There has been a recurring fear ever since I started Buildkar
(yes, us entrepreneurs also feel fear)
The fear of playing the game with the big boys.
Of being crushed for no fault of ours.
Of not being able to scale up.
It’s the fear that the Indian cement industry cartel will make it difficult for me to support our customers — the small & medium builders, contractors and individual home builders.
We had weaknesses. Could we play to our strengths?
The Cement Industry in India acts as a cartel, they unilaterally increase prices or reduce production and restrict supply (they close their warehouses as a group and call it stock holiday).
What did I fear?
Each time such a stock holiday takes place, an online marketplace such as Buildkar would be at the receiving end of customer backlash. Our hard-won customers would be unhappy with us as we could not supply them with cement during these stock holidays.
The customers were earlier unhappy with small retail stores as well, but being a fragmented industry, there was no single “large target” for the customers to be unhappy at. Being an large online player Buildkar’s customers expected (and rightly so) a better standard of service. And we were failing them during each stock holiday.
For us a customer is not just a cement customer or a steel customer or a bricks customer. Because we sell everything, our ability to not deliver cement on time affected our customer relationship in other categories as well.
For example, if Amazon delays delivery of a pair of shoes, you are going to be unhappy with all of Amazon, and not just with Amazon’s footwear department. Same-Same.
How did we overcome this?
We noticed that on days when cement companies implemented a stock holiday, all customers (not just ours) were out looking for some way to get cement. Hits to our websites and “contact us” form requests went up 4x!
While we cannot still deliver cement on these stock holidays, we were now interacting with customers who didn’t know what the hell was going on and why they couldn’t buy cement!
Our way: Customer Education
We use this as an opportunity to educate the customers aboutstock holidays and how to overcome this in future.
- Stock holidays almost always happen at the end of a month. Keep extra bags of cement between the 28th of the month and the 5th of the next month.
- Finish molding/cementing work during the middle of the month
- Share your building schedule with us so we can help you plan consumption and preempt supply gaps.
What did we get in return?
The customers who understood the value of our education and guidance switched loyalties over to us and become great new customers. Once they recognized us as the company educating them, their trust in our brand went up manifold!
You may think this is a small thing and anyone could have thought of it. Haha! So go do it!
Indian consumers are so abused by larger brands that if you can put in extra effort to support them in their time of need, they will genuinely thank you for it.
And, it’s the best way to build your brand!