A Showroom on the Web

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2004
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2004
A Showroom on the Web

Find out how a smart idea and tech know-how can help create a successful business

ho says all businesses require swank offices and plush showrooms? Not when technology lets you do away with those fancy (and prohibitively expensive!) trimmings.

Antidesk (www.antidesk.com), a brand owned by Smartware, a Pune-based B2B supplier of ergonomic computer trolleys, is a business that believes in replacing lavish retail outlets with an efficient workforce—armed with mobile phones and powered by the Internet.

Antidesk makes the dual claim of being the first company in India to “truly develop the concept of Ready-To-Assemble (RTA) computer furniture,” and a user base of nearly 30,000 customers spread across 17 states in India. The brand has recently gone global after receiving orders from companies in the USA.

Pankaj Kolhatkar is the founder of Antidesk. He has a degree in mechanical engineering, and as he puts it, “Innovation and technology are the two keywords that run our business.”

Ready, Set, Go

Antidesk’s USP is the do-it-yourself feature of its trolleys, office desks, tables and ergonomic computer furniture. Packed in attractive and easily transportable boxes, their furniture can be assembled with ease. Antidesk furniture is completely steel-based with a powder-coated finish.

With absolutely no retail outlets—nor any plans to set some up—Antidesk woos prospective customers through print ads and the World Wide Web. Antidesk’s Web site uses the remarkable reach of the Internet to market their products around the world. Their online presence is a good study on how to put up an attractive Web front: first, the Web site is listed on major search engines and prominent Web-rings, potentially reaching a very wide audience. (To learn how to get maximum visibility for your Web site, turn to page 96) Moreover, Antidesk.com is not just another B2B website. Its tongue-in-cheek content (“Ten outrageous excuses for not buying an Antidesk” and “Super Moron Contest”) grabs the eye.

Customers can view product catalogues online and make enquiries using an online form. According to Kolhatkar, “The entire process from enquiry to order fulfilment takes place electronically.” The furniture is also distributed through IT resellers, who bundle it along with PCs as a value-add to customers. Antidesk has channel partners even in remote towns, and supply even small quantities of equipment.

Innovation and technology are the two keywords that run our business
Pankaj Kolhatkar,
Founder, Antidesk

Davis Wilson, of CK Service Master, in Thiruvananthapuram, says about his association with Antidesk: “I was looking for computer tables for my own office. The wet weather in Kerala was causing my earlier MDF (particle board) furniture to deteriorate rapidly. They were also not able to bear the weight of my 17-inch monitor.”

After scouring the Internet for suitable computer furniture, Wilson located Antidesk’s Web site. “I was so happy with their products that I decided to take up a dealership myself. Today I distribute their products in four districts—Kanyakumari, Thiruvananthapuram, Quilon and Pathanamthitta. There is a great demand for these products in the home segment,” he says.

Mobile Workforce

To transport the products, Antidesk has tied up with cargo services across the country and door-delivers supplies to their dealers. “In towns where Antidesk does not have dealers, we have our Antidesk-Direct scheme to deliver our computer trolleys directly to the end user, almost anywhere in India,” says Kolhatkar.

The “Anti-desk” Formula
Why “Anti” desk? “It challenges the conventional notion of a desk,” claims the team behind the company that prides itself in the quality of materials used, product designs, packaging, and constant innovation. Says Kolhatkar, “The online model is a cost-effective solution. Instead of setting up offices and employing marketing excutives in every city, our Web site helps us connect with distributors across the country, and abroad, with ease.”

Nitesh Singhal of Infotech Distributors in Guwahati says, “Though we distribute only one product (Indicart), there is a great demand for such furniture from our customers. We have not met Pankaj or his team—almost all communication has happened over the phone and e-mail.” Infotech is the main distributor for the North-East region.

Antidesk has only one office in Pune, and doesn’t have a large sales team either. Pankaj confirms, “Our ads in specific print publications generate queries. Many dealers find us through the Internet.”

The Birth Of An Idea

Before making a foray into the furniture market, Kolhatkar and team discovered that these products were mostly manufactured by a small, unorganised sector. With a view to develop products with superior materials and technology, Antidesk hit upon the RTA brainwave. The company seeks to provide furniture that satisfies three major criteria—aesthetics, ergonomics and space efficiency. 

In addition, technology has given them a unique vehicle to market their products. “I don’t think this business would have been possible without the Internet.  When we started out, in 2001, we had five people in our team. We didn’t set up a showroom back then and decided to keep it that way. We are not into retailing,” says Kolhatkar.

Antidesk has created a niche segment for their ergonomic  furniture, which costs between Rs. 2,500 and Rs. 4,500.

The Antidesk team currently comprises Kolhatkar, who designs the products, sets up manufacturing processes and handles market development; Anand Vanzape handles the creative aspects—package design, advertising and branding; and Kolhatkar’s wife, Manjiri,  who co-ordinates the company’s marketing and financial transactions. Ten highly skilled craftsmen and other support staff complete the small but extremely efficient Antidesk family.

Sandeep Sethi of VAST Computers in Amritsar has been associated with Antidesk for three years now. A dealer of computer peripherals, he stumbled upon Antidesk’s Web site while looking for ergonomic furniture to bundle along with his peripherals. “Now, Anti-desk’s products are helping me offer a better deal to my customers,” he says.

Perhaps other players in the SMB segment and even individual entrepreneurs in India can take a cue from Antidesk’s novel marketing strategy—making the Internet your new best friend.

Meera VankipuramMeera Vankipuram