Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Supam Maheshwari says, “FirstCry.com has an inventory of more than 90,000 items on its online platform. There is an inventory of around 15,000 to 20,000 products in our offline stores.”
What are the changing trends in the market for babies and mom products?
The Baby and kids industry in India is massive with an estimated turnover of nearly Rs.50,000 crore. As of today in India, even though 95% people still prefer buying offline, the online market is 5% of the retail market and is likely to outpace organist retail especially in the baby and kids segment.
Urban India today is characterised by a nuclear family with double-income parents, who are willing to shell out the additional money on their children. Consequently, the spending on children’s apparel, with better brand image and quality, has received a significant boost. When it comes to buying clothes for the little ones, parents, especially mothers are the decision makers and are always looking for trendy basic & casual wear with little party or occasional wear. At the same time, Indian kids in both urban and semi-urban parts of the country are increasingly exposed to various media and are thus aware of brands which cater to them. They have also started participating actively in purchase decisions related to their apparel.
Explain to us the business model of Brainbees.
FirstCry.com works on a hybrid business model. So, apart from the online presence, FirstCry.com also has over 100 franchise stores across India. FirstCry runs a unique programme wherein the brand reaches over 70,000 unique parents each month by giving out a FirstCry Box. Under this programme, free gift boxes are given to each new parent across 6000 hospitals in the country as a token of congratulating them on the birth of their child. The box contains the basic necessities like diaper, lotion, oil, etc. from leading global brands like Mamy Poko and Libero. FirstCry has already delivered 6 lakh boxes across India and plans to reach 1.5 million parents by end of 2015 with this programme.
What prompted you to start FirstCry?
FirstCry was founded by me and Amitava Saha in 2010. Eight years ago, when we used to travel abroad in their earlier jobs, they would pick up a lot of things for their kids because the quality of products available abroad could be trusted and more so, because the choices for baby products in India were limited. Looking at these lacunae as a business opportunity they conceptualized First Cry.
Today, in less than 4 years, the company is number one in the online space for kids products. We will soon be at the top in the offline space as well.
What are the opportunities and challenges being in this business?
There exists a tremendous scope of growth as the demand for quality baby products in India is growing steadily creating huge opportunity for us to thrive in this sector. Although the market is as big as $10bn USD, but there are several challenges that exist in selling kids clothing online and we are constantly innovating several strategies to win the trust of mothers for buying kids apparels. Our over 100 physical stores in particular are doing very well on kids clothing. As mentioned before, the market is massive and largely unorganized. Any sensible step taken to win over a customer works. The only condition is that we need to keep innovating, improving and adding value at each step of customer experience. Staying relevant in the minds of customers is imperative.
Given the delicate nature of this market how do you ensure that the quality and service is not compromised?
The idea was very clear when we started off with FirstCry.com. Our focus was to bring easy access for quality baby and kids products for the parents. When we began, the market was unorganized, where customers did not have easy access to world class brands or even enough variety and good quality products. We not only provide great variety but also monitor and assess the quality aspect for all brands on our portal. Parents in India, do not have many options when it comes to high quality products for their kids, we as a baby care multi-brand leader aim at bridging this gap and fulfilling their demands and needs through our online and offline stores. We adhere to very strict quality checks before we list or accept goods in our warehouses. We have over 700 international and domestic brands that we work with and we deal in more than 70,000 products for the customers to choose from.
Is this still a niche market or is it slowly getting crowded?
The baby care market is still very much niche. Currently, the sector is highly unorganised and we see a lot of scope in building an ecosystem in this niche for parents. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and -III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box program ensures that we reach parents early.
Give us some numbers on the number of products available. On an average how many units are sold a day?
FirstCry.com has an inventory of more than 90,000 items from over 1200 top International and Indian brands. Mattel, Ben10, Pigeon, Funskool, Hotwheels, Nuby, Farlin, Medela, Pampers, Disney, Barbie, Gerber, Fisher Price to name a few.
What are the popular products or the ones that see huge demand? Is it often more for gifting too?
Apparels are the most popular products followed by diapers and other baby essential products. We do have wide variety of gift sets and combo offers available which appreciated by our customer
What is your usual inventory? How do you manage the logistics?
FirstCry.com has an inventory of more than 90,000 items on its online platform. There is an inventory of around 15,000 to 20,000 products in our offline stores. We have innovated to provide a 32 inch touch screen kiosk at our stores where a parent themselves can order any product which is not available at store at that moment but available online. This gives a parent a huge range of product to order from and not facing any barrier of buying online. We have a very strong delivery network which ensures timely delivery.
Give us a brief range of your products.
We have over 700 top International and Indian brands. Mattel, Ben10, Pigeon, Funskool, Hotwheels, Nuby, Farlin, Medela, Pampers, Disney, Barbie, Gerber, Fisher Price to name a few.
You have franchisees. Typically how long would it take for a franchisee to break even?
Typically the operational break even takes 1-2 months and ROI takes 18-24 months.
What is your vision for the company?
We have been vigorously expanding offline. We have already crossed 100 stores and plan to open 400 stores by 2017. We will continue to grow more than 100% every year for many years ahead. We want to be the clear market leaders for baby product market in India. If you want to order for your baby’s products, FirstCry.com has to be ‘the ultimate destination’. Our focus will be on constant innovation, improvement and value addition to leverage the customer experience. Since there is a dearth of quality baby stores available in India in any city within a distance of 5 Km, thus we are here to expand our stores as well and fill that gap.
What have you been reading recently and who is your role model?
Recently I finished The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – just amazing journey of an entrepreneur a must read for all entrepreneurs. Life of an entrepreneur is filled with lots of surprises and ups/downs but one has to be firm and make a way through the maze and put his/her best foot forward to win.
What is your message to budding entrepreneurs?
The aspiring entrepreneur must remember he/she must identify the right business opportunity, plan well and have the belief, courage and patience to see it through. As far as our business partners are concerned, we provide them complete support in terms of all aspects of business and our training team delivers organized, structured training to them on the same. This process starts from the time the store is finalized and continues right through the life of the business.
Do you see yourself doing an IPO in the coming years?
Currently we are just focused in expanding our business and being the clear market leader in the baby and kids segment. Coming out with an IPO is currently not on our mind.
Comment on your latest funding. What would the proceeds be used for?
The funds raised will be used to scale across channels, online, mobile and offline and invest in growing the private label business.