Mathieu Desmarais first came to India in 2010. During a marketing internship for an NGO in rural Punjab, he fell in love with the country. As soon as his internship ended and he returned to Canada, he started planning his return. A web entrepreneur with strong interest in eCommerce as well as innovative web and mobile technologies, he started outsourcing web projects to India while finishing his studies. He later came back to the country to start his own web and mobile development firm, NPM Technologies, in 2012.
His brother, Alex, completed his bachelor’s degree with a specialization in Finance at Sherbrooke University in Canada. He then joined NPM Technologies in Bangalore, circa fall 2014, as its Finance Director. The Desmarais brothers’ first interaction with subscription eCommerce happened around the same time, when NPM Technologies was hired by a group of Miami-based French entrepreneurs to develop a subscription box website. Later that year, following a brainstorming session, RecurRex came to life.
Subscription-as-a-Service for Indian Businesses
RecurRex is a subscription eCommerce SaaS for Indian businesses. It allows new and existing eCommerce websites with current or prospective subscription potential to automate recurring billing and payments. It also provides tools and actionable data for subscription marketing and delivery management. The startup was launched in February 2016 to answer this question: How to launch, manage and market a subscription business in India.
“Since we started working on RecurRex, we have met with many businesses of different sizes, from very different industries. Most of them have relied on complex and manual processes, which very often involved Excel spreadsheets. As soon as they tried scaling their operations to more than 100 subscribers, the number of errors became unbearable: missed or unpaid deliveries, too many credits and refunds, etc.” said Mathieu, CEO of RecurRex.
Indian subscription businesses have special needs that other subscription platforms are unable to meet; delivery and recurring payments management being the two most important. Indian subscribers require the ability to postpone deliveries, update delivery addresses or pause and resume their subscriptions. In the US, where the model originated, packages will find their way to a local post office to be collected later if its recipient isn’t home.
And contrary to the US, there are currently no options to automate recurring debiting on Indian credit cards or Indian bank accounts (thanks to RBI regulations). RecurRex has automated this process as much as it is legally possible with its SMS 2 Pay functionality.
Alex Desmarais, CFO of RecurRex, points out that “In India, especially in Bangalore because of its IT scene, some businesses think they should build their own software. A food and beverages business, for example, shouldn’t move away from its core competency. Investing lakhs of rupees and hundreds of development hours only to validate a business idea is a big risk. RecurRex allows subcom startups to invest in marketing instead of technology, and to start selling in a few days only. A small setup fee is all they can risk, as RecurRex is a monthly variable cost per active user.”
Why cater to India’s subscription commerce market?
India’s eCommerce market is estimated to be worth $119 billion by 2020 and is said to be the fastest growing online retail market globally (source: The Economic Times). It is also home to the second largest amount of subscription commerce startups after the US (source: Tracxn). Furthermore, RecurRex has no known competitors who specifically assess Indian businesses needs as described above. They are typically focusing on payment processing and recurring billing only, overlooking the marketing and delivery aspects.
According to RecurRex, what started the subscription model in the US, the “wow” effect of discovery subscription boxes, is not going to be as big here. “In India, the new generation of young, tech-savvy, (IT) professionals, living in cities, with money to spend, is looking for convenience. One shouldn’t have to go out and purchase commodities like milk again, even more so if they’re going to be stuck in traffic, to reach an overcrowded mall or an insufficiently supplied BDA complex.” mentions Louis-Vincent Ledoux, Director of Customer Experience at RecurRex.
“They’re also looking for experiences and have a tendency to try luxury brands, such as fashion and technology ones. There is an increasing need for quality consumer goods, notably in food & groceries, which is still controlled in the most part by small players, leaving a lot of room for opportunities. While the discovery model will still be interesting for rural India, by giving access to brands that are not available at brick and mortar stores, automated recurring purchases of commodity products will be the most popular form of subscription in the cities” adds Ledoux, one of four Canadians comprising RecurRex’s team of nine.
What’s next for RecurRex?
With half a dozen clients onboard, including world famous Greenpeace using the SaaS to enable recurring donations, RecurRex is off to a good start. After receiving seed funding in October 2015, RecurRex is now looking at Angel investment to conquer the market faster.
Compelled with a vision to automate recurring purchases in India, Mathieu and Alex believe it will take two years for the market to reach its full potential and plan to eventually expand into southeast Asia. Considering this, they now want to:
– Onboard 200 businesses in the next 24 months (40 in the next 12);
– Develop new ways of deploying a subscription store (plugins for Magento, WooCommerce, Prestashop, etc.);
– Create marketing tools and analytics for subscription businesses;
– Automate recurring transactions even more with IoT.
“Subscription commerce means convenience and discounts for consumers, and better cash flows, inventory management and customer loyalty for businesses. We truly love this model, it will have a major impact on consumer behavior globally.” the CEO concludes.
Name of Startup: RecurRex
Launch date: February 2016
URL of website: www.recurrex.com
Office: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
- Mathieu Desmarais, Co-Founder and CEO
- Alex Desmarais, Co-Founder and CFO
- Justin Mathews, Director of Sales
- Louis-Vincent Ledoux, Director of Customer Experience
- Suraj S., Lead Developer
- Guillaume Desmarais de Grandpré, Developer
- Kranti Asiwal, Developer