Inspiring Start-ups: The Inspiring story behind the success of “Firstcry.com”
When we think about start ups we sometimes have some preconceived notions. There must be some brilliant guy who wanted pursued his vision after a successful corporate stint. Contrary to this is the story of Supam Maheshwari.
This mechanical engineer and premiere B-school pass out chose a different path. Instead of bagging a coveted corporate placement, he directly jumped in the entrepreneurship wagon with his pilot project named Brainvisa Technologies, back in 2000. This venture was essentially a B2B model with core strengths in providing instructional design and end to end solution. By 2007, he successfully turned it into one of the largest e-learning solutions providers globally. Coinciding with the onset of modern recession, he eventually sold it off to a US-based group Indecomm Global for $16 million to make way for something bigger.
His work required him to globetrot frequently. And like other fathers, he also used to bring back toys from his travels for his daughter. Soon it dawned upon him that, despite having an approximate turnover of Rs.50,000 Crores, the Indian toy market still had a gaping divide between demand and supply of toys. Additionally, an unorganized market ensured that the customers didn’t get an easy access to foreign brands. This was his next big thing- an opportunity that was staring straight at him.
The Big Picture
The picture was very clear to him. In order to bridge the gap, he needed a platform where parents will get access to a whole variety of Baby products and toys easily. This time he identified a bigger market for his customer base which was not possible in his earlier ventures. Hence in 2010, he and his friend Amitava Saha founded “Firstcry.com” with a seed funding of Rs.2.5 Cr, raised from personal resources.
The Brand USP
- Brand recall started because of its uniqueness, within a short span of time amongst the parents even though this start up was not based in Bangalore and had roots in Pune instead. This gave him the confidence to move with his new franchise model.
- They were the first online retailers with offline stores in 2012, when omni-channel was not popular. Maheshwari figured out that potential customers in Tier 3 cities did not use internet to buy products for their children. And to capitalize on this section of market, firstcry.com expanded its physical base to cities like Bhilai, Dehradun, Haridwar, Kanpur, Bharuch etc. Every aspects of the store, right from its location, architecture, design, stock selection etc. was taken care by a core internal team only.
- This even led Maheshwari to build his own logistics company XpressBees, which raised about INR 85 crores in funding and is now headed by Saha.
- The stores took almost 2 years to reach a break even, but with its USPs, within 3 months it started adding value to the business. Now the brand is following an inventory-based model and having warehouses in cities like Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. The brand now earns revenue of a whopping INR 100 cr approximately.
- This integrated click and brick approach ensures that even if something is not available at the offline store, it can be ordered online then and there.
Word of Mouth Marketing
The brand relies completely on word of mouth publicity. Expensive TV and print ads were a low return and high cost model. Instead they stuck to online ads and a path-breaking word of mouth campaign. The company gifts a ‘Firstcry Box’ to mothers, right before their departure from the nursing home post delivery. These boxes basically contain baby diaper, lotion, oil etc from leading brands. This brilliant thought made them reach out to over 70,000 parents each month. So far, they have distributed over 6 lakh gifts nationally.
Entrepreneurship is the key
Running one of the leading online portals of Asia comes with a lot of uneasy tasks and difficult decisions. While he had to close his lifestyle segment “Goodlife”, he also recently went on to acquire Mahindra’s “BabyOye”, firstcry’s biggest competition. This has now officially made him the CEO of possibly the largest baby & mother care retailer in India – online and offline.
An entrepreneur’s ability to think strategic and maintain a good balance of the micro and macro elements of a business is what makes him successful. And these are the same traits the 42 year old Maheshwari possess.