The D2C wave in India is no longer news to anyone following the Indian startup ecosystem. As the ecosystem realises the unique opportunities provided by the direct-to-consumer (D2C) model, all stakeholders feel an increasing need to help early-to-growth stage startups tap into the segment and grow beyond boundaries. A testament to that is the surreal response we have received soon after we announced the launch of The D2C Summit 2021, hosted by Inc42 Plus.
The D2C wave in India picked up around this time in 2020 when the pandemic-induced lockdowns brought the entire country and most of its brick-and-mortar businesses to a screeching halt. But there was a twist in the tale. Online businesses continued to perform better than their peers as consumers opted for safe and convenient e-shopping and doorstep delivery. According to a recent Inc42 Plus study, companies with dedicated websites saw an 88% rise in consumer demand in 2020 compared to the previous year. Since then, more businesses began to adopt the model, and the country is now home to more than 800 D2C brands looking at a $101 Bn opportunity by 2025.
As the demand for packaged goods surged and consumer behaviour changed (widely adopted safety protocols brought about by Covid-19), the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry was among the first few to pivot to the D2C model. From product innovation to building a seamless supply chain, with the focus on logistics and last-mile delivery, the sector was quick to evolve and managed to pare losses caused by the pandemic.
Moreover, things were looking up for D2C brands even before the pandemic struck last year. For instance, FMCG giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Himalaya, Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Lakmé and others — companies that dominated the Indian market for decades — are now competing with startups like Mamaearth, The Moms Co., Bey Bee, Azah, Nua, Pee Safe and more.
More importantly, while market giants such as Revlon and Lotus took around 20 years to reach the INR 100 Cr revenue mark, new-age brands Mamaearth and Sugar took four and eight years, respectively, to achieve that milestone. Clearly, some of the D2C brands have scripted their success stories with elan.
As the D2C wave is here to stay, many first-time entrepreneurs and new startups on the block are keen to decode the success mantra and emerge as the go-to places that will wow end users. To help with that goal, some top D2C brands in the FMCG space will join the Inc42 Plus summit and tell their peers how these brands were built, the challenges they faced and the solutions they worked out. In essence, new businesses will gain actionable insights from the D2C veterans (veterans by performance alone as these are also young companies) to navigate the road map ahead. Here is a look at our illustrious multi-genre speakers.
Vineeta Singh And Kaushik Mukherjee, SUGAR Cosmetics
Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee had various entrepreneurial experiences, first at Fabag and then at Nothing Else. Both ventures dealt in cosmetics. The first offered a monthly make-up and beauty subscription for women, and the other focussed on made-in-China cosmetics. Understandably, the major challenge that the cofounders faced was a shortage of working capital.
Feeling cash-strapped, they finally raised loans and increased the revenue sixfold in the second year of launching SUGAR. Eventually, Mumbai-based SUGAR Cosmetics was launched in 2015. Here, Singh takes care of the finances and Mukherjee looks after the tech and operations.
The startup sells through its retail chain and other big-box retailers such as Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle, covering more than 2,400 locations in 130+ cities. It has also tied up with major ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Myntra, Flipkart and Nykaa to overcome the pandemic constraints faced by offline sales-driven businesses. The beginning of this year saw the startup reach a $100 Mn valuation after a Series C funding round worth around $21 Mn from Elevation Capital (formerly SAIF Partners), A91 Partners and India Quotient.
The duo will join a fireside chat at the D2C summit, moderated by Deepak Shahdadpuri, founder and managing director at DSG Consumer Partners.
Aarti Gill, OZiva
The cofounder and CEO of OZiva is the motivation and the creative brain behind this startup. Driven by Gill’s technical knowledge, marketing skills and passion for health and fitness, the company gained popularity and grew 4x in CY 2020-21.
Founded in 2016 by Gill and Mihir Gadani, the Mumbai-based startup uses natural and plant-based ingredients for a wide range of products across several categories such as women’s and men’s health, hair and skin care, and general wellness.
OZiva raised a $12 Mn Series B round in March 2021, led by Eight Roads Ventures. F-Prime Capital and Matrix Partners India also participated in that round. Gill will be joining a stellar lineup of panellists for a panel focussing on the FMCG sector.
Chakradhar Gade, Country Delight
He started his career as a software engineer at Infosys in 2004 but decided to work on his startup idea around 2013. And this time, Gade, along with Nitin Kaushal, wanted to change the way milk is consumed in India. In 2015, the duo set up Country Delight in Gurugram and currently provides natural and locally sourced cow and buffalo milk, bread and other dairy products. The startup claims to serve more than 1.5 Mn customers per month and fulfils close to 3 Mn orders.
Towards the end of 2020, the company raised $25 Mn in a Series C round led by Elevation Capital, with Matrix Partners, Orios Venture Partners and IIFL PE Fund also taking part. Gade will also be joining Gill to decode and deep dive into the FMCG sector.
Vivek Gupta, Licious
Drawing upon his last stint at Helion Ventures, where he spent close to 10 years in the finance team, Gupta handles the finance, marketing, technology and expansion of Licious while monitoring organisational growth with a customer-first lens.
Gupta and Abhay Hanjura set up the Bengaluru-based meat and seafood delivery startup in 2015, and now the farm-to-fork brand is a leading name in the fresh food category. The company started with 100 orders a day and currently delivers more than 20K products every day. It raised more than $90 Mn in funding, and reported steady revenue growth, reaching INR 146.3 Cr in FY20 from INR 78.96 Cr in the previous financial year.
Joining us at the summit to share his insights will be Vivek Gupta. He will host a masterclass, charting the startup’s journey from initial days to an $800 Mn brand. The session will aim to decode how Licious built and scaled its business, challenges of the perishable category, the secrets of a strong supply chain and much more.
Shashank Mehta, The Whole Truth
Mehta’s fitness journey began with his own weight loss over a decade or so. Starting from 100 kg, he trained meticulously, lost 40 kg, ran several marathons and helped many friends and colleagues jump on the fitness bandwagon. But that was not the end of the story.
After all those years of research and experimentation, he founded The Whole Truth in 2019. The Mumbai-based firm produces some of the healthiest and tastiest protein bars and claims to deliver nearly 4K units every day.
To date, the startup has raised more than $2 Mn in funding from Matrix Partners, Sauce.VC and a clutch of angel investors, including Zerodha’s Nithin Kamath, Rebel Foods’ (formerly Faasos) Jaydeep Barman and Airtel CMO Shashwat Sharma. Mehta is the third panellist focussing on the FMCG sector at the summit.
Nitin Saluja, Chaayos
A graduate from IIT-Bombay, Saluja had never failed to realise the importance of a perfect cuppa when he was living away from home. And this passion for chai led him and his friend Raghav Verma to open Chaayos.
Set up in 2012, this Delhi-headquartered startup offers numerous tea varieties for tea-loving Indians as well as snacking options. It currently serves more than 80 stores in India.
In February 2020, Chaayos raised $21.5 Mn (a mix of equity and debt) in a Series B funding round from Tiger Global Management, Elevation (formerly SAIF Partners), Integrated Capital and former WhatsApp business head Neeraj Arora.
Saluja will be joining us at the summit as the fourth panellist of the panel decoding the FMCG sector.
Shantanu Deshpande, Bombay Shaving Company
A B.Tech and an MBA, Deshpande was a consultant with McKinsey & Company during 2011-2015 and served a wide range of clients across sales and marketing, retail, insurance and basic materials. While working here, he decided to set up his own venture, and grooming products startup Visage Lines emerged in 2016. Under Visage Lines, he has introduced a number of brands such as Bombay Shaving Company, Beardinator and Herbatol Plus.
Founded by the foursome — Deepu Panicker, Raunak Munot, Rohit Jaiswal and Deshpande — Delhi-based Bombay Shaving Company is one of the most prominent names in the men’s grooming segment. At the beginning of this year, Reckitt Benckiser led the startup’s fifth round of fundraising — INR 45 Cr — while HNIs such as Rajesh Sud of Bharti Enterprises, Anjali Bansal of Avaana Capital and Kuldeep Jain of CleanMax Enviro Energy also participated.
“We are at the growth stage and growing at 40% quarter on quarter. So, with the investments we have, it is hard to become profitable. But the good part is that we have excellent gross margins, and we are expecting to inch towards profitability by the end of this calendar year,” Deshpande earlier told Inc42.
Deshpande will be joining the summit as a panellist focussing on the grooming segment and decode his journey, via mistakes, successes and overall experiences.
Manish Chowdhary, WOW Skin Science
Keen to create a niche in a popular segment, Manish and his three friends — Arvind Sokke, Ashwin Sokke and Karan Chowdhary — decided to focus on the health and beauty sector. They combined their personal savings, deep-dived into product quality and adopted a consumer-first strategy to launch Fit & Glow in 2014. Later, the Bengaluru-based startup was revamped and rebranded as WOW Skin Science, a personal care brand.
In April 2021, the startup hit the headlines for its $50 Mn funding round — in exchange for a significant minority stake — from private equity firm ChrysCapital.
WOW Skin Science, one of the leading Indian D2C brands in the personal care space, claims to use only natural ingredients for all its products. It has also adopted an omnichannel sales strategy and leverages its dedicated website, ecommerce marketplaces and offline stores to grow its business.
“WOW Skin Science is a consumer-first brand in the D2C space. We strive to optimise consumers’ experience and address their problems and pain points by leveraging technology and innovation. From being a digital-first brand, the vision now is to scale up to become the No. 1 brand in the toxin-free space within the larger FMCG sector,” Manish had told Inc42.
Manish Chowdhary is another name we have added to the stellar lineup of speakers at The D2C Summit 2021.
Malika Datt Sadani, The Moms Co.
A banker-turned-entrepreneur, Malika had just moved back to India from London when she had a torrid time trying to find safe products— for her daughters. It was imperative to act fast as one of her daughters suffered from a skin condition. But after talking to numerous parents, she realised the gap in the market, and The Moms Co. came up in 2016. It has made waves since and gained significant traction.
In September 2020, the Delhi-based baby care products company raised $8 Mn in a Series B funding from Saama Capital, DSG Consumer Partners, Beardo cofounders Ashutosh Valani and Priyank Shah, and others.
Aiming to emerge as a brand with INR 100 Cr turnover, The Moms Co. is famed for its toxin-free and natural baby care products. While in conversation with Inc42, it claimed to have served more than 500K customers in 10K locations across India, clocking an organic month-on-month growth of 15-20%.
Learn from her what it takes to startup and ask her your questions at The D2C Summit 2021.
Manish Taneja, Purplle
Sharp, keen, astute, Taneja comes with all mandatory entrepreneurial skills and a demonstrative experience of scaling up, raising capital and building 100+ teams. In fact, he can easily lead in diverse areas such as finance, strategy and ecommerce, thanks to his strong background in finance and technology. So it is not surprising that he has started his venture and succeeded.
In 2012, Taneja and Rahul Dash launched Mumbai-based cosmetics marketplace Purplle, a platform that sells its own product line as well as products from other local and international brands. In March 2021, Sequoia Capital India, Verlinvest, Blume Ventures and JSW Ventures together contributed $45 Mn to Purplle’s Series D round.
Taneja will be joining Deshpande as a panellist to decode and simplify their segments for brands aiming to grow and scale their brands in that niche.
Viraj Bahl, Veeba Foods
After completing college, Bahl joined his family’s food business but exited it later and sold his shares to a German food company before launching Veeba Foods in 2013.
The Delhi-based B2B2C startup makes sauces and condiments, caters customised products to brands such as Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Dunkin’ Donuts, and also retails its products to pare losses and increase profits. The company claims to clock an average growth rate of 40% ever since entering the B2C space.
Currently, Veeba has a valuation of INR 200 Cr, and Bahl will join our D2C summit to shed light on the workings of this B2B and B2C startup.
Tarun Sharma, mCaffeine
Sharma spearheaded the growth of many successful businesses before setting up his venture. He had worked for Box8, Mphasis (a sister concern of HP), and more. However, nurturing the belief that inner beauty trumps everything else, Sharma and Vikas Lachhwani founded mCaffeine in 2016.
This Mumbai-based personal care startup offers caffeine-infused hair and skincare products with many natural benefits. As of now, it has a portfolio of 10 products, including face, body and hair care items, claims to cater to a 500K customer base and has raised more than $2.8 Mn. Learn hacks to boost the growth of your startup from Sharma in his masterclass at the summit.
The D2C Summit 2021 is all set to go live on July 17. Make sure to book your slot now and don’t miss the exciting and insightful weekend that we have planned for you!