art product, a great set of people, and amazing consumer feedback.

If you weren’t building Peri CRM, what would you be doing differently?

  1. Problem-solving using technology
  2. Starting a technology accelerator 
  3. Being an angel investor or a seed capitalist
  4. Traveling and capturing sunsets
  5. Interacting with nature
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