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Can SuperBottoms Sweep India’s $1.37 Bn Diaper Market With Super Absorbent Organic Cotton Diapers?

Can SuperBottoms Sweep India’s $1.37 Bn Diaper Market With Super Absorbent Organic Cotton Diapers?

Founded by Pallavi Utagi the company manufactures clinically approved all-day usage cotton diapers and kids’ accessories

Among its USP is the UNO cloth diaper range, which can fit babies aged between three months to three years

So far, it has amassed a 20 Lakh-strong customer base and claims 8% MoM growth

New parents often struggle with 101 babycare issues, and one of these could be finding the right kind of diapers to keep babies healthy, rash-free and comfortable.

Though lately, reusable cotton diapers have emerged as the preferred solution due to the redeeming features of the synthetic product, big brands still use a lot of unsafe substances. These include polyester, plastic and other petrochemical byproducts.

This was a major struggle for Pallavi Utagi, a new mom in 2016. The harsh elastic and the material used gave her son terrible rashes. But cloth diapers had absorbency issues and could not be used for long. She ordered a few cotton diapers from the US but those were not a comfortable fit.

Realising that this is a common challenge faced by other moms as well, she decided to make a difference and set up SuperBottoms in 2016, manufacturing clinically approved and patent-ready, all-day usage cotton diapers and kids’ accessories. 

So far, SuperBottoms has amassed a 20 Lakh-strong customer base and claims to have achieved 8% MoM growth and INR 22 Cr in revenue in FY21. It has more than 1,500 SKUs and repeat purchase for its organic diapers has reached 38% and has raised $3 Mn in funding until now.  

The company currently competes with FMCG giants like MamyPoko pants, Pampers, Johnson diapers, and cloth diaper brands like Charlie Banana and Mylo.

Can SuperBottoms Sweep India’s $1.37 Bn Diaper Market With Super Absorbent Organic Cotton Diapers?

From Baby Steps To Patent Claim: Diapering It Right With Green Products 

“I had more than a decade’s experience in branding, marketing and product management. And I worked closely with the launch of several products in the feminine care sector. These skills came in very handy when I launched SuperBottoms,” she said.

Despite that, bridging the quality gap in India by switching from plastic to cotton was not easy as few focussed on comfort and sustainability in this space. For SuperBottoms, it meant vigorous research, consultations with textile experts, developing several samples and trying them out within a select group before a commercial launch. Being thorough was critical as there is always zero-tolerance among consumers if a baby product goes wrong. 

Unlike most organic cloth diapers, Superbottoms’ UNO diapers — can be resized to fit babies aged three months to three years — contain 17 layers and a microfleece lining. The current range is the fifth iteration of this product line, and the startup has already filed a patent on the same. 

“Most of the players out there use microfibre and synthetic products — these are thick fabrics and that is why even four or five layers make it seem very bulky. We use organic cotton jersey fabric, which is really thin and thus even after 17 layers, it is trimmer. In fact, we did a weight comparison and it was 60% of the weight of the other diapers,” explained Utagi.

The company has three product categories – diapers, baby and mom accessories, and comfort apparel/loungewear for kids – which it’s now expanding by introducing new products and prints.

Quality Rules: Where Experts And Moms Have The Final Say 

Although SuperBottoms’ products are made at third-party units, the entire manufacturing process is closely supervised by team members deployed on-site for this purpose. Starting with fabric provenance — the company uses GOTS-certified organic cotton and Tencel Modal — to production-level monitoring, followed by a host of gold-standard quality checks and a final QC done at the company’s warehouse. All cloth diapers also get approval from the Bombay Textile Research Association before hitting the market. The organisation also works with OEKO Tex certified manufacturers to ensure the highest quality. 

Emphasising the company’s quality standards, Utagi said that the products go through clinical tests by renowned agencies to check for absorbency and durability. These also comply with the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) as India has no similar standards in place. The products are further tested by certified labs like Intertek for harmful chemicals (like phthalates and lead), inflammability and sharp edges as specified by the US CPSIA for child safety. 

“We also test our products for metal parts by passing them twice through metal detectors, a practice prevalent only in the US/UK markets. Finally, our team of moms test each product on their babies to check for functional parameters like absorbency and softness before we release any product,” she added. 

Can SuperBottoms Sweep India’s $1.37 Bn Diaper Market With Super Absorbent Organic Cotton Diapers?

The Roadblocks: Lack Of Awareness, IP Infringement   

Giving a timely makeover to a traditional product required a lot of R&D. But more than that, it required convincing customers that cloth diapers would work just as efficiently as synthetic ones.  

“When we started out, people were not aware of the product’s potential as there were no strong players in the cloth diapering category back then. So, the onus was on us to inform and educate our customers, a practice we follow even today,” she said. 

The brand has adopted a community-first approach and educates new moms, dads and grandparents about cloth diapering with the help of video demos across all channels. These include experts such as paediatricians, gynaecologists, psychiatrists, helping them cope with babycare and other parents sharing their experiences and issues. 

These demos also help the startup build trust and product awareness. Cementing the trust factor further, the company offers a 30-day free trial period for items worth INR 900. During this time, the startup guides the buyer about using cloth diapers. If the customer is still unsatisfied, the item is taken back and upcycled into small things like keychains and coin pouches. It claims to have always been less than 1% returns under this policy.

The other challenge involves product infringement from smaller brands. “We have seen many small-time businesses lifting our designs and launching them at lower prices,” Utagi said. “The only way out has been our core value of continuous innovation. We keep improving our products and offer new features with every version. This helps us stay ahead of the competition.”

Next Milestones For SuperBottoms

To expand the customer lifecycle and increase the average ticket size, the company plans to grow its comfort apparel/loungewear and accessory categories in the next financial year. It is also focussing on ATL and influencer marketing for better branding and greater customer reach. Neha Dhupia and Kishwer Merchant are currently the brand’s ambassadors, and it has recently started its print media campaign.

With a strong foothold in Western India and the Southern market, it is now eyeing the North Indian market to grow the business further. Currently, it works with two logistics partners for broader and quicker reach across the country. Additionally, to ensure efficient order processing and inventory management, it is leveraging an integrated one order management system (OMS) and warehouse management system (WMS). 

What bodes well for Superbottoms (and its ilk) is the projected growth of the Indian baby diapers market in the coming years. From the value of $1.37 Bn in 2021, the market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8.18% between 2022 – 2027 to reach more $2.22 Bn by 2027. 

However, the domestic market is still not mature enough for companies or customers to bet big on sustainability. As of now, sustainability is an added benefit perceived by customers but certainly not a key driver for a product purchase, according to Utagi.

An analyst who follows this space agrees that the focus is primarily on affordability. But the likes of SuperBottoms may hold an edge in this segment as they deal in reusable cloth diapers, which will automatically bring the cost down. and restore the functional value of a traditional product. 

In the long run, brands must focus on safety, affordability and sustainability, bonding technology and environment to become acceptable to discerning consumers.

 

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