Born in an industrious SME family, Ashwin Merchant is an engineer from VJTI, University of Mumbai with post graduate studies in marketing management. After returning from USA, where he had gone to pursue higher studies, initially he joined family linked business in manufacturing of electrical equipment.
In the first quarter itself he designed and developed first of its kind of solid state battery charger (unique, advanced, not available in India) and demonstrated manufactured product at India International Trade Fair (IITF) in New Delhi under Government of Maharashtra pavilion for SSIs & SMEs. He put in lot of marketing into business of selling a hard core electrical product by designing catalogue which unlike rest, talked about benefits and not just features.
For a 15 day trade fair, to explain product he used tape recorder which played product information to visitors. A nice logo and business cards were designed as marketing tool. Received hundred of enquiries and back in Mumbai seniors were not ready to allocate company typist to reply enquiry.
Ashwin Merchant borrowed money and bought Apple computer than costing Rs.99,000/- a first generation of PC. Used low profiled word processing software and mail merged all enquiries with a single text in less than a week. Surprised by technology assistance and usage for commercial purpose, senior encouraged him to do a business in the area of providing similar services to all those who regularly participate in exhibitions.
And, this gave birth to India’s first word processing bureau WORDPLUS Compu-Mark Assistance which was launched at a well known event at Hotel Ambassador in Mumbai. From thousands of square feet of space at the factory, Ashwin Merchant preferred to settle in 200 square feet office in South Mumbai, purchased on rent. Office equipment one Apple Computer and one dot matrix printer Epson make, a table for computer and owner, one office boy and that’s all.
The first venture found lots of curiosity and interest from SME business owners at nearby Nagdevi Street and Lohar Chawl, known for traders in engineering and electrical goods respectively. 26 customers in first year, turn over Rs.1,84,000/- 3 years, and trip back to USA to attend world largest computer show, COMDEX at Las Vegas.
Meeting several people. Ashwin Merchant realized that what he started with a small idea, there is a professional industry known as direct marketing in USA with DMA head quarters in New York. Database tools, advanced word processors and modern computers he invested into. Hired 5 staff members to continuously enter data from hundreds of any and every directory available for Indian business anywhere in India and he sent his staff members to travel across India to pick up the directories.
In short time of few months to couple of years WORDPLUS compiled largest ever B2B database. Now, clients came in to access his data to expand business and find new market, still personalized word processing was in demand.
In 1992, Ashwin Merchant advanced further after visiting South East Asian countries, into advertising touch to technology usage for marketing. And, skilled professional input, analytical data, powerful communication led to offer an alternate marketing channel for one to one marketing. And, thus in no time, WORDPLUS became India’s pioneer direct marketing company, Ashwin Merchant was referred by leading newspapers as local direct marketing guru. His reputation took him to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore in 3 consecutive years (92-93-94) as only Indian invited to speak to over 300 world delegates in advertising, marketing and database.
Now, there was a transformation from computer back ground of Ashwin Merchant into the world of marketing and advertising.
CSI member, who presented technical papers at Computer Society of India’s annual conferences, has become member of The Ad Club, Mumbai. From techno buffs his networking shifted to creative buffs and hard core marketing & sales persons. Studies in engineering (computer, electrical) and marketing provided a great help to analyze database in a variety of ways, offer marketing solutions as alternative to mass communication and software designing from payroll and accounts to client database and phone marketing.
Ashwin Merchant developed first generation of CRM software, named REMEDY back in 1989 and sold by large numbers before 1994. In 1996, he authored a book titled Corporate Guide to Telemarketing, his first book on marketing and second as a guide, earlier one published in 1989-90 titled Software Marketing Guide. The first book was popular with software developers and the second one with the marketers. The business of telemarketing today which is too common was initially promoted by WORDPLUS by offering select services based on database and systems, Ashwin Merchant’s book was launched at The Ad Club, Mumbai meet in 1996.
In the mean time, with his oratory skill, he became known in India and abroad. Almost every week he was addressing one meeting of 20 minutes at Rotary Clubs to 3 hours of seminar by institutions and business associations. In period of time, he was invited at prestigious Boston University in USA in 1999 and also other international platforms. By now, he has given over 250 talks, which his own branded title 'Direkt Talk'.
Also, his interest in writing from college days for campus newsletters, he started writing in various computer magazines before 1995 and subsequently in business, trade, industry, marketing, advertising journals and magazines, popular dailies like Times of India, Mid Day, Economic Times and language newspapers like Mumbai Samachar, Gujarat Samachar, Vyapar and even in marketing journal published in USA. He also started provided rich web content in branding, marketing etc. from 1997 and till date. Now a days, you will find his tips, prescriptions and ideas on marketing at SMETOOLKIT INDIA site by ICICI bank, and also contributed featured articles on SME pages sponsored by ICICI Bank in Economic Times in 2007. 10 years and more than 300 articles, 5 books on marketing, translated in 3 languages besides English. His popular books are one for SME Retailers published by a leading corporate company and Marketing book for Chartered Accountants published by regional council of CAs.
Ashwin Merchant has a long career as marketing consultant with companies where he initiated information driven marketing strategy. Engineer turned into service provider and professional marketing consultant has over 250 clients in last twenty years with popular international clients to whom he provided off shore visits and in-land consulting with market intelligence and marketing acumen.
Looking at the increasing need for SMEs towards marketing, and with a clear understanding of SMBs towards hiring consultants, Ashwin Merchant founded ASHWIN MERCHANT’S MARKETING KLINIC in Mumbai around 2004 that operates only for SMEs, Consulting channel, available on www.ashwinmerchant.com
Always innovative, right from WORDPLUS as India’s first word processing bureau (1986), Remedy – the first generation of software fully designed in India on CRM (1989-90), first dedicated marketing company providing database driven direct marketing services to corporate India (1990 onwards), a marketing book for Software Engineers (1989), Corporate Guide for large company marketers (1996), 3 books for SMEs, SMBs and SSIs in 2002, 2003 and 2005…founder of India’s first and only MARKETING KLINIC (free lance economical counseling for SMEs) in 2004 …journey continued.
In 2006 he along with his colleague conceived and nurtured the concept of personalized retail coupons, venture called myretailcoupon.com followed by an all time successful book for SME retailers on how to fight ad survive against mushrooming mall culture was authored in 2006. In early 2007, with his frequent overseas trip and marketing need for NRIs in India, he conceived NRI Catalogue 2007 and formed a joint venture to publish catalogue only for NRIs in USA & UK, the commercially profitable venture in first year itself. In 2009, he authored a book for chartered accountants on marketing their profession – by a professional for professionals.
Like a true entrepreneur he runs his professional consulting business and focused on major industry clusters time to time, his popular and experience in engineering, travel and tourism, finance & broking, retail, NRI and SMEs.
With family support for secured bread and butter, his father made him to start his first venture by simply giving Rs.1000/- in 1986 and he never looked back in investing his own money, capital and never borrowed (except for first 2 years) money from bank or private financers. In difficult time he took tough decisions, kept low profile, focused on alternative innovative ways, shift from local to international marketing and in turn persuading his interest in writing, speaking and nurturing new baby projects. Ashwin Merchant is undoubtedly a true SME person.