In this Spotlight feature, we speak to the affable Mr Avnish Desai, a second generation leader of Tradecom Services – a multi-million dollar B2B company operating in the international markets.
Hi Avnish, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about Tradecom Services.
Tradecom is a supply chain management solutions company. We take pride in providing seamless, customisable and well-thought out supply chain solutions for our customers seeking to increase efficiency and effectiveness in their supply chain operations. Since the company was founded, Tradecom has built a strong reputation in supply chain management for recycled and finished paper, chemicals and additives, car care products as well as procurement services.
I’m the youngest member of the second generation of family business leaders and am primarily responsible for corporate brand strategy, driving brand awareness and overseeing corporate services. As the newest family member to join the business, I also focus on identifying and working on areas from an external point of view with the intent to help our company enter the next level of growth and development.
How long has the Tradecom been in the market? What was the motivation behind starting the brand?
Tradecom was founded in 1986 with the primary intent to fullfill supply chain inefficiencies that our founders had observed when working for their previous employers. Back then, the notion of trading was mostly limited to the buying and selling of products while on the logistics front, most related services centred around the focus on transportation. Not forgetting the fact that companies back then only tended to provide one particular group of services – It was very unheard of that a company was able to provide all related services under the same roof. Consequently, customers who needed to procure end-to-end services related to their purchases often had to deal with multiple parties and frustration. So the idea of a one-stop supply chain services surfaced and formed the basis of Tradecom’s beginning.
Over the past 31 years, our company has made a conscientious commitment to building a comprehensive range of services while maintaining an unrelenting focus on fostering meaningful and enduring relationships with our customers, employees, partners and stakeholders.
What is the meaning of the brand?
The brand name Tradecom represents the core components of our business – Trading and Communication. While trading serves as the foundation of our supply chain services, our proactive communication with clients, suppliers, partners and employees ensure that our customers find the right solutions. Having the two components combined into a single name represents the connectivity needed between the core business components to ensure our ability to provide top-notch services.
Share with us what is unique about Tradecom
There are three key differentiating factors for Tradecom:
Firstly, we are stakeholder-centric focus: For customers, we ensure that our solutions are customisable based on their requirements while for our suppliers and other partners, we ensure that we are good partners in good times and great partners in bad times.
Secondly we put emphasis on relationships and notion of family spirit as basis of our business dealings.
And thirdly our investigative nature enables us to continuously find ways and make the effort to improve our efficiencies, whose benefits we also share with our customers and partners.
Let me share one example – For one of our customer’s product formulation, it may require a few different types of raw materials and we supply some but not all of the required raw materials. However due to seasonal issues, one type of raw material is not of the right quality (not supplied by us) and as a result our customer may resort to cutting down the quantity of product production as they are unable to procure the needed amount.
When this challenge was brought to our knowledge, we decided to support our customer by sourcing and researching on alternative raw materials on their behalf and share this information with them. If they are comfortable with our findings on the suitability, we would buy the raw materials and supply them to enable their production to get back on track. We see our customers as partners and when problems arise, we seek to understand their challenges first and find solutions even at our own costs. Our philosophy is always about building long term relationships.
What is the vision for the Tradecom brand?
For the past 30 over years in our interactions with our customers and suppliers, the first part of the meeting is never about business, it’s always about understanding them as an individual, about their background and to know them first as a person.
In fact, our founder started the business due to encouragement from customers and suppliers from previous company when he was an employee. They said to him “you don’t worry; we commit to you that we will support you”. A few of them nudged us along and even became our business mentors. Some of our relationships are as long as our business existence and some even longer. Now some of our suppliers have now passed on their business to their third generation and we continue to work with them.
As you can see we really treasure relationships which is why our vision is “To be the company most respected for building meaningful and enduring relationships”.
What challenges did you face in building the brand? How did you overcome these challenges?
Apart from the usual challenges that a business would face, one of the most significant tests we have had to face on regular occasions is to maintain the relevancy of our brand’s purpose and model – In today’s environment, many companies seek to cut cost for various reasons, and often an easy choice is to cut out the “middle man” in any transaction and go either to the customer or supplier directly.
To ensure that we remain relevant to our customers and suppliers, we have had to innovate our service offerings on a regular basis without hurting our cost line and at times had to take a loss to ensure that our customers / stakeholders see the value in our relationship and to continue working with us. We started off as traders and over the years we have changed ourselves to take on multiple roles for our customers, for example taking on currency risk and managing their processes as efficiently as possible. We constantly ask ourselves “how do we stay relevant to our customers by leveraging on our core strengths?”
Another key challenge we have had to face is as a multi-generation family business where ideas, perspectives, risk appetites and business approaches tend to vary across the different ages of leaders running the company. Hence we have to be careful in managing this diversity in decision-making styles; balancing disagreements and harmony. This also means projecting a consistent persona to all our staff so that we don’t send mixed signals and cause confusion.
Having seen the negative impact of infighting and disconnection in certain family businesses, our founders ensured that they created an environment where ideas and thoughts could be discussed openly and in a constructive manner, enabling the development of mutually agreed solutions and stances when presented to our internal and external stakeholders.
What are the plans for growing the brand? What is coming up in the year or two we should watch for (e.g. new product lines, new segments, new markets)?
We’ve recently completed a branding exercise and are in the midst of overhauling our business and HR processes. Collectively the results of all three projects would enable us to set ourselves for the future as we work towards growing our existing business lines and expanding the product and service ranges that we offer.
We have our proprietary software called Trism which started with basic function of producing simple documents. Now its capabilities are multifaceted such as auto generation of required documents and information, inventory management etc. In the second half of 2017, we will start working on enhancing Trism to better manage our supply chain solutions such as connecting to the shipping lines’ systems to create a dynamic process flow for our customers.
In the next 3 years, we will be embarking on product innovations. Other than expanding our product range we will also review and introduce new product vertical. In terms of new markets, well previously we have gone to China and failed but as entrepreneurs we are not giving up, we are trying again!
So I must say the next 3 years are going to be exciting times for us!