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'Our Mission Is To Help Create 4 -5 Million High-value Direct Jobs'

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Avinash Kaushik, Program Director, Wadhwani Advantage program – FMCG, talks about Wadhwani Advantage program and criteria for getting select in the program.

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An early age startup requires some accelerator program, which makes them visible in the market. They all need is -  guidance and support to scale up business and brand visibility.

To fulfill the basic requirement of early age FMCG startups, Wadhvani foundation has taken a step forward to make them grow in the industry through its Advantage program.

WF Advantage – FMCG is a growth-focused accelerator program for emerging FMCG companies in India to drive brand visibility and retail sales across channels. The program is structured to scale revenue possibilities for companies by ACCELERATING CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENTS and driving operational efficiencies. All the Wadhwani portfolio companies gain access to FMCG brands, channel partners and retail chains in addition to marketing and advertising support. The WF Advantage – FMCG brings deep industry linkages for scaling both supply and demand for consumer packaged goods.

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Avinash Kaushik, Program Director, Wadhwani Advantage program – FMCG, talks about  Wadhwani Advantage program and criteria for getting select in the program.

What is the Wadhwani Advantage – FMCG Program and its objective?
Wadhwani Advantage’s FMCG vertical is a growth focused, no fee, zero equity business scalerator for small and medium FMCG Companies ranging from traditional Consumer Packaged Goods to Digitally Native Direct to Consumer Brands. This is a one of its kind flagship initiative focused on growth stage companies and facilitating job creation through scaling the operations. The objective of the program is to help small businesses with revenue in the range $1M to $40M and to scale them 2x to 10x, in alignment with the Wadhwani goal of creating high value jobs. 

The program has a stringent 1-3 months’ selection process with the engagement period ranging from 2-6 months of intense engagement and up to 2 years of hand-holding support enabled through our extensive video-centric knowledge repository for SME’s, and curated mentor/expert/peer networks (Wadhwani Advantage Network) accessible through a frictionless, AI enabled technology platform, GENIE.

The Wadhwani Advantage program is on an expansion mode and currently runs in Bangalore and Pune with simultaneous launches in Santiago (Chile), Mexico City and Sao Palo (Brazil).

The Wadhwani Advantage program is India’s first dedicated and structured FMCG-led scalerator program. What is the reason behind the focus on FMCG segment entrepreneurs?

The FMCG market in India is doubling and is likely to touch USD 100 billion by 2020. This opens up huge opportunities to scale. The Consumer Packaged Goods business cuts across the value chain in the economy, from Farm to Fork and fits very well with our overarching mission to create high value jobs at scale.

The emerging economies are now in a transitional phase where the large MNC Brands are looking at innovative products and bringing uniqueness to brands that are slated to sell in niche segments across geographies. On the other hand, the barrier to entry in the CPG space have become easily surmountable allowing younger brands to capture niche markets through Direct to Consumer Model and online platforms with lesser dependency on Offline Retail distribution in the Modern Trade and General Trade. 

Digitally Native Brands need to start by unlearning and unfollowing traditional CPG practices of FMCG conglomerates. There is clearly no point in following the practices of the bigwigs which traditionally have focused on building and guarding the distribution network. The Retail 4.0 is fairly democratic and gives a large window of opportunity to the younger Brands in niche segments across Personal Care, Health, Wellness, Food and Beverage space. Also, there is a lease of life to SMEs in the CPG Space in terms of innovating their channel strategies and branding approach to leverage a headstart in the market.

How SMEs are getting benefited with such programs?

A big problem SMEs in India face is the lack of access to proper guidance and counselling apart from access to markets and funds. WF Advantage program does deepdiagnostic of the business and benchmarking against peers and offers a personalized transformation plan facilitated by 1:1 mentoring. The program support provides access to markets, funding, and curated consultants and mentors to the SMEs. It connects them with experts in HR, sales, digital marketing, product development etc. apart from the peer learning from a global network of growth-oriented entrepreneurs.One of the most important aspects of business in today's world is the technology support. The Wadhwani Advantage program introduces candidates to the latest technology systems to provide business solutions in different fields like retail management and marketing. It also talks about best management practices and helps entrepreneurs learn things like HR policies and building a great team. The program introduces them to world class tools which helps them in different aspects of running an FMCG company.

Please throw some light on the scaling-led challenges that small businesses are facing in FMCG space. 

The challenges being faces by small companies in the FMCG segment are no different from the SME ecosystem as a whole. The challenges can be classified into 3-parts:

  1. Access to Experts/Mentors: Entrepreneurship is tough and unpredictable, and the failure rate is high. Ready access to relevant mentors and experts is a priceless resource who can add enormous value to an enterprise by shortening the learning curve and speeding up growth. However, in India, you can probably access funding more easily than finding the right mentors! A great way to find the right experts/mentors is through building curated networks and making the connections frictionless by leveraging technology.
  2. Access to Capital: Outside of the deep-tech startup ecosystem where access to equity financing seems to be abandoned, access to capital for traditional firms is still a big problem in India. High-interest rates for debt financing, need for collateral, limited access to financial Institutes is a major show-stopper for many small businesses with great potential to grow.
  3. Access to Talent: Talent acquisition and retention is one of the biggest challenges faced by Indian business, and limited availability of necessary skills impedes growth. There is a significant gap between what academia produces and what Industry wants. 84% of engineering graduates were deemed unemployable. India is now making efforts reverse this trend towards an industry-ready, job-ready workforce but we will need to expedite this.


What is the criteria for getting selected to the Wadhwani Advantage program?

The three main criteria for selection to the Wadhwani Advantage program are:

1.Growth Potential of the Sector and Business: Companies with potential to grow 2x-10x (Revenue: Rs 5 cr to Rs 50 cr)

2.Vision Alignment with the Entrepreneur: Entrepreneur hunger to grow the business multi-fold and openness to be supported.

3.Job Growth Potential: Business growth is coupled with employment growth to address the job crisis in the country

What is the engagement period with companies on board the Wadhwani Advantage program?

The Wadhwani Advantage program provides deep to long-term engagement upto 2-years through Wadhwani experts and curated networks of mentors, consultants, service providers, investors and customers.

How many companies have come on board so far? Can you name few of the FMCG Companies that benefited from the Advantage program and scaled?

50+ companies have come on-board and graduated so far.

Pagariya Food Products Pvt Ltd, the makers of the Kwality branded Masala & other products was facing challenges in the marketing and distribution domains. Their main challenge was reaching the maximum number of retailers and penetrating deep in markets with resource & budget constraints that any SME faces. The arduous task was balancing budgets with multiple requirements.  The Wadhwani Advantage program helped Pagariya in opening up many segments like online marketing, analytics, data collection & usage to improve the focus areas and taking business to the next level. 

Robin Jha, Founder & CEO, Tpot talks about the benefits of the Wadhwani Advantage program - access to mentors, interaction with fellow entrepreneurs and the connects that companies need to scale up. He also shares his experiences & learnings from the program which played a key role in addressing his challenges. Robin further describes the importance of continuous learning and the right connections for an entrepreneur and the way how Wadhwani Advantage program to fellow entrepreneurs for establishing better connections and mentoring. 

Varun Gupta, Founder, Pro Nature Organic foods talks about how the Wadhwani Advantage program is helping him to connect the dots and grow to the next level. He details how the Wadhwani Advantage program is helping him to connect with experts, mentors, and various functions in which they need support by opening doors to the new opportunities.

What are your future plans including global presence.

We operate in 20 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America with our college entrepreneurship and skilling programs. Hence, our goal is to replicate the Wadhwani Advantage program across these countries with pilots in Chile and Mexico underway along with India. The Foundation foresees Wadhwani Advantage as playing a major role towards fulfilling its mission of high-value job creation, globally.

Our mission is to help create 4 -5 million high-value direct jobs and 5x that number in indirect jobs, globally, in the next ten years. To achieve this objective, we expect to support 25,000-30,000 companies globally (half in India) over the ten-year period. We hope to achieve these numbers through both direct Wadhwani Programs and Partner (franchisee) supported programs.


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