Sukhi Jutla, co-founder of MarketOrders tells us about the international trade of gold and diamond jewellery.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sukhi Jutla: I don’t think there is a single person on this planet who has not been affected by the current times, so I’m not unique in that situation. Life has certainly been more of a challenge both personally and professionally when navigating your way through such uncertain times. Having said that, I have tried my best to foster a ‘can-do’ attitude and look at where I can continue to grow and add value but also try to recognize what is out of my control – a vital skill for maintaining peace of mind, which is important during these times.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded MarketOrders.
Sukhi Jutla: I started my career in the corporate banking sector, where I developed business and project management skills. However, I didn’t feel I was thriving in this environment and was keen to work for myself. This led to creating a few different start-ups and learning new skills such as retaining as a life coach, authoring 3 books, and speaking professionally on international stages. I fell into my current role as co-founder and COO of MarketOrders.net when I agreed to help the founder, Ram Krishnna, put in organizational processes into the business and fell in love with the industry and the work and decided to dedicate myself to building MarketOrders which is an online platform connecting retailers and suppliers in the jewellery industry.
How does MarketOrders innovate?
Sukhi Jutla: We aim to digitize the entire supply chain journey and create a more efficient experience for sellers and buyers by digitizing processes right across the supply chain. This also helps to build a greater level of trust, especially in an industry where transactions are routinely done in person and offline. There currently does not exist a digital infrastructure that connects the entire supply chain seamlessly -this is what we aim to do. We are also looking at how we can leverage blockchain technology into the provenance chain and help with payments. You can check out more of our research on our website for our blockchain-related work.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sukhi Jutla: Like all businesses, we have also been impacted. With suppliers and jewelers forced to close, we decided to turn our energy and efforts into developing our blockchain capabilities, but this costs money, and as a startup with limited cash reserves, we recently took the decision to scale down our tech development and reduce operational costs until the economy opens up again.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sukhi Jutla: Yes, I had to make the difficult decision of downsizing our team, and I have an amazing team, so that was really hard for me as you want to keep your team motivated, but it can be hard to do that when they may be worried about their jobs. I have learned that it’s best to be open and honest and communicate tough decisions clearly and kindly and ask for their feedback, so you consider how they feel about the decision.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sukhi Jutla: As an early-stage start-up, we were already used to remote working ways, so we have been using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and WhatsApp to stay connected and continue our meetings online. Regular communication is also key to check in on how your team is feeling and where they may need extra support.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sukhi Jutla: We compete against traditional offline independent wholesalers who supply jewelry to independent retailers. The current pandemic has shown us that we all need to develop strong online ways of keeping in touch with our customers and assessing their needs, so it will be more important than ever that as we build our new marketplace, that we build into it these abilities to communicate with our customers in real-time and understand what is being bought and sold to manage inventory better.
Your final thoughts?
Sukhi Jutla: It’s certainly been an unprecedented time for everyone. Many people’s lives have been affected, so it’s important to be kind and continue to try your best to rebuild your business or your careers if the pandemic has caused a negative impact.