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How sales referral startup Spini plans to tap the MSME segment

The Spini team with co-founder &CEO G Shankar (fifth from left)

The Spini team with co-founder & CEO  Shankar G (fifth from left)

You have got information that is valuable to somebody. But you don’t know who would buy that information. Enter Spini, a referral platform that helps sales professionals get leads through people who have access to relevant information and to monetise those leads.

“Anybody can log into Spini and post information of someone they know – friends, relatives, or colleagues – who is going to make a purchase,” says Shankar G, founder and CEO of Spini.

Spinircle Pte Ltd, which runs Spini, claims to have generated 5,000 verified sales leads per month since setting up its operations. It says the real estate space has witnessed the maximum sales leads at 65 per cent. The other categories — interiors and insurance, generate five per cent and eight per cent leads, respectively, but the closure rates in these verticals – that is, a lead turning into an actual sale – is above 90 per cent, according to Shankar.

Leads in other categories such as jobs, purchase of electronics, automobiles, travel options, catering and tutorials for academic examinations such as the GRE are also seeing a pickup, he claims.

How it works

Leads posted on the platform are verified by a Spini team and the price is determined by the person posting the information. “In the last six months, we have arrived at a figure: If you’re trying to sell contact information beyond Rs 500, it doesn’t sell,” explains Shankar. “In only one or two cases have we seen leads sold for Rs 1,000.”

Spini earns a commission from each referral picked up by a sales person.

Customers, challenges

Spini sees immense potential in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector in India as companies in this segment have few resources to deploy a sales force. However, most people working in the MSME sector use basic phones rather than smartphones, which prevents download of the Spini app, says Shankar. “If you look at the MSME sector, in India, there are roughly 46 million enterprises and most of them have hardly any digital presence,” Shankar said. That means Spini will have to deploy its marketing resources outside the digital sphere, “Our next round of funding is more focused towards scaling up in the MSME sector. We are also figuring other digital channels that can reach these people,” said Shankar.

The firm has also tied up with some organisations to whom it sells leads in bulk. “We have tied up with four large companies – two from real estate, one from finance and one from the telecom sector. We have also tied up with 20-25 small firms,” says Shankar.

Spini has a separate team of account managers who help these organisations identify the leads they can buy. The company also conducts marketing campaigns for them.

Spini claims that 100,000 users have accessed the app/site across Android, iOS and the web together, and among these, registered users are 80,000. The firm’s active user base is 20-25 per cent of the total number of the registered users.

Other firms providing marketing and sales services offer sales leads generation as part of a broader suite of services to businesses.

LeadSquared’s SaaS-based model enables clients to capture leads across the Internet. Users can then track, manage, engage and follow up on leads till a transaction is closed. In a recent interaction with Techcircle.in, the firm’s founder Nilesh Patel indicated that the company is likely to triple its revenue to $1 million in 2015-16 and close 2016-17 with $3 million in sales. The firm’s target segments are B2C businsses such as education, real estate, financial services, health and wellness, travel, hospitality and consumer services. Patel furthermore estimated that India’s maretking technology space to be $400-500 million.

While LeadSquared provides clients with leads, Refiral offers a customised service campaign where users can track and measure their analytics.

“In our opinion, these are useful tools. Many of these things were being done by companies themselves earlier (Uber and Dropbox are probably the best examples of customer acquisition through referrals), which has inspired these tools. said Prerna Bhutani, partner at India Quotient, an early-stage investment firm. “However, the applicability of these is very business specific, and solutions will need to be customised to cater to them.”

For example, if a social media referral campaign focussing on discounts is run for an e-commerce business, a customer may share a coupon code once or twice on her Facebook timeline, but it won’t be a repeat behaviour. Timelines tend to become too crowded, so WhatsApp may be a better medium for such campaigns. But even in that case, sending out too many coupons to friends or groups will be a one-time behaviour. In that sense these tools do not have a very large market, as applicability is limited by the need for customisation, she explained.

Founders, funding

The other two co-founders Eddie Chau (L) and Chong-Kian Soh

The other two co-founders Eddie Chau (L) and Chong-Kian Soh

Spini was founded by Shankar G, Eddie Chau and Chong-Kian Soh in 2014. The idea came when the founders realised that a major pain point that most sales people face is not knowing their customers. “ Instead of talking to thousands of people over cold calls, if a sales person was made to speak to three people who are highly potential, qualified customers, then the conversion rate and sales efficiency are significantly high,” explained Shankar. Spini is the abbreviation of Sales Professionals Information Network.

The Singapore-headquartered firm started its operations in Chennai and expanded to nine more cities across India. In June 2015, Spini raised S$1 million (around $750,000 or Rs 4.7 crore) in its first round of funding from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Walden International Singapore Pte Ltd.

In an interaction with Techcircle.in, Yong Soo Ping, executive director at Walden International, said that the space that Spini operates in is very unique. When conducting its due diligence, the firm found that while there was already a formal structure in place for professional services such as hiring maids and guards, there was not one for sales leads. It found that the model works for firms that do not have the time to hire sales people. A platform such as Spini’s would widen audience reach for clients.

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