Umesh Dhekane, Founder & Managing Director, SeaFolks.com
Umesh Dhekane is a well known first generation maritime entrepreneu, who has done marine engineering from the Tolani maritime institute, the off campus centre of BITS, Pilani in 2002. Since 2002, Umesh has worked with multinational organisations like MitsuiOSK Lines, Doehle Danautic, MSC Shipping, etc and sailed on numerous ships and travelled many places across the world. While sailing Umesh realized that the internet is the best way to connect maritime industry, which is spread across more than 150 countries. Umesh did his business course from S. P Jain institute of management & research and decided to take the plunge to disrupt the way maritime business is done online. He is also part of the Polar Seas Portal, a group of maritime experts from various parts of the world. Its mission is to provide maritime professionals with a non-profit source of information of all the challenges and risk of sailing in polar waters.
He founded SeaFolks Network Ltd in 2013 and so far has got professionals and businesses from more than 25 countries already registered on the site. SeaFolks Network Ltd is a public limited company, incorporated in year 2013 by Umesh Dhekane as a social networking platform for global maritime industry. It tries to solve the crucial problem of physical barrier by empowering maritime businesses and professionals increase their reach via its online networking portal, seafolks.com. In conversation with Dominic.Rebello, he explains SeaFolks.com’s mission of becoming“The single biggest global enabler for Business and Employment growth, in the maritime industry, through strong web enabled networking”.
1) What drives you?
The possibility of bringing a positive change in business processes to bring time and cost down drives me. If we can solve some crucial problems and bring about some real innovations for a large market in the process, then that will be the real driver.
2) How big is the potential for a business like yours?
Our closest competitor has raised 33M$ in funding. SeaFolks is a networking portal, similar to LinkedIn, but of Maritime Industry. Maritime businesses and professionals across the globe are registered on this portal. We cater to the industry, which is a multi trillion dollar truly international industry. 93 % of the world’s international trade is carried via this industry. We are trying to connect this industry globally, so the opportunity is very big. We have an event lined up this month. Through that, we have already reached all major Maritime Institutes in India.
3) How do you plan to scale up; raise funds through seed or venture capital or simply grow the old fashioned way through rising turnovers?
We have to quickly scale up as the success of the venture like ours totally depend on how quickly you can reach masses. So far we have about 9000 members and through our upcoming event, we have already penetrated maritime education sector in India. Post this event we will work closely with these institutes to refine our product and launch it for masses. We will also work closely with small and medium businesses, during this period and prepare for raising venture capital aggressively.
4) Who would primarily be your consumer audience?
Our primary target group is small and medium maritime businesses in India.
5) Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
We see SeaFolks to be the virtual identity of every single maritime entity globally, may it be business, institution or professionals. I see SeaFolks playing a big role in every single commercial transaction happening in maritime industry and a single biggest enabler for maritime business and employment growth globally.