India’s D2C market is estimated to reach $300 Bn by 2030, and the vast opportunity calls for a systematic discussion about the ecosystem and its pros and cons
In our 31st edition of the 30 Startups To Watch series, published ahead of Inc42’s D2C Summit 3.0, we take a close look at 30 D2C brands in the country making a dent in their sub-sectors with their innovative products and services
In this list, we have featured 14 lifestyle startups, eight F&B brands, four fashion brands, two wellness startups and one each in pet care and baby care
They came. They prepped the innovation blueprint. And they reimagined the consumer retail market with aplomb never witnessed before. Today, India is a thriving hub of 50,000+ digital-first brands keen to be a part of the $300 Bn opportunity. But their success stories were not scripted overnight.
It was the darkest hour when an unprecedented health crisis brought the country’s vibrant startup ecosystem to a grinding halt and threatened to eliminate all brick-and-mortar entities. But digital tech democratised the tools to start and scale a new class of startups that gunned for direct-to-consumer (D2C) distribution, thrived on enablers’ expertise and did their marketing on cost-effective social media to bag every revenue dollar they could.
The tectonic shift in the customer mindset from offline to online also helped. Indian consumers are loving their newfound online engagement in the wake of the pandemic and the zero-intermediary, direct-to-business conversations that create value on both sides. Even then, D2C brands face challenging issues like high customer acquisition costs, complicated distribution channels, difficulties in brand building and a big question mark on the long-term viability of their products and services.
A funding winter has followed the D2C bloom, and the current bleakness calls for a systematic discussion about the sector, its potential, challenges and the road ahead.
Unlike every month where we select sector-agnostic startups, we brought you a list of innovative and future-ready D2C brands for our August edition, published ahead of The D2C Summit 3.0 scheduled for September 16 and 17, 2022. We wanted our readers to explore the D2C brands that empower the sectors they are operating in.
Out of hundreds of startups, we looked at, these 30 would amply highlight how the internet made an impact on consumer preferences and brought about lasting changes.
30 Startups To Watch: August 2022 [D2C Edition]
As the focus was on D2C brands, we deep-dived into the sector and handpicked some excellent brands that brought several innovative products and use cases. For instance, snacking, eating, drinking and overall food habits were clubbed together to showcase eight F&B D2C bands and their impact on public life.
Feminine hygiene, consumer electronics, home décor and other lifestyle products constituted a major part of this list (14 in all). Better still, we found some exciting D2C brands doing remarkable work in the pet care space and baby care ecosystem.
It is interesting to note that before the pandemic, these businesses were few and far between. But thanks to high-speed internet (5G will be launching soon) and ease of logistics, these D2C brands are attracting a vast user base. In fact, the rise of the D2C business models has necessitated a forum to discuss the drawbacks of the ecosystem.
Check out the 31st edition of Inc42’s 30 Startups To Watch list while we await your presence on the other side of the event!
Editor’s Note: The list below is not meant to be a ranking of any kind. We have listed the D2C brands in alphabetical order.
Why Allegra Fashion Made It To The List
Among all D2C segments, fashion, especially women’s apparel, has the largest market opportunity, worth nearly $20 Bn and growing at a CAGR of 20%. But this apparel sub-segment within ecommerce is marred by a 30% RTO rate, mainly due to size and quality issues. Given the growing market size, Gurugram-based Allegra Fashion saw an excellent business opening there and started to provide virtual sizing.
Allegra was set up in 2021, but the D2C band did not begin full-fledged operations until Q2 2022. By then, it had acquired its first 100 customers with an average basket size of INR 25K. Interestingly, there are two sides to this business. The startup offers nearly 500 products under categories like ethnic and western wear, nightwear, athleisure, swimwear, footwear and accessories. It has also partnered with eight fashion designers from the Delhi-NCR region for design customisation and production.
The other unique selling point is the fashion tech for virtual sizing. The process is simple enough. The website asks the buyer to input her height, weight and age post which she can choose the bust, hip and waist shapes. Based on the body type, Allegra offers the best possible size option. The digital-first fashion brand has not disclosed any financial details as the business has just started, and the customer base is small. However, it claims to have a sales margin of 25%.
Allegra sells through its website and social media channels. It is also planning an app launch by September this year and aims to carve a solid retail presence to put Indian designers on the global map by 2025. The fashion startup is eyeing INR 1 Cr revenue by FY23 and currently working with a third-party marketplace to build a new distribution channel.
Alpino Health Foods
Why Alpino Health Foods Made It To The List
When six childhood friends from Surat staked everything to launch Alpino in 2016, just a year after graduating, India’s annual peanut butter consumption stood at around 1K tonnes. It also took the founders three months to sell the first 100 jars. The reason? India was not aware of its health benefits and did not add the item to the breakfast platter.
Interestingly, the West has already done so as the spread made from dry-roasted and ground peanuts is rich in protein and nutrients and takes care of heart health, body weight and blood sugar. And the young entrepreneurs were confident that India would soon follow suit.
They assumed right. By 2022, the domestic consumption of peanut butter was growing at an annual rate of 33.7%, and Alpino was selling a peanut jar every 30 seconds. Besides the plain-vanilla product, the startup offers more than 40 FSSAI-approved items under four categories – flavoured peanut butter, muesli, peanut butter powder and coffee blends.
For most of its products, peanuts are sourced from Junagadh in Gujarat and products are developed in-house in Surat. The startup has adopted an omnichannel approach, selling on its website and ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, JioMart and the like. Alpino products are also available offline in 4K+ stores and across 40+ cities. Modern Bazaar, ITC and Godrej Nature’s Basket are some of its major brick-and-mortar partners.
According to Alpino, its products have reached more than 6 Lakh consumers. Now it plans to drive online sales and targets INR 44 Cr in revenue for FY23. The D2C brand will expand its product line in the next couple of years and introduce apple cider vinegar and cereals to promote healthy eating and therapeutic diets.
Why Avni Made It To The List
Menstrual care startups operating across India’s femtech ecosystem have one goal. They want to create mass awareness and educate their target consumers. But unlike other brands in this space, Mumbai-based Avni recognised a more critical issue – the ecological impact of machine-made sanitary napkins and other ‘period’ supplies.
For instance, around 12.3 Bn used pads, amounting to 1.13 Lakh tonnes of waste, reached India’s landfills in 2021. Also, there is a serious pollution threat as disposable pads contain up to 90% plastic. So, the husband-and-wife duo Sujata Pawar and Apurv Agrawal decided to take the sustainability route to meet women’s menstrual needs and launched the feminine hygiene brand Avni in 2021.
The D2C brand offers a range of GOTS-certified (global organic textile standard) products for menstrual care, intimate care and incontinence issues. There are more than 12 products across three categories, including panty liners, menstrual cups, wipes, cotton pads, reusable cloth pads and more.
The entire range is designed and tested at an in-house unit, but the production is outsourced to third-party manufacturers who employ women from rural and semi-urban areas. The packaging is also sustainable, and the startup claims to donate 80% of its profits to create ‘period’ awareness.
Although the startup has not disclosed its revenue run rate for FY23, it claims to be growing at 30% MoM and spreading awareness about its products, starting with urban women. As D2C (direct-to-consumer) is a preferred channel for many consumer-facing brands, the femtech segment will likely cater to a larger market.
Therefore, Avni is planning to launch various wellness products by 2025, catering to everything between menarche and menopause with help from a community of experts.
Why BabyAmore Made It To The List
Baby skin is extremely soft, delicate and much more permeable than the skin of older children. Hence, skincare and other lifestyle products for newborns should not contain harsh chemicals, fragrances or dyes that may cause skin irritation and rashes. Buying the right products for toddlers thus becomes a challenging task for rookie parents.
Former Wipro consultant Hameed Imthad was afflicted even more as his second child used to get rashes from most diaper and clothing brands. He was living in the UAE then, and products for highly sensitive baby skin were readily available in the country. But that was not the case when the family moved back to India.
Realising how frightening such incidents could be for new parents, Imthad and his cousin Abdul Wahab started importing a few toddler-friendly products and sold them in India. But soon, they understood that the massive demand across the country warranted a full-fledged marketplace for baby care brands. The duo launched BabyAmore in 2019, which sells premium, organic and eco-friendly product lines.
The Chennai-based startup offers more than 3.7K baby care products under 60+ categories, including skin and hair care, baby clothes, training pants, feeding utilities, changing tables and more. More than 115 local and global brands like Allter, Burt’s Bees, EZPZ, Masilo, Pampers, ZoLi and Johnson & Johnson already sell through BabyAmore’s website and its offline stores.
The FirstCry-like platform has adopted an outright purchase (it owns the inventory) and warehousing model for offline outlets and a dropshipping model (where it does not stock merchandise or hold an inventory) for its digital store.
So far, BabyAmore has set up two offline stores in Chennai and claims to have served nearly 20K customers. It is currently working on a same-day delivery feature across metro cities and will be launching a BabyAmore community for parenting tips by March next year. The next big step includes setting up 50+ offline stores by 2025.
Why Bartisans Made It To The List
The rise of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns led to extensive home cooking, experimenting with novel dishes and a penchant for home bars as almost everyone had too much free time. The mother-and-son duo of Jovita and Jordan Mascarenhas was no exception. They used to experiment with various cocktails as they had some duty-free alcohol purchased from Dubai.
Many people could not go out at the time and get their drinks. But making the perfect concoction at home requires a specific skill, and few know how to do it. Jovita and Jordan had it and realised the need for shelf-stable cocktail mixes on such occasions. So, Bartisans was launched in 2021.
The Mumbai-based artisan brand offers 10 different drinks using two types of cocktail mixers. First, there are the classics that go to make margarita, mojito and whiskey sour and then the exotic mixers like tamarind and orange, smoked pineapple and basil, and hibiscus and lavender.
The liquid mixers have a six-month shelf life and can be mixed with different spirits to create new varieties. Bartisans also offers home bar tools like shakers, muddlers, jiggers and more. The D2C brand makes its FSSAI-approved vegan mixers in-house, does not add chemicals or preservatives, and sells these through its website and Amazon.
The startup has not disclosed its topline but claims a user base of 5K. Bartisans is planning to push the number by partnering with more ecommerce players by the end of FY23. It aims to go omnichannel in the long run and sell directly to bars, restaurants and other establishments.
Bombay Island Coffee
Why Bombay Island Coffee Made It To The List
Choosing a favourite brew can be challenging for someone new to artisanal and speciality coffee. The options galore and the information overload indicate the need for a solid coffee brand that can guide newbies to the world of fine coffee and turn them into coffee aficionados.
Set up in 2018, Bombay Island Coffee vows to do just that. The D2C coffee brand started as a simple roastery but later added a complete bean-to-cup experience via its flagship cafés in Malad and Vikhroli. It sources coffee beans from its partner farms in Chikmagalur (Karnataka), the birthplace of coffee in India, and these beans are roasted in-house at the Vikhroli experience store.
The D2C brand now offers eight coffee blends and more than five brewing gear (brew makers, french presses, grinders, espresso machines, filter papers and more). It also provides vending machines and coffee beans to 150+ corporate houses and HORECA businesses.
The brand sells its products through its website, ecommerce platforms and two flagship stores. Plus, there is a subscription model to attract coffee lovers. It targets more than INR 2 Cr in revenue in FY23, amounting to 50% YoY growth. Moreover, its cafés host coffee workshops throughout the year, aiming to capture a significant share of the $1.5 Bn Indian coffee market via these popular events.
Why CURRYit Made It To The List
Life in metros (and other cities) is changing rapidly as young people increasingly migrate there for higher education and better career opportunities. Millennials with kids, young people living alone or busy professional couples often skip cooking at home and dine in or dine out. They also opt for fast and easy cooking but find it difficult to get the right ingredients for whipping up authentic flavours.
The demand for tasty spreads grew even more in the wake of the pandemic as restaurants offered limited services, and people preferred to eat at home for health and safety reasons. Given the fast-growing target market, CURRYit was launched in 2020 with a specific mission: It would reduce cooking and cleaning time by up to 90% and bring home the taste of gourmet food.
The New Delhi-based D2C brand offers 20+ products under three categories, including curry pastes, biryani paste and vegetable pastes. These FSSAI-approved products are preservative-free, chemical-free and do not contain refined oils, added sugar or trans fats.
However, they have a shelf life of nine months as Flexi-packs are used to reduce the presence of moisture. All products are made at the startup’s kitchen in South Delhi, and ingredients like spices and vegetables are sourced from local partner farms.
CURRYiT’s products are sold pan-India through its website and third-party marketplaces. However, it has not disclosed its revenue numbers but claims to be growing 30% month-on-month. According to the D2C brand, it has sold more than 100K+ products and grown 20x in the past two years.
The brand has seen a significant rise in demand among customers whose friends and families stay abroad and look for similar products to bring the taste of authentic Indian cuisines to their food items. So, it plans to build a robust supply chain by 2025 to export to countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and others with a sizeable Indian diaspora.
Why Deciwood Made It To The List
Indians love listening to music and typically spend 21.9 hours per user per week, compared to the global average of 18.4. It also underlines their love for quality audio, and many prefer to use top-quality speakers with a series of filters for a customised experience. But half a decade ago, the audio journey was not so smooth.
Few homegrown hardware companies were around then. And the market for Bluetooth speakers was peppered with Chinese imports with not-so-perfect basses and trebles (the sound used to get distorted when the volume was high) or hugely expensive overseas brands which people could ill afford.
Recognising this gap, three friends with a passion for music and an urge to make good quality, acoustically sound audio devices, launched the Deciwood Bluetooth speakers in 2018.
The New Delhi-based D2C brand combines the sound purity of a wooden medium with its patented audio technology Energy Tube that channelises sound waves into the device to balance bass and treble and ensure minimum distortion. The wood-and-leather designs bring cottage core aesthetics to the streaming era, where the likes of Spotify come with sleek interfaces and high-quality audio.
Other features of this product line include batteries ranging between 1,200 and 4,500 mAh, 5-45W output, playback time up to five hours, Bluetooth 5.0 for a wireless range of 10-25m, hands-free calling, compatibility with iOS, Android and Windows, and FM, AUX, USB and SD card connectivity. Deciwood also personalises a user’s speakers by engraving their names, personal logos or music motto on the grills.
The audio hardware brand currently offers seven products, including five Bluetooth speakers, a pair of wired earphones and wireless earbuds, all sold on its website and ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart and Nykaa. It is now looking to launch a soundbar and headphone range and generate INR 6 Cr in revenue in FY23. Deciwood also aims to grow its revenue by 15x to reach INR 100 Cr in another three years.
Why Fitspire Made It To The List
Protein is a critical nutrient, but its sources vary widely. Researches reveal that some plant proteins like soybeans, quinoa, spirulina and buckwheat are as good as animal proteins and contain the whole range of essential amino acids needed for our diet. But others lack one or more nutrients and require some careful mix-and-match (think of rice and beans, a perfect pair) and elaborate cooking to whip up a tasty and wholesome meal. However, today’s fast-paced lifestyle and ready-to-eat platters often put such nutritional discretion on the backburner, and people’s health tends to suffer. To fill this dietary gap, former Max Life executive Vipen Jain set up Fitspire, which helps people choose plant-based food alternatives for a healthy and green lifestyle.
Launched in 2020, the New Delhi-based startup has moved beyond traditional nutraceuticals and developed more than 50 FSSAI-approved vegan and vegetarian healthcare supplements. These include a wide range of multivitamin tablets, peanut butter, energy bars and healthy snacks.
Fitspire uses traditional Indian spices like turmeric, black pepper and cinnamon, and rich natural extracts like berberine, ginseng, ginkgo biloba and more. All products are made at the startup’s in-house plants at Paonta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh) and Greater Noida (Delhi-NCR).
The nutritional supplements startup claims to have served 50K+ users via its website, ecommerce marketplaces (Amazon, Flipkart) and retail chains (Apollo, GnC, WH Smith stores and others). It recently partnered with Delhi Metro and several domestic and international airports to offer healthy snacking products.
Fitspire plans to reach 100K+ customers and targets a revenue of INR 10 Cr in FY23. But the long-term goal is to drive its revenue 50x (INR 500 Cr) by 2025 on the back of a fast-developing natural supplements market that will be worth $106 Bn in another five years.
Why Flexnest Made It To The List
Before the pandemic, the fitness industry thrived on brick-and-mortar gyms. But with Covid restrictions in place during multiple lockdowns, the segment eased into fitness apps and virtual sessions, home gym equipment and tech-powered fitness tools. In fact, home gyms ranked only second to wearables, according to a 2022 fitness survey.
To help the health-conscious and fitness enthusiasts get a smooth and effective ‘home gym’ experience, Raunaq Singh Anand and his wife Rhea launched Flexnest in 2021.
The Gurugram-based startup sells a wide range of connected and non-connected equipment and accessories, including smart cycles, rowers, cross trainers, treadmills, dumbbells, yoga mats, resistance bands, weighing scales and more. The products are designed in India but contract-manufactured and imported from Taiwan and China. Besides the hardware, the Flexnest app offers free trainer-guided classes and syncs with connected equipment for a seamless experience.
The startup currently has 40 SKUs, sold pan-India via its website (70%) and third-party marketplaces (30%). Plus, it has set up an offline experience centre in Bengaluru, where users can try out the startup’s products and buy them online. The D2C brand clocked more than INR 37 Cr in FY22 and aims to increase its revenue by 2.5x to INR 100 Cr in the current financial year. In addition, it plans to set up experience centres in Indian metros and expand to GCC countries by 2024.
Why Floryo Made It To The List
When it comes to daily nutritional needs, a standard food item does not serve all, according to FMCG veteran Manohar Kumar. Inspired by the age-old chakki (a milling technique) and the nutritional sufficiency of traditional foods, he tapped into custom flour mixes and launched the D2C brand Floryo in July 2022.
The Bengaluru-based startup makes different types of whole grain flours such as functional and customised multigrain flours, flour-and-veggie mixes and gluten-free items. It offers more than 40 varieties under five categories and does next-day, doorstep deliveries across the city. All its products are FSSAI-approved and freshly milled, processed and packaged in-house.
Floryo procures the grains – wheat, bajra (pearl millet), jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet) and more – from its partner farms across the country. It also offers online consultations from nutritionists and develops custom flours for individuals based on their health and dietary needs.
The startup has a subscription model in place, sells products via its website and aims to clock INR 20 Cr in revenue for FY23 in spite of being operational for a couple of months.
Why Lauriko Made It To The List
Named after the chemical compound lauric acid, this D2C nutraceutical brand is the brainchild of second-time entrepreneur and nutritionist Lavanya Sunkari. When she learnt about the potential danger of consuming haircare and skincare supplements – these may increase the risk of liver failure – Sunkari deep-dived into veganism and came across lauric acid, a powerful substance extracted from many vegetable fats and known for its medicinal value.
After four food scientists worked on 24 lauric acid formulations and patented eight, Hyderabad-based Lauriko was launched in 2021.
Currently, the brand offers 10 products under four categories (haircare, skincare, multivitamins and snacks), and the entire range is made at a Bengaluru unit. The startup claims that each product contains 53% of lauric acid and enables 83% higher absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body.
Although Lauriko became commercially operational in April 2022, it claims to have served more than 30K users via its website and ecommerce channels. The brand eyes $1 Mn in revenue in FY23. Lauriko also plans to introduce malts, serums and liquids to its existing product lines by June next year and aims to reach 1.5 Mn users by 2025.
Why Lemme Be Made It To The List
The menstrual hygiene market in India is a $900 Mn opportunity, growing at nearly 14% CAGR. The rising awareness regarding menstrual health, increasing disposable incomes of women workers, and the growth of easy-to-access, affordable D2C brands in a traditionally ‘taboo’ market are driving the positive change. However, Hyderabad-based Lemme Be went a step ahead and started planning an inclusive forum for women with ‘period’ issues.
Set up in 2020, the startup offers more than 20 period care products, including sanitary pads, panty liners, menstrual cups and discs, tampons, GOTS-certified reusable period panties and more. Most of them are made in India, but the tampons are imported from Croatia. Lemme Be products are available on its website and various ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Nykaa, Myntra and BigBasket. The brand is also present in 500+ retail stores and pharmacies across the country.
However, simply selling these products may not help all target women as they still struggle to cope with menstrual health issues like premenstrual syndrome (PMS), cramps, PCOD and PCOS, urinary tract infection (UTI) and HPV/HIV. So, Lemme Be is building a forum for open conversations around all relevant issues.
The startup has recently expanded its online operations to Dubai and Australia and has plans to launch in the US, the UK and Southeast Asian countries by 2025. It has an ARR of INR 30 Cr for FY23 (nearly 3x its revenue in the previous financial year) that it hopes to reach by expanding its presence across marketplaces, dark stores and affiliate outreach.
Why Paradyes Made It To The List
Like the somewhat controversial body tattoo or body piercing, bold hair colours are often considered a fun or nonconformist fashion statement. But done in the wrong way or repeatedly using chemical dyes can irretrievably harm one’s tresses and lead to serious health hazards.
Yushika Jolly was aware of the growing conflict between traditional standards and trendy looks as her family runs Prolife Industries, a hair dye manufacturing business. In a bid to provide hair dyes which are stylish, offbeat and safe, she launched Paradyes in 2020 within Prolife’s existing business unit.
Instead of the mundane colour palettes featuring black, brown or burgundy, the Ahmedabad-based startup currently offers natural, chemical-free and semi-permanent hair dyes in nine vibrant colours, including red, purple, yellow, pink and more. Each packet contains a colour cream glass jar, a conditioner sachet and a bamboo fibre brush alongside an instruction manual. These colours last up to 8-10 washes and can be mixed and matched to create a new hue.
As these dyes do not contain ammonia, paraben and para-phenylenediamine (PPD), the D2C brand assures damage-free colouring and claims to soften previously bleached hair.
Hair bleaches are still not available on the platform. So, Paradyes has come up with blogs that suggest which brands can be safely used.
The startup has not disclosed its top-line growth but claims it is creating a niche in India’s $477 Mn hair dye industry. It plans to launch a line of bleaches in the current financial year and build a community of experts to educate users about the bleaching procedure, the aftercare and how to colour one’s hair safely.
Why Pawrulz Made It To The List
The pet products market in India is estimated to clock around $500 Mn in revenue in 2022, growing at 13% annually. It also underlines a surge in new pet owners across the country and a rise in per-pet spending, favoured by increasing incomes and nuclear family structures. Pets became all the more important in the wake of the pandemic as people had to cut back on social mixing and turned to their winged and furry friends for love and comfort.
However, new pet parents also require a thorough knowledge of essential pet products and services to ensure the best possible creature comfort. Given the need for an information-driven ecosystem, three pet owners (and friends) launched Pawrulz in 2019.
The Gurugram-based pet care marketplace has partnered with 100+ brands to offer more than 3K products across 15 categories. These include pet food and treats (for dogs and cats), health supplements, hygiene essentials (like dewormers), collars and leashes, toys, grooming and utility products, pet accessories and many more. It also enables online vet consultation as pet health is rapidly emerging as a critical sub-segment.
So far, Pawrulz has catered to more than 19K pet parents. Around 80% of its sales come from the startup’s website, while third-party marketplaces and offline store sales clock 10% each. The current financial year will be pretty busy for the D2C brand as it plans to open a series of warehouses in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata to facilitate next-day delivery at the pan-India level and eyes INR 55 Lakh in revenue. It will also launch an in-house manufacturing unit in FY24 to introduce its private labels and drive growth.
Why Plow Foods Made It To The List
Traditional vegan breakfasts are tasty, but do they have the essential nutrients to nourish our health? As 68% of Indians lack the protein they need and 71% have poor muscle health, it is high time to try a healthy take on the classic Indian breakfast, the day’s most important meal. So, Plow Foods was launched in 2021, offering protein-packed, vegan and ready-to-cook food items.
The Gurugram-based startup has introduced three products – a classic masala veglette (vegetarian omelette), a coriander masala veglette and chilli coriander masala oats. These FSSAI-approved items are made from whole wheat, oat, besan (chickpea flour), peanuts, moong (green gram) and other locally sourced ingredients to ensure adequate plant proteins. Each item has a shelf life of 30 days and contains 27g of protein per 100g (or 12g per serving), equivalent to eating two large eggs.
However, production is outsourced to New Delhi-based Shree Zelco Foods and products are sold on Plow Foods’ website and through Amazon.
Why Qua Made It To The List
The online market for women’s western wear is likely to reach $8 Bn by 2023. Even then, there are challenges galore for digital-first brands. A limited collection of trendy outfits, the absence of a custom size chart best suited for Indian body types, and little use of fashion tech tools for virtual fitting and styling often result in disgruntled customers and purchase returns (the industry average is 30%).
Aware of what women want from online shopping trips, Qua was launched in 2019, offering a personalised range of trendy, functional and designer workwear for the hip and woke urban professionals.
Variety drives this New Delhi-based D2C fashion brand as its range of western formals are not limited to tops and skirts and women’s suits in classic blacks, browns or whites. Qua’s range of 200+ styles across 12 categories will catch the attention of any fashionista due to their offbeat hues (lime, crimson, lavender, hot pink, sorbet pastels and more), versatile product lines (blazers, pantsuits, overalls, co-ords and flared trousers) and adorable fabrics (Turkish cotton, viscose and wool blends).
Unlike many of its peers, Qua claims a less than 10% return rate as it offers free web conferencing with Qua’s stylist to customise existing offerings, custom stitching, and free home trials and alterations. While an in-house stylist designs the outfits, the production is outsourced to small manufacturers in Delhi and Gurugram.
The startup has also added fashion jewellery and scarves to its portfolio and is currently working on increasing its SKUs. It claims to have an extensive online presence on ecommerce marketplaces like Myntra, Nykaa, HYPD and Stylenook, but its website drives most of the sales. Qua eyes INR 2 Cr in revenue in FY23 and plans to launch in North America and the EU by 2025 for a turnover of INR 100 Cr.
Why Raskik Made It To The List
In a fast-paced world filled with long workdays, busy schedules and chronic stress, people always rush to get things done, and health becomes the first casualty. For instance, a healthy breakfast in the morning has become synonymous with a bottle of juice. But for an average Indian, it comes straight out of Tetra Pak cartons or bottles of drink concentrates in various flavours.
Concerned about the lack of freshly squeezed juice in people’s diets, former Coca-Cola country heads Abhay Parnerkar, Vikas Chawla and Satyajit Ram set up a team of experts to mix and match fruits and flavours with coconut water, as the latter is full of nutritional benefits. In 2019, the trio launched the juice fusion brand Raskik to help remove toxins from one’s system and boost good health.
The Gurugram-based startup offers five fusions of fruit and coconut water, including coco-guava, coco-apple, coco-litchi, coco-mango and coco-mixed fruit. It has partnered with Jalgaon-based Jain Farm Fresh Foods to procure all ingredients and also received BRC, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, SGF, Halal and Kosher approvals.
Raskik juices do not contain added preservatives or artificial colours, and these are sold across Delhi-NCR through its website, local trade chains, kirana stores and third-party marketplaces like BigBasket and MilkBasket.
Why Snitch Made It To The List
In a world hit by the pandemic, physical businesses came to a standstill, and most companies explored digital options to survive and grow. While agile and digital-first D2C businesses coped better with the new normal, Snitch, a Bengaluru-based B2B business specialising in men’s wear, took a leap of faith and embraced the online D2C route to clear its excess inventory. Although Snitch was incorporated in 2018, its D2C business only started in late 2020 to survive and thrive through Covid-19.
The pivot went well as its positioning as a leading B2B brand amply supported its B2C play. Inspired by global trends, the startup leverages a 1,900-strong and 13-category product catalogue featuring the latest in shirts, tees, trousers, jeans, shorts, co-ords and more for the 18-35 age group.
And to make trending men’s fashion more inclusive, the startup recently introduced Snitch Plus, offering nearly 100 products in sizes up to 5XL. All products are made at its manufacturing unit in Bengaluru.
Earlier, the startup told Inc42 that 98% of its sales happened online via its website as it retained a part of its B2B trade. Now Snitch claims to clock 15-20% revenue growth month on month, fulfilling 1,500+ orders a day. The men’s apparel brand recently launched its Android and iOS apps, and 35% of its overall sales come from those.
It targets around INR 90 Cr in revenue for FY23 and plans to launch six offline experience stores to try on the brand’s best-selling products and order them online.
Why Something’s Brewing Made It To The List
India ranks seventh among the world’s coffee producers, but getting one’s choice brew is still a matter of luck and luxury here despite the growing consumption of the beverage. But when it hit a tipping point during the Covid-19 lockdowns (read limited choices and terrible coffees), Abhinav Mathur, former vice-president of the cooking appliance manufacturer Stovekraft, decided to take things into his own hands.
In came Something’s Brewing, a vertical marketplace for all things coffee, including a wide variety of brews, dry coffee (roasted beans, powder, brew bags and so on), coffee machines and all related gear for an amazing home-brewing experience.
Launched in 2020, the Bengaluru-based startup holds the distribution rights of 60+ global brands. It offers more than 500 coffee-making equipment and over 1,000 blends from 30+ coffee brands. The marketplace has also developed a D2C coffee brand called Budan with 20 SKUs. Additionally, its core team of coffee experts helps users learn how to brew coffee using the latest coffee machines and accessories and how to discover new varieties and blends. Plus, coffee lovers can share their recipes on this platform.
Something’s Brewing claims to have processed more than 11K orders. Its website drives nearly 60% of total sales, while 30% of the business is done on ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon and CRED. The remaining 10% comes from its retail store in Bengaluru.
It plans to introduce a subscription model for repeat customers, start a gifting module to meet the festive season demand and hold 20 or so workshops on coffee brewing to cater to coffee lovers. It is targeting $1.5 Mn in revenue for FY23 and aims to reach $10 Mn by CY25 on the back of offline retailing across top metro cities and an in-house coffee equipment brand to be launched soon.
Why Spice Story Made It To The List
Whether they say it out loud or not, all Indians are desi at heart. They may globe-trot and taste the most exotic cuisines, but the heart will be where the spices are. Of course, the $600 Mn Indian spice market (covers seasonings, spreads, dressings and sauces) is primarily fragmented, ruled by small players who sell their ware at kirana stores or supermarkets. But in 2019, former ADF Foods executive Soumyadeep Mukherjee decided to merge the convenience of D2C selling and India’s much-loved desi flavours. That’s how the Spice Story was born.
The Mumbai-based startup offers 14 FSSAI-approved chutneys in assorted flavours such as mint, schezwan, tamarind, mustard and more. They come in handy little packets, which are easy to pour and store. The startup claims that all sauces from Spice Story can double up as dips, spreads, marinades or main ingredients.
Spice Story sources its ingredients locally, but its products are made in Indore, and it has an exclusive co-packing arrangement. The items are sold via its website and more than eight online channels like Amazon, CRED, MilkBasket and more, accounting for 30% of its total sales. It has partnered with 400+ supermarkets and 1,700+ kiranas to tap into offline growth.
So far, the startup has fulfilled more than 25K online orders and is growing at 167% quarter-on-quarter. It aims to hit INR 7 Cr revenue in FY23 and looks to introduce a new category of dips. Spice Story targets 25x growth by 2025 on its plans to introduce Indian spices and ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods in the UK, Australia and the UAE.
SVISH On The Go
Why SVISH Made It To The List
With the onset of the pandemic a couple of years ago, everyday hygiene products like soap, handwash and disinfectant turned out to be emergency items that no one could do without. Realising that there would be a growing demand for these products to contain Covid-19, Ishan Grover and Jaideep Mahajan decided to make them available round the clock on their ecommerce platform SVISH On-The-Go.
Launched in 2020 in Gurugram, the startup offers 14 products under three categories – sanitisation and disinfection, hair hygiene and hygiene below the belt. Its skin-friendly and non-sticky sanitising products include gadget wipes, hand sanitisers, dermatologically tested hair removal sprays, anti-chafing roll-ons and personal hygiene kits. SVISH houses an R&D team that works closely with third-party manufacturers in Gurugram to develop its product lines.
The startup claims to have served more than 1.5 Lakh users within 18 months of its launch and sells its products on its website and ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, CRED and BigBasket. It is now focussing on building a solid offline presence by partnering with 800+ retail stores, including pharmacies, airport outlets and city shops. Its revenue run rate for FY23 stands at INR 22 Cr, and it plans to 4x its growth post a pre-Series A funding.
The Health Factory
Why The Health Factory Made It To The List
The bread market in India has reached $47 Bn in 2022, growing at a CAGR of 7.8%. In various zones, per capita bread consumption is around 1.5 kg, indicating that Indians consume 1.95 Lakh tonnes of bread every day. But instead of eating healthy, most people indulge in maida/refined flour (used for making delicious variants), which can result in visceral fat and other health issues.
Aware of the massive consumption of bread without the must-have healthy ingredients like proteins and fibres, Symbiosis alumnus Vinay Maheswari decided to bring in wholesome options that could gradually replace regular wheat or maida products. Subsequently, The Health Factory was set up in 2020, offering four products – multi-protein bread (classic and protein-lite), whole wheat protein bread and zero-maida bread. The FSSAI-approved products are made from whole wheat and contain up to 48g of protein per loaf.
The Mumbai-based D2C startup sells its products via its website and partner e-grocery platforms such as BigBasket and Amazon India. Besides, it has an offline presence across Big Bazaar, Foodhall (Mumbai) and more. It has also introduced a subscription model, wherein subscribers from Mumbai and Pune can get the products on their desired dates, between 6 and 9 in the morning.
To push its sales, The Health Factory plans to launch its operations in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi-NCR in the current financial year.
The June Shop
Why The June Shop Made It To The List
Pegged at $32 Bn in 2022, India’s home décor market is expected to reach nearly $40 Bn by 2027, clocking an annual growth of 5%. However, functional home décor has undergone a sea change, throwing open a bundle of opportunities for creators and entrepreneurs. For instance, millennials and Gen Z no longer require loads of free time, training or huge disposable incomes to deck up their living space.
A spate of impulse buying for fun, minimalistic and aesthetic components do well to bring out their style and preferences. And the likes of The June Shop are tapping into this fast-growing target market to combine craft and commerce.
Launched in 2019, the Kolkata startup began its journey as an online gift shop. But the site soon became a go-to brand for lifestyle products, kitchenware and fashion items, while home décor remains its mainstay. The startup offers more than 7.5K products across 20+ categories, including lamps and lighting, wall décor, organisers, fashion accessories and more.
The June Shop’s one-of-its-kind items and humungous product range may remind one of Etsy, but it is not a marketplace. In fact, the startup claims to ideate and design all its products in-house. But production is done in partnership with third-party contractors across the country, with major plants in Mumbai, Kolkata and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Besides setting up a pan-India business, The June Shop also shipped lifestyle products to Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and the UAE in the past six months. It clocked INR 1.04 Cr revenue in July 2022, eyes a total of INR 15 Cr for FY23 and plans to venture into the smart home category by 2025.
The Minimal Co
Why The Minimal Co Made It To The List
Pure mulberry silk tops the list of all sericultural wonders. It is odourless, has a buttery feel due to long, fine strands, and is hypoallergenic and antibacterial, which means people with sensitive skin can use them without worry. Plus, it contains a host of nutrients, including proteins and amino acids, offering skin and hair benefits when people use pillows, bedding and eye masks made from this ‘king of silks’.
It was not surprising, therefore, that Gurugram-based The Minimal Co thrived on the first-mover advantage as it launched a niche range of mulberry silk products in 2020. The startup offers seven items – pillowcases, hair scrunchies, eye masks, gua sha and jade rollers (for face massage), exfoliating gloves and under mask sprays.
These will ensure skin and hair hydration, less hair damage/fall due to moisture retention, acne reduction and better sleep, as claimed by beauty experts worldwide.
All products are made by Inanna Herbals, Minimal’s sister company, and sold pan-India through Minimal’s website and Amazon India.
Why Toqn Made It To The List
In India, gold jewellery is an essential part of the culture, consumption and asset creation. Indians buy more than 1,000 tonnes of gold every year, accounting for one-third of the world’s annual supply. But the rising cost of gold and the need to own trendy ornaments to up one’s ensemble often compel people to mix and match metals and materials that will not cost a small fortune every time a new piece is required. That is where Toqn comes in, as the avant-garde brand has reimagined the use of gold ornaments in a sustainable way.
Set up in 2019, the startup has crafted two unique products – a range of four sockets and a single-piece, multipurpose jewellery called ‘toqn’ that can be fitted into the sockets. These sockets are shaped as the bases for rings, bracelets, pendants and lapel pins. A user can fit the single-piece ‘toqn’ into any of the sockets to make four different pieces of jewellery.
The startup also offers 100+ diamond-studded rose gold, white gold and yellow gold pieces based on ethnicity, minimalism and trending concepts. All products are made in partnership with Coimbatore-based Emerald Jewel Industry, which specialises in 18-karat gold designs and sends all finished products for quality testing and hallmarking to its in-house quality control team.
Toqn products are sold pan-India via its website and ecommerce marketplaces. The startup has tied up with GRT Jewellers and Bhima Jewellers to drive offline sales across Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Coimbatore. It also targets $1.5 Mn in revenue for FY23 by expanding in Gujarat, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. The jeweller’s long-term plan is to set up brick-and-mortar experience stores and airport kiosks across the country and venture into lab-grown diamonds.
Why uppercase Made It To The List
India’s online travel accessory market is worth more than INR 6,000 Cr, growing at a 10% CAGR. However, only a handful of companies in this space have adopted sustainable manufacturing. Launched in March 2022, Mumbai-based uppercase is one such brand that sells trendy but eco-friendly backpacks and trolley bags in sync with the Global Recycle Standard (GRS).
This means the D2C brand leverages at least 50% recycled materials for all its products, does not use harmful chemicals, and ensures low carbon footprints, keeping in mind the environment-conscious new-age consumers.
The startup makes 10+ backpack styles and two trolley bags in three sizes – cabin, medium and large. All products are developed at the in-house manufacturing unit of its parent company, Acefour Accessories, and come with a two-year warranty. According to uppercase, its bags are waterproof and stay wrinkle-free.
The travel luggage is sold through its website and third-party marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon, Myntra, Ajio and Udaan. These are also available in many general trade stores across the country.
Why Urvann Made It To The List
As Covid lockdowns severely restricted business activities and physical movements, veteran and rookie gardeners heavily relied on ecommerce for a steady flow of garden supplies. This also meant a lot of live plants travelled intercity, were in transit for up to a week and arrived at their new homes either dead or withered.
Aware of this logistics challenge, avid gardeners and ISB alumni Sambhav Jain and Akanksha Gupta launched Urvann in 2021 to digitally connect offline nurseries and bring the convenience of online shopping to gardening enthusiasts without compromising product quality.
The Gurugram-based D2C startup partners with local nurseries across cities to offer a large variety of fresh plants and guarantee next-day delivery. Urvann’s solutions are a win-win for both buyers and sellers. As plants are procured locally and delivered nearby, shoppers get free delivery instead of paying for high-cost packaging and long-distance deployment for suboptimal plant quality.
Nurseries, too, can avoid all logistics hassles and costs and need not lose money due to RTOs. They can list their products and start selling online while Urvann handles logistics and after-sales support.
Gupta says customers can buy from 10K+ plants and gardening products across 100+ categories at 50-80% less pricing than other online players. The startup has also created a community of more than 35K plant parents who can connect, provide relevant content and participate in Urvann-hosted workshops and events.
The D2C brand is currently operational in Delhi-NCR, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. It claims to have 60% repeat customers and sells more than 1,000 plants a day. By FY23, Urvann aims to be present in all metros, including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune, clocking INR 15 Cr and growing at 40% month-on-month. By 2025, it aims to partner with at least one nursery in every Indian city.
What’s Up Wellness
Why What’s Up Wellness Made It To The List
Junk food affects the body inside out, leading to liver problems and cardiovascular issues, hair loss and dull skin. Some people try to ward off the ill effects of unhealthy eating by swallowing handfuls of multivitamins and hair/skin supplements. But this means sticking to an all-day-long regimen of pills, powders and potions that will soon tire them out.
Former marketing consultants Vaibhav Makhija and Sayantani Mandal often wondered if a single alternative could taste good and fight all hair, skin and nail problems at one go. After more pondering and extensive research, the duo launched What’s Up Wellness in 2020 to offer a single product – a Juzt jelly-flavoured (fruit-flavoured) gummy bear made of scientifically tested natural extracts, including grape seed extract, almond, aloe vera and more.
The Kolkata-based D2C wellness brand claims that consuming one gummy bear a day helps reduce hair fall, keeps skin hydrated, prevents dark spots and makes nails stronger. However, production is outsourced to third-party vendors who follow the startup’s customised and well-researched formulas to make the FSSAI-approved gummy bears.
The startup’s website bags maximum sales, followed by ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart and Nykaa. It also hopes to hit INR 6 Cr in revenue in FY23. It aims to launch five new products (all gummy bears) to address sleep issues, eye health, joint pain, body stiffness and more and push its revenue to INR 100 Cr by 2025.
Why Wildermart Made It To The List
The popularity of vegan and vegetarian foods has been on the rise throughout the past decade, especially among the millennials and Gen Z, as consumers are increasingly looking for natural, nutritious and cruelty-free food items. According to a 2021 survey, nearly 9% of Indians were vegans, and the worldwide vegan food market stood at $15.8 Bn. However, the ‘zero-cruelty’ concept (staying away from animal ingredients whenever possible) is no longer limited to food and spreading rapidly across FMCG and lifestyle segments.
However, finding a one-stop marketplace for a wide range of vegan and eco-friendly products (both food and non-food items) has always been challenging, as few mainstream companies cater to vegan consumers at scale. Struggling to find suitable product alternatives, former HSBC executive Shweta Thakur and serial entrepreneur Swaroop Mohan took a decisive step and set up Wildermart in 2019 to provide organic, vegan and plant-based products.
The Bengaluru firm started to operate commercially in 2021, shortly after Thakur organised a vegan product fair called Wilderfest. The startup focusses on the planet, people and profit and offers 1,500+ vegan products across eight categories such as daily essentials, gourmet foods and snacks, plant-based dairy products and meats, and baby care and feminine hygiene products.
Unlike other marketplaces, the D2C band sources its products locally and sells in Bengaluru alone. It aims to start an offline store in FY23 to test the viability of an omnichannel model and eyes INR 60 Lakh in revenue.
Wildermart says it has minimised the use of plastic for packaging and adopted EV logistics solutions instead of intercity courier services to reduce its carbon footprints. It will also replicate its local-sourcing-and-supply model in all six metro cities and may set up offline retail stores in those locations by 2025.
[Edited By Sanghamitra Mandal]