How this event management company survived COVID-19 and built a logistics platform for MSMEs

Sonal Jindal always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but her desire to become one did not materialize until her mid-thirties.

“After getting married and having two kids at 32, I thought it was a good time to start a business,” she says.

After pursuing an MBA in marketing, Sonal started looking for opportunities to start a business. Her penchant for fashion pushes her to launch her own brand. But things didn’t work out and she had to close the business.

Around the same time, another opportunity presented itself.

“I was a frequent visitor to fashion exhibitions and I started to like the idea of ​​organizing exhibitions. I realized that this industry needed a boost and I could do it with the right ‌marketing mix,” says Sonal.

After doing market research and analysis, she launched Astonished in 2014. The Delhi-based company organizes exhibitions and events for the fashion industry.

Decode Jellyfish

Sonal started Medusa after realizing that many talented people, including small business owners and fashion design students, needed a platform to showcase their products and creativity without burning their pockets.

“Very few have been able to reach the scale of success of designers like Ritu Beri, Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Malhotra,” she says. While many people have the potential to reach the ladder, they need support in their early days, Sonal says.

She adds that if you talk about prominent and famous designers, they pay around Rs 15-20 lakh per month to rent a place in a luxury mall or buy a place for themselves. They have an inventory worth Rs 2-3 crore.

“Students and small businesses don’t have that kind of capital,” she points out. She further adds that the Indian fashion industry lacks a council or a community of stakeholders who can take action for members of this industry. “Everyone is busy eating each other’s market share rather than thinking about the whole industry.”

Sonal says she wanted to introduce an affordable platform and help designers showcase their work. Medusa charges between Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh per booth of individuals wishing to present their work.

“We promote the designers and their work on social media, which helps them with their publicity. During the exhibitions, they are recognized, their products are recognized and sold. They can also interact with other designers, which helps them gain visibility and improve their products,” adds Sonal.

Sonal held its first exhibition on April 24, 2014. “We expected an attendance of 400 people, but we ended up having 1,500,” she says.

Since then, she has organized more than 20 such exhibitions in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata in India, and overseas destinations like New York, London, and others.

India is home to many companies that organize exhibitions including Franchise India, One Events, Sunshine Exhibitions, etc.

Diversification into other branches

Around 2019, as Sonal grew her business, she realized that small business owners or MSMEs were struggling to connect with international buyers. According to Sonal, being traditional and conservative was one of the reasons why it was difficult for Indian SMEs to connect with international buyers.

This gave him the idea to start another business called Jellyfish Exim connect local small business owners with international buyers. Medusa Exim connects MSMEs on platforms such as IndiaMart and TradeIndia with international companies looking for fabrics, raw materials, etc. She also directly connects some of them via the company’s business development teams.

Sonal says they charge a commission between 5 and 20% to connect the two parties. However, she declined to disclose earnings figures. The company is registered with the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.

As Medusa Exim sought its place in the market, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing the company to a screeching halt.

However, the pandemic gave Sonal the idea to look beyond the fashion industry and it linked up with MSMEs in the pharmaceutical, agri-food and weaving loom segments.

Today, she is building Medusa Exim to be an end-to-end supply chain solution. Over the past two years, approximately 1,000 MSMEs have joined the Medusa Exim network.

For the next 12 to 18 months, she says they are focusing on educating MSMEs to digitalise themselves. “They need to go digital and integrate artificial intelligence systems into their factory for raw material sourcing, production, etc.”

Commenting on the relevance of online models in the future, Sonal says, “Both online and offline are relevant in the new normal. Online because they offer ease and convenience and offline because people want to go out and indulge in retail therapy.

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