In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a watershed moment for the startup ecosystem in India. To put things in the simplest terms, the new normal of lockdowns accelerated the transition to digital and expanded the scope for growth. For instance, UPI payments — a kind of proxy metric for digital adoption in India — have more than doubled from 1.32 Bn transactions worth INR 2.22 Lakh Cr in February last year to 2.8 Bn transactions worth INR 5.47 Lakh Cr in June this year.
Perhaps, the biggest contributor to this rise has been the ease of adoption that has helped millions of first-time ecommerce users transition to experienced digital shoppers. When the pandemic hit India in March last year and ruptured the supply chains across the country, it was thought to be the death knell for startups and legacy brands alike. Yet, many of them fought against the odds and hit upon new playbooks to reach out to consumers amid ‘the new normal’.
These new playbooks have gone through multiple iterations in the past year — right from leaner and more effective marketing campaigns to post-purchase user journeys undergoing revamps. Understandably, the flurry of activity during this period has led to the rise and rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands across India. While names like Lenskart, FirstCry, Licious, boAT caught the Indian consumers’ imagination even before the black swan event, a new set of disruptors such as SUGAR, The Whole Truth, Bombay Shaving Company and many others have now emerged to stake their claim to fame.
We at Inc42 caught the signal early as we organised two D2C Day events back to back last year so that entrepreneurs in the space could huddle together and share their learnings. But when we sat down to take stock of the sector a couple of months ago, we realised that random D2C Day events would not be enough to string together all the emerging sub-themes.
“D2C has recently started to gain significant traction in India. There are still countless merchants who want to scale their businesses without worrying about geographical barriers, delivery hurdles, warehousing problems, affordability and more. For the concepts of D2C and online selling to penetrate through to aspiring entrepreneurs, it is important that knowledge is heavily propagated through suitable mediums,” says Saahil Goel, cofounder and CEO of Delhi-based logistics company Shiprocket.
That is why we are organising the biggest D2C conference that the country has ever seen, bringing together 1,000+ attendees and more than 50 speakers across three stages and 25 sessions on July 17 and 18. On this platform, some of the biggest names in India’s D2C universe will be delivering actionable insights on how to go about building and scaling your D2C brand.
FirstCry cofounder and CEO Supam Maheshwari, SUGAR cofounders Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee, Licious cofounder Vivek Gupta, 10club CEO and cofounder Bhavna Suresh, Lenskart founder Peyush Bansal, Chaayos founder Nitin Saluja and boAT cofounder Aman Gupta are among the few in the roster of D2C rockstars.
Through fireside chats, masterclasses and panel discussions in the two-day extravaganza, they will help you understand how to build the first product, craft excellent brand narratives, increase a customer’s lifetime value, choose the right ecommerce enablers, curate the cap table and do much more.
Here’s a sneak peek of what we have in store for you.
Firesides: Unpacking D2C Via The Dialectical Mode
How do you catch a D2C trend before 10 other players crowd the market, and more importantly, how do you do it again and again? To answer such questions at the outset, the curtain-raiser of the two-day extravaganza will feature a fireside chat between Supam Maheshwari, the founder and CEO of FirstCry, and SoftBank Investment Advisers’ operating partner Vikas Agnihotri.
This session will be the first of a slew of firesides we have curated to help you discern the 0-1-and-beyond sagas of some of India’s sharpest D2C entrepreneurs like Lenskart founder Peyush Bansal and boAT cofounder Aman Gupta.
SUGAR cofounders Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee will take you through how they ideated their first products, the mistakes they made, the data and analytics that helped them crack the cosmetics market and how they are leveraging the creator economy for growing the business.
But D2C is not just about creating a fashion or a cosmetics brand. Food and beverages (F&B) is another segment that is witnessing hypergrowth in this space. This is an important signal for entrepreneurs and investors alike in the D2C universe. And to decipher it, we will have with us Viraj Bahl, founder and managing director of sauce and mayonnaise maker Veeba.
Besides sharing how he has reached the critical milestones in Veeba’s journey, Bahl will uncover the playbook for creating a QSR connection before hitting the retail shelf, the secrets of starting up in the perishables products space and raising funds for national expansion, among other things.
Masterclasses: Zoom In For A Close Look At Hottest D2C Playbooks
Another D2C brand that has taken the Indian startup ecosystem by storm is Licious. On its journey to becoming an $800 Mn meat brand, it has also developed a playbook on how to create a disruptive company in the perishables space. But how did it crack the meat supply chain? How did it become a zero-outsourcing company? What was the marketing mix that helped Licious serve a gourmet platter of flavours? Licious cofounder Vivek Gupta will demystify many such puzzles when he delivers a masterclass on the second day of the D2C Summit.
However, success in the D2C space is not limited to creating new product lines, building effective supply chains or tracking consumer preferences. It also requires crafting a compelling narrative that consumers love to relate to. And we have got you covered here as well.
Raul Rai, cofounder of the lifestyle brand Nicobar and a former General Atlantic executive who spotted consumer stories like Facebook, Uber and Airbnb in their early days, will hold a masterclass on how to build a brand that consumers will love. He will tackle questions like how to hit the sweet spot of mass-premium brands in India, the interplay between a brand’s values and consumer psychology and crafting a brand identity that stands the test of time.
“D2C brands like Wakefit and Sugar mostly offer the same old sleeping solutions and cosmetics. But their brand promise and belief are way different from their competitors, and so are their pricing models. It is safe to say that consumers love brands which are savvy and socially aware,” says Raviteja Dodda, founder and CEO of customer engagement platform MoEngage.
In the past few months, one of the most significant trends in the D2C space has been the emergence of the buzzword ‘Thrasio model’ — the concept of rolling up multiple D2C brands with good traction into one megalithic business. The model has been pioneered by the New York-based ecommerce company Thrasio in 2018. Entrepreneurs in India have picked up this signal, too, and seem to be reaping early-mover advantage. For instance, 10club, a startup that is not even a year old, has raised $40 Mn in seed funding to create such a blockbuster roll-up.
That is why we have invited 10club cofounder and CEO Bhavna Suresh to reveal the D2C secrets that she knows and we don’t. Her masterclass will be on decoding this new exit opportunity for digitally native businesses. And she will cover the entire trajectory, right from scaling up a D2C business to traversing the funding minefield to zeroing in on the factors that should spearhead one’s Thrasio-like exit.
There will be many more masterclasses that will add value to your D2C business. For example, one will be held by D2C enabler Shiprocket’s Saahil Goel on how to get the first 1,000 orders for your D2C brand. Another masterclass by Trell cofounder and COO Bimal Kartheek Rebba will demonstrate how tapping into the vernacular can work wonders for growing D2C traction.
According to Rebba, “The pandemic has already given a major boost to online consumption and digital has become the primary distribution channel. Indian D2C brands will begin to create and provide unique solutions for other categories as well. There will be more category amplification and new category creation as the D2C segment is set to become a $100-150 Bn opportunity by 2025.”
Panel Discussions: The Strongest D2C Undercurrents Revealed
A typical concern that gives sleepless nights to many D2C entrepreneurs looking to scale up is: How do you battle the billion-dollar marketing machines of legacy FMCG brands? To help tackle this puzzle, we will have a star-studded panel discussion where Chaayos founder Nitin Saluja, OZiva cofounder Aarti Gill, Country Delight cofounder Chakradhar Gade, The Whole Truth founder and CEO Shahshank Mehta and The Better Home founder and CEO Dhimant Parekh will be moderated by Velocity’s Abhiroop Medhekar.
Both days of the summit will host several panel discussions where a motley group of seasoned and fresh entrepreneurs, marketing mavens and operations whizzes will talk about multiple D2C topics. For instance, a session on India’s $43 Bn fashion industry will throw light on building and scaling several fashion lines under a single hood, how seasonality is giving way to virality, how to invert the trickle-down theory of fashion and more.
If fashion is the biggest D2C segment, can beauty/cosmetics be far behind? To take a closer look at the developing themes in this $26 Bn space, we will have founders of the Bombay Shaving Company, WOW, Moms Co. and Purplle talking about the metrics to track, the checkboxes to tick with every product ideation and the route to scaling up.
There will be several panels on how to zero in on ecommerce enablers for your D2C brand and implement efficient logistics to shave off the costing flab from your business. But the most important panel discussion will be saved for the last session of the two-day summit, where top VCs will reveal how they measure and mark investments in the D2C space.
But more than all the actionable insights conveyed through these sessions, the biggest takeaway for every attendee at Inc42’s marquee conferences has always been the connections made. We promise that you will meet interesting people of all stripes — entrepreneurs who are fellow-D2C travellers, tech nerds looking to crack the D2C code, marketers keen on the most awesome narrative-building or investors in search of their next D2C multibagger!
“The Indian consumer is evolving every day just like the internet landscape. Events like the upcoming D2C Summit will help throw some light on the latest insights and learnings of consumer behaviour and also celebrate the efforts of entrepreneurs who are potentially building global brands of tomorrow,” concludes Pulkit Agrawal, cofounder and CEO of the social commerce platform Trell.