What sets a D2C brand apart from any other mass-market product or retail brand? There isn’t one answer to this question, but many would agree and these days, many can create products but only a few can create strong connections with consumers. It’s perhaps the single most important aspect — creating loyalty and repeat usage or constant engagement.
Being digital, most D2C brands can forge strong loyalty among the user base through multiple touchpoints on social media, app & web content, push notifications, forums and a whole lot more. Examples of successes include the likes of Zomato, which went from community-driven reviews and listing platform to a massive food aggregator. Then there’s digital media platform POPxo, which has become synonymous in many ways with online women-centric content. The recent acquisition of POPxo by D2C brand MyGlamm has been driven by its strong content pull and readership base. D2C brands such as Mamaearth, The Moms Co, Azah and others are also experimenting with a similar strategy to drive sales.
Add Bengaluru-based digital-first, home care brand The Better Home to the list. Incepted in February 2020, the D2C brand was founded by impact content platform The Better India cofounders Dhimant Parekh and Anuradha Kedia. The digital media company covers topics such as impact entrepreneurship, socio-economic issues and sustainability among others and claims to have a monthly active reach of 90 Mn users, across various channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Loyalty Drives D2C Success
Looking to build its D2C foray on the back of this massive base, Parekh and Kedia launched The Better Home, which offers eco-friendly home cleaning products to consumers on a subscription basis. The model is the outcome of user trends and gaps the founders claimed to have identified during the early stages of the company.
“We used to get double the reach and engagement whenever we published content related to sustainable products, lifestyle and ideas,” recalled Parekh.
Further, he said that consumers are concerned about climate change, health, wellness and ecology impact and back brands that align with their eco-friendly lifestyle. “Surprisingly, there weren’t any brands that used to provide sustainable products that fit the convenience and requirement of the eco-friendly consumers,” added the cofounder.
The Better Home focused on home cleaning products with bioactive ingredients, including microbes and active enzymes that aid in facilitating natural cleaning actions instead of chemicals that may cause harm. With sustainability at its core, the startup’s products come in reusable plastic bottles and paper pouches or sachets that can be refilled, reused and recycled.
Backed by entrepreneur-focused venture capital firm Elevar Equity; social impact fund TPG Rise; the chairman of the Mahindra Group of Industries Anand Mahindra; Mohandas Pai, former director of Infosys; Raveen Shastry, cofounder of Myntra; Nitin Sharma, founder of First Principles, The Better Home till date has raised a total of $3.5 Mn in funding.
While Parekh said there weren’t any brands in the eco-friendly space, the more accurate thing to say would be there are no big new-age brands with a D2C mindset.
The Better Home is far from alone in the D2C home care space. Other startups focussing on organic and natural ingredients include the likes of Kopraan, which is at a very nascent stage currently, Mamaearth, which does not have home hygiene and care as its core focus, among others such as Herbal Strategi, Zerodor Care and Santic (marketing and developed by Zipped Solutions).
Legacy FMCG and consumer products makers such as Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Marico are also looking at this sector given the boom in demand in the urban markets.
While a large majority of these brands are heavily investing in creating a community from scratch, especially the D2C startups, The Better Home, on the other hand, claimed that it has already built a strong sustainability community online called ‘The Better Homies,’ where its users and subscribers can directly interact with the company, share tips on health, sustainability and green living. The company claims customers across 364 cities in India and that alongside the push from The Better India.
How The Better Home Built Community Into Its Business Model
Often companies offer subscribers perks and benefits to draw them in to the core offering. Often not much thought is paid to these extras, but for The Better Home, this also revolves around the core proposition of sustainability. It includes complimentary access to green workshops and sustainability newsletters, discounts and product customisation options among others. “What we love about this is that we get direct feedback and suggestions from our customers first hand,” Kedia said, adding that it has helped reinforce changing packaging and labels and more.
Parekh added that in recent times buyers are opting for bulk orders. For instance, instead of 500 ml bottles, they are buying 5 litre cans. “Many are really invested in following a sustainable lifestyle. That’s one of the reasons that the adoption is very high.”
Up to 80% of the company’s users have opted for monthly subscriptions. 99% of its revenue comes from its native website, while the rest is from ecommerce marketplaces. “In the last five months, people who are buying subscription products have significantly increased,” Parekh told Inc42.
He clarified that TBH has no plans to expand its business to offline channels, as it believes in disrupting the traditional FMCG space through digital mediums. “For too long we have been okay with our consumption pattern and it’s really saddening to see what it has done to our cities and villages. At this point in time, we are really seeing the value in terms of direct interaction and connecting with the customers,” added Kedia.
Through its subscription model, the company believes that it is protecting plastic waste from filling and landfills and ecosystems. The Better Home founders said that nearly 26K tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India every day — close to the weight of 9,000 elephants.
Commitment To Sustainability Grows With Revenue
“Since we reopened after the lockdown, we have seen our revenue double every month – showing the appetite and demand in the market for sustainable home care,” said Parekh.
The monthly revenue rate is currently INR 1 Cr and growing, with 90% user retention rate.
The company credits this growth to its community-driven approach and said that every subscriber that gets added onto its forums, it does not always talk to them about its products, but instead focuses on sustainability issues which has helped the brand ‘The Better Home’ to experiment with new ideas, innovations and sustainable models.
Recently, The Better Home onboarded Dia Mirza as their brand ambassador, who is an actor, environmental activist, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, UN Secretary General’s SDGs Advocate, and Wildlife Trust of India Ambassador. “I don’t think, the intention of onboarding celebrity as an ambassador was done just to promote the brand and onboard new consumers, but to actually promote sustainability, which is the need of the hour,” said Parekh, stating that they have been supported by a pool of influential people in the sustainability ecosystem and Mirza was one of them.
“With Mirza joining us, we are now re-emphasising our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Kedia, hinting that the company will be launching many more products in the coming months, in line with the programme.
Sharing the roadmap ahead of the company, Parekh said that they will be launching more products (3-4 products) in the home care range, along with growing the community in the next six months and an active subscriber base.