Friday, April 06, 2012

Corporate stint helps start-up, says Peelworks CEO Sachin Chhabra (XLRI 96)

From The Economic Times

From a corporate executive to an entrepreneur, the journey of Sachin Chhabra, CEO and founder of Mumbai-based Peelworks, has not been an easy one, he tells ET. After 14 years at Hindustan Unilever in a variety of roles in HR and sales, he decided to set out on his own to manage the indirect sales force of companies across various sectors.


It was difficult, given that till some time back I had the organisation to back me up for everything. HUL offered me all the expertise, support, wisdom and alignment to carry out any task. But again, I believe you can be a better entrepreneur if you've had a stint at corporate India, especially in the kind of business I am in. It is there that I realised that a majority of the consumer goods industry's revenue comes from its indirect sales force, and ironically it doesn't get the attention it deserves. I decided to fix this problem.


Having put all my thoughts in place, I started operating out of home for the first few days, then moved to my wife's office, which had a spare room. I spent a lot of time hunting for a viable office space in and around Mumbai and visited at least 30 locations to try to strike a deal. Now, we have an office in Navi Mumbai.


My decision to become an entrepreneur was not impulsive. It was there in my mind for long. I completed my graduation in Economics from St. Stephen's College and joined Xavier's Labour Relations Institute (XLRI). I joined HUL as a management trainee in 1996. It was in the early 2000s that I started scouting for an idea, the right one, which would sail me through a competitive market.

It was difficult for me to take the final plunge given that I had a steady job going for me but I didn't want to finish my working life without trying my hands at entrepreneurship. I decided to quit in 2010 and put into practice all that I learnt as an HR professional in HUL in my own venture. Getting the right talent for my venture was a problem initially but good talent gets excited by vision. Currently, we have about 40 employees, both on and off payrolls.


We cater to companies that conduct their businesses using indirect sales force. We compute performance-based ratings and offer recommendations on promotions, skill and competency for outsourced staff on an online platform so that the staff that helps generate revenue is not neglected. Having been in HR for long, I realised the opportunity in this space specially in a country like ours where trade is fragmented.

Within 9 months of launching, we got around $1 million in angel funding from the Indian Angel Network in December last year. Going forward, we have big plans and want to add clients given that there is tremendous opportunity in the sector.

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