Infra.Market’s $100 million fundraise in February was striking for two reasons.

The five-year-old construction materials supplier’s $1 billion post-money valuation was a massive leap from the $170 million it had been worth after its previous funding round in November. More importantly, Infra.Market became the first unicorn from the dusty, unglamourous world of concrete and stones. 

Bolstered by the imprimatur of marquee investors such as Accel and Tiger Global Tiger Global The Ken The method to Tiger Global’s madness Read more , Infra.Market has found a way to get in on the action in India’s infrastructure industry. 

Making use of the idle capacities lying with around 300 manufacturers of construction goods, Infra.Market serves as a one-stop shop for infrastructure contractors looking for materials near their project sites. What’s more, it supplies them under its own brand, making Infra.Market more than a mere go-between. 

That, combined with its decision to cater exclusively to the construction industry, has vaulted it past B2B peers like Zetwerk, Moglix, Industrybuying, and OfBusiness.

Project management

Infra.Market has serviced large infrastructure projects such as the Kochi Metro, the 700-km Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, and the Navi Mumbai International Airport.


Infra.Market, though, isn’t limiting itself to the B2B space. Already, it is leveraging its own brand in cement, steel, and granites, among others, to target homeowners through franchisee-run retail stores in tier-II cities. “You have to be ubiquitous. You can’t be a player only catering to large infra players,” says Prashanth Prakash, a partner at Accel. 

Infra.Market has 180-odd outlets right now, most of which are in the western state of Maharashtra. Fresh off its funding—the company has raised $144 million to date—the newly minted unicorn plans to take that number to 1,000 in the next 18 months, says co-founder Aaditya Sharda. Already, retail stores account for 20% of the company’s total revenue, with infrastructure projects accounting for the rest. The company’s objective is to get to a 50:50 split, says Sharda, who started Infra.Market with Souvik Sengupta in 2016. 

But expanding its two businesses within and beyond the six states it is operational won’t be straightforward. For instance, the biggest challenge with the infrastructure vertical is that it must be built one cluster at a time. “If you build a big business in Mumbai, on the supply side it will not benefit you in Kochi,” says Sumit Jain, a senior partner at Sistema Asia Capital, an investor in Infra.Market. “It’s not rinse and repeat.”

On the retail front, national and regional brands are a dime a dozen. In each category it enters, say, sanitaryware and electricals, Infra.Market must earn credibility from scratch and claw market share away from legacy brands.

AUTHOR

Seetharaman G

Starting out as a business journalist in 2008, Seetharaman has written about energy, climate change, retail, banking, and technology. He has worked with Business Today, a fortnightly, and the Sunday edition of The Economic Times.

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