India’s FMCG industry is going through a significant change over last few years as more and more start-ups are entering this segment with new products across different categories such as snacks, beverages, cosmetics etc. This is kind of similar to the boom that FMCG industry saw in India in the early nineties when television connection in the country surged 10 times and all big players used TV as a marketing medium to reach out to end customer resulting in huge success for the industry. This time digital media is playing the similar role thanks to 600 mn+ internet subscriber base in the country. Most of the new entrants in this industry is relying on digital ads to successfully reach out to customers and this is evident from the fact that advertising revenue in Digital Media spent in India is growing rapidly at a CAGR of 35%.

 This new start-up trend of FMCG industry is only going to grow bigger as per the statistics available on funding in this segment. Year on year growth in investment amount for FMCG start-ups in India was more than 100% in 2018. More importantly investments are coming from prominent investors such as Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners, DSG Consumer Partners etc.

However, as is the case for any other industry, in this case also it is a fact that only a few of these start-ups survive for a long-term battle. One important reason for failure is not being able to maintain same level of operational efficiency during the growth stage. And measurability through automation is probably the best way (if not only) to achieve desired level of operational efficiency. Typically, in the early stage of a company, the focus remains on product development, new launch, branding, promotions, opening up distribution channels, penetrating in new geographies etc. While these are all absolutely critical for the start-ups to survive, a rather holistic approach should be contemplating how to automate each of these focus areas from day one. Once that tough job is done, the benefit of automation can be ripped for many years leading to a strong foundation.

Sales Force Automation is one such tool for FMCG industry which should get the desired focus in the early days of a start-up. Importance of SFA solution in the long run doesn’t need much discussion or debate as we all know the giants in this industry has benefited from such tools. What we need to understand is why it is important to adopt such a tool at the early stage instead of waiting till the company captures significant market share. Basis our experience of implementing SFA solution to a number of FMCG start-ups and seeing them to grow leaps and bounds, we have analyzed why it makes absolute sense to embrace an SFA solution early and here is some of the most important reasons:

  1. Easy to handle adoption issues: Success of SFA implementation largely depends on the adoption by the field employees and that’s usually a challenge for any company with a large team size. It could be because of different reasons such as ineffective & quick training sessions, lag in resolving user queries, not paying enough attention to user feedback etc. No matter what the reasons are, when the team size is small, adoption can be achieved much faster and in a non-coercive way.
  2. Making it part of onboarding checklist: Once you implement an SFA solution early, you should also make it part of the on-boarding checklist for any field employee. Any new employee will know it from day one that his payroll will be processed through attendance marked in SFA and his KPIs will be measured through visit or other data entered in the SFA app. That will provide you a huge relief from implementing a change management (and associated resistances) at a later stage when the team is already of decent size.
  3. Providing measurability on your focus areas: As we pointed out earlier in this article, during the growth stage, an FMCG start-up has many areas to focus on. An SFA solution can actually bring visibility and measurability in some of those focus areas for the stakeholders to make quick and correct strategic decisions. For example, information related to new retailer / distributor on-boarding, geographic penetration, performance of newly launched products, fulfillment timeline etc. will be available at the fingertip of the management if an advanced SFA solution is rolled out in the initial days.
  4. Adopting industry best practices through automation: When you are implementing an SFA solution, more often than not you are opting for a SaaS solution which is already used by several other players of the same industry. While you may be a new entrant, the solution you have selected and the clients who are already using the solution are most likely to be veteran players. Hence, by adopting an SFA solution in the early stage, you can ensure that you will be adopting processes which are considered to be best practices in the sales & distribution function of your industry.