A Conversation with David Grimes – Agilis new Executive VP of Sales and Marketing
By Irina Carrel
Last month, Agilis announced an executive joining the team – David Grimes came onboard as the Executive VP of Sales and Marketing. David has enjoyed an outstanding tenure in the paint and coatings industry, mostly with large global producers such as BASF, GE Plastics, Axalta. But he says he always had a strong desire to work with a startup and try his hand at being an entrepreneur, so when Jay Bhatia, CEO and Founder of Agilis, approached him with the offer to join his new venture, David was immediately captivated by the idea. Typical of a startup culture, David has hit the ground running, building Agilis’ sales and marketing organization, forging relationships with partners, attending trade events, and doing everything he can to increase Agilis’ visibility in the marketplace. I sat down with David to ask him about his vision for the company and plans for the future. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Isn’t buying chemicals online a risky proposition?
David: The important distinction is that Agilis is not an online marketplace for chemicals. It’s not “Chemazon”, as the industry is starting to refer to the concept of a large online retailer disrupting the chemical distribution sector. Nor are we a product search engine, simply collecting user information as they browse the catalogs and selling it to producers. Agilis is about creating value for all players in the chemical industry. The process of buying and selling chemicals is a well-oiled machine. Distributors play a vital role in building relationships with both producers and end-users, ensuring – through personal connections – that the right products reach to buyers in time to keep their manufacturing operations running smoothly. Agilis is not going to replace these processes – we are here to add transparency and efficiency to the entire chemicals value chain, and that’s not a risky proposition – that’s a progress.
Why do you think now is the right time for the chemical industry to embrace the digital revolution?
David: The concept of a multi-tenant digital platform is not new, but it hasn't been widely adopted in chemical distribution. Producers love the idea of digital transformation but are slow to adopt it and need industry partners to help create and execute a digital strategy. Distributors look at digital transformation as a threat to their business, but in reality; doing nothing is not an option. Like it or not, this industry is ripe for consolidation and our solution offers “creative consolidation” where everybody wins. The entire industry will face big challenges in the next decade with baby boomers retiring at an alarming rate. The employees that replace these retirees are from a different generation, and they now expect intuitive digital solutions. A digital economy is in our future and the speed of migration is mind-blowing. Industry players need to embrace fundamental changes in the way we do business or face losing share, or worse, extinction. Early adopters of digitalization are already seeing the promise of growth.
What in the Agilis’ value proposition is most attractive to our target customers?
David: In today’s marketplace, there’s a significant lack of information. Producers generally like the distribution channel strategy, but seem to resist pushing more products into the channel due to the perception that they get disconnected from the end-user. And without that connection to the market, it becomes harder for them to find new uses for their chemicals, improve their products, and develop new offerings. Part of Agilis’ value proposition helps to alleviate these concerns by providing data that shows them what customers are doing with their products. With Agilis, instead of just dropping their products into a dark space of a distribution channel, they can have that distribution channel light up with the richness of data coming back from the consumer.
Do you see producers of chemicals as our main customers?
David: Producers are definitely among our most important customers, but Agilis doesn’t stop there – we focus on the entire value chain, and our solution is also designed for distributors and buyers of chemicals. Together with the Celerity portal, Agilis drives digital adoption throughout the value chain. Agilis marketplace offers a multi-tenant digital platform to help bring products to customers through multiple distribution channels.
What size distributors are likely to see the most value from a solution like Agilis?
David: Agilis can support businesses of all sizes, but our multi-tenant portal is primarily targeted toward a medium-size or small regional distributors. Many national distributors have already developed digital channels for their own use, but these systems are expensive to create and maintain. Our idea at Agilis is to help level the playing field for smaller and medium sized distributors to compete at the same level as their large counterparts. As far as we know, there’s nobody else in the market who is providing this kind of service for small and medium-size distributors today.
What value does Agilis bring to the buyers?
David: It’s about transparency and the ease of doing business, finding the right products at the right price from large portfolio of verified suppliers. And what’s more, Agilis offers a secure platform for buyers to conduct transactions – exchanging information, negotiating terms, and receiving auto-updates throughout order fulfillment– all inside a firewall-protected online space, with their own customized dashboards. There’s an immense peace of mind in knowing that your transactions are secure, and your business partners have been vetted by the industry experts.
What are your initial goals for developing Agilis sales and marketing strategy?
David: My main objectives are to nurture customer relationships and to develop and execute an effective strategy to bring this new digital platform to market. Agilis has already begun building partnerships with a number of producers and distributors, and we will continue to raise awareness about our capabilities and business model and are looking forward to working with our current partners, both producers and distributors, to validate business cases and deliver our value propositions..
When will the Agilis platform be ready for prime time?
David: Agilis is production-ready today. One of the biggest learnings for our young business is to take our assumptions and ideas to customers and listen to their concerns. We need to be flexible, because our reality is based on what customers need and where value is created. I’m looking forward to the early results with our validation partners to see how we can position Agilis for long term success. Our future is based on improving transparency, reducing e-commerce friction, and bringing significant value to producers, distributors, and end-use customers with an enterprise grade B2B digital platform that offers intuitive interfaces of B2C platform. If you can use a cell phone, then you will most likely also be able to use Agilis digital solutions.
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