Soubhagya Sahoo’s 2-Week Market-Access Program In Canada | NBI2018

The Next BIG Idea Contest is a Global Market Access Program which acts as a gateway for Indian Startups to the North American Market. Journey through the testimonial of the founder of Grayroutes, who got a chance to incubate his company in Canada as part of the program.

‘The cooler the city, the warmer the people.’ Montreal having sub-zero temperatures portrayed a rather paradoxical side to itself with the warmth displayed by its people. In a short span of just 2-3 days, shared experience in the bitter cold lead to the formation of closely-tied bonds. This lead Soubhagya Sahoo, Founder of GrayRoutes to believe that certain Canadian cities are very forthcoming for hiring AI talent and selling AI solutions.

Prior to kick-starting his entrepreneurial journey, Soubhagya Sahoo was heading the distribution technology for one of the world’s largest FMCG distribution networks – HUL and his wife Sapna was leading the Strategic Initiatives and BD for an IIT- Bombay incubated VC-funded startup attempting to solve global education challenges with a disruptive technology. Being from varied fields with a common agenda – to solve global education challenges; together they brought the necessary skills to the table and that led to the birth of GrayRoutes, a startup focused on
utilizing location-based services and Machine Learning methods to improve product distribution and field user’s productivity in the last mile. Their aim to achieve global scale lead them to answer the often-asked question: What Next? This lead them to apply for the Next BIG Idea Contest and further explore a potential market in Canada.

International Exposure as Part of a Two-Week Market Access Program
Entering the market access program as an Uber-backed supply chain and logistics startup, they visited Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver as part of their two-week incubation period. Proving to be a great success for them, the program leads to them gaining investment interest from two reputed VC funds as well as advisory interest

from retail consultant David Ian Gray ( as well as a reputed AI Professor from Simon Fraser University. Apart from this, they were also able to facilitate monetary engagements with fellow startups that are under active discussions/POC stage based out of Montreal and Toronto.

International exposure through NBI particularly benefited GrayRoutes who were scouting Canada as a potential international market base. Gradually growing their network in Canada, their technology is now expanded to be adopted across sixteen countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, by customers such as P&G, Metro
Cash & Carry, Unilever, Coca-Cola and a few POCs in UK, they also now have a multi-million-dollar revenue run rate. This is ‘in part due to NBI’s recognition of [their] innovation on a global platform.’

Canada as a Hotspot for AI Technology 
The analytics proposition from GrayRoutes was received by Canada with open arms, most of their clients being from retail, food, and CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) have largely faced backlash as a result of the growing e-commerce market. With the growth of many big e-commerce giants, the market for these traditional businesses began to dwindle leading to even worst-case scenarios such as closure. However, the proposition offered by GrayRoutes offers these dying businesses a breath of life through their geospatial analytics on the omni-channel behavior of customers. Pre-Program, about 30% of GrayRoutes’s website traffic was generated from the North American region, which shot up to 40%-45% post-program. This clearly indicated higher levels of interest as compared to other regions, which they see as tremendous growth and potential to scale up into a successful MNC.

Next BIG Adventure
Here is an anecdote from Soubhagya on his first night in Montreal.

“The first night in Montreal, I and Pankit [Desai, Founder, and Co-CEO at SEQURETEK] ventured out into the city for a quick bite with directions for a nearby popular restaurant from the hotel reception. We missed a turn or two, and ended up walking a mile or two into the icy night in the wrong direction. That’s when we decided that we were lost and took directions from a passer-by, who turned out to be a stocky homeless person. This person asked us to follow him down narrow alleys and deserted bylanes, and we kept walking discussing worst-case scenarios keeping a
suitable distance behind him. We must have walked for a few miles, and even attempted to lose this man by falling behind but he kept looking back and shouting at us to follow him. Turns out, he actually walked us all the way to the restaurant and accepted our gratuity in turn for his ‘kind-hearted lost and found service.’ I and Pankit had the laughter of a lifetime, and many times later with batchmates, when we realized that the city is much safer than all the vivid scenarios we were imagining over the 30-minute walk.

Max Levy from DMZ was our host in Toronto and he ensured that Niranjan [Demanna, Head – Accelerator Operations] and the group had the most fun tournament of pong on our first evening in Toronto. The entire group also drove to Whistler Mountain Resort / Olympics Village when in Vancouver and that was a very fun, memorable Sunday drive experience for all.”


What’s Next BIG Idea Contest?

The Next BIG Idea Contest is a Gateway for Indian Startups to North America. The Next BIG Idea Contest seeks to discover India’s 5 most innovative technology companies who are looking to leverage a soft-landing opportunity to expand to North America. The contest is a “Market Access Program”, whereby the winners get to incubate their company in Canada for a 2 week all expenses paid program. The visiting entrepreneurs receive mentorship, business development advice, customer connects, investor access and valuable international experience.

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