My Proficorn Way (Part 15)

The Sub-broker Moment

During the IndiaWorld days (around 1997-98), we figured out a way to make IPO application forms available for NRIs. We did this through smart software which auto-incremented the application number in the PDF form. Thus, NRIs could now easily get access to the IPO forms without those being physically couriered to them. We charged about Rs 15K for the service to securities firms for this service.

Then, in August 1998, RBI launched the Resurgent India Bonds (RIB) to shore up foreign reserves. I quickly realised that this was going to be big – NRIs would apply to invest in huge numbers. And if we continued to just offer the Rs 15,000 service fee each from about 5-7 securities firms who had a digital presence. A lakh or so was good money at that time – all for a few tweaks in the software.

It was then I got an idea. What if we could get a cut of the money invested – this could increase our revenues substantially. Was that even possible? Yes, if our contribution was tracked. And how would that be possible? One of our customers gave me the idea – become a sub-broker. In essence, every form could carry a special code allocated to us which allowed the brokerage to track which forms came through us. I loved the idea. I decided to share the risk in return for the upside.

And it worked! We generated almost Rs 10 lakh in revenue from the sub-brokerage fees. A simple idea, that increased our revenues 10X.

Later in life, I would refer to this as the “sub-broker moment.”  A few months before the RIB issue, I would have laughed if someone had said that IndiaWorld would become a sub-broker. And yet here we were! A proficorn is always looking for incremental innovations – small tweaks and pivots which open up new opportunities. That is how new worlds open up.

In Netcore, we had started in 1998 as a mail server company. We stayed that way for many years, even though we tried many new ideas – all of which failed. But the spirit of searching for pivots did not go away. We had corporate relationships for mail servers. When SMS started growing, we became an SMS aggregator. And then an email marketing company. And later, a martech automation provider. This “sub-broker” mindset of doing something better and spotting an opening to grow is what has led to 10+ years of continuous profitability. In every business, there is always something which can be done better. The proficorn entrepreneur is always seeking that out.

Will be continued soon.