How does RedSeer know who kicked ass?

Anil Kumar gets up from his chair. There’s an inquisitive look on his face.

Broad forehead hands firmly in the side pockets of his formal trousers. “So, what are people saying about us?” he asks.

Oh, people have a lot to say. They say that RedSeer is biased. That it cherry-picks data to suit the narrative of the client it wishes to please. And mostly these are big clients, who give RedSeer a lot of consulting work and access. Both people and data.

Accessing the advantage

So RedSeer uses that access to its own advantage and creates market intelligence reports that it sells to the same client. And then to other players in the business, saying hey, look, here’s how you are doing vis-a-vis the market leader. Here’s what the market intelligence says.

And then RedSeer goes even further. It sells the neatly-drafted, graphics-rich, colored intelligence reports to venture capital investors. Those that have investments in the space, saying, here’s information to better assess the performance of companies in your portfolio. Don’t just blindly believe what the startups are telling you; don’t be in the dark.

The venture capital investors pay top dollar for intelligence from a neutral, consulting organization and they are thankful. Quite a few startups don’t think RedSeer’s intelligence is intelligent. They, however, work with RedSeer because their investors buy RedSeer intelligence reports.

Kumar shrugs.

“When people start saying bad things about you, I guess you should know that you are doing something right,” he says. “Also, you can’t please everyone.”

To be fair, he doesn’t need to.

As things stand today, the who’s who of the consumer Internet world in India is a RedSeer client. Flipkart. Amazon. Shopclues. Big Basket. Oyo. Treebo. Ola. Practo. Swiggy. Zomato. Foodpanda (owned by Ola). Hike. Byju’s. These are just a few names in a list of clients that go beyond a hundred. (RedSeer claims it has 200 clients) Name any startup, and seven out of ten chances are RedSeer has either done some consulting work for them or they’ve heard of the firm because it pitched for some business.

Diligence for investors

That’s not all. The firm also works for venture capital companies. From the likes of Tiger Global, a US-based hedge fund, to Blume Ventures, an India-based early-stage venture capital firm. RedSeer hustles for business with everyone, for every dime. In fact, in the last year, it has started doing due diligence for investors, adding this service on top of consulting. Something that has stood it in good stead. As of March 2018, the company recorded total revenue of Rs 29 crore ($4 million), a 100% jump over the previous year.

And the profit of Rs 6 crore ($843,822). Again, 2X compared to the previous year. 42SeerTechnologies FZE, a 100% subsidiary of RedSeer, recorded turnover of Rs 16 crore ($2 million), and profit of Rs 5.5 crore ($773,504).

That’s precious money. Not turnover, but a profit of Rs 11.5 crore ($1.6 million): a princely sum that stands in stark contrast to the bottom line of the clients RedSeer services.

But still, chances are you’ve never heard of RedSeer Management Consulting Private Limited before. It is imperative then that you must. Because, come to think of it, about four years back, RedSeer was just a bunch of people willing to do any work for a price. People who had worked in the consulting sector only briefly, but not enough to have a Rolodex of clients waiting for them. Cut to today, the firm sits neatly between two worlds, research and consulting.

Market Research Survey

In some parts, it is like IMRB, a market research survey firm. In other parts, it is like a McKinsey or a Bain & Co, where it consults startups on entry strategy into new markets, new business verticals, growth strategy, cost reduction, and the evergreen bestseller—generic trends.

The question at hand then is, how did Anil Kumar do it? How did RedSeer get from zero to 170 people and four offices across the world? Does the firm have a shot at making it big in the highly unorganized consulting business or is it just serendipity that has got it here, and would RedSeer’s luck soon run out?

This is that story. It is also the story of RedSeer’s mercurial rise and the slow path towards the maturity of the Indian consumer internet space. Where the landscape is increasingly looking like Goliaths Vs Goliaths. One that, in turn, helps companies like RedSeer flourish.