With technology creeping into our daily activities, the tedious process of roaming around from one shop to another might probably come to an end soon. Today, online world has taken over and various startups have been trying to enable buyers to find their market online from within the comfort of their homes.
Flaberry.com is a gifting solution, launched in January 2013, which enables one to find gifts to suit every occasion and customize them through various technological services. The product portfolio is spread across categories such as flowers, plants, cakes, sweets and chocolates.
However, the product range is minimal in order to emphasize a high level of personalization of gifts. “The trade-off is between mass market products and niche customized products and we have chosen the latter. This model allows us to treat every order like it would be managed by an individual account manager,” says the Founder, Anurag Srivastava.
“The size of the gifting market in India is valued at $30 billion and the recent ASSOCHAM report mentions gift articles as one of the largest categories in online retail. There is a huge opportunity but the gifting segment is plagued with undifferentiated products, lack of ideal service standards and delivery issues. While we set out to correct those issues, we have also leveraged technology efficiently in creating a good user experience for both the senders and the receivers,” he adds.
The biggest differentiator of Flaberry is the technological edge that they have employed to make personalized gifts emotion-filled and interesting. Features such as MyVoice4U and Flaberry Augmented Reality [FAR], enable the users to personalize their gifts by adding audio and video messages to them.
“We enable consumers to provide their inputs in creating the perfect gifts with our customization features. Right from the product design to customized messages, the customer requirement is the key factor in the whole gifting process at Flaberry. The other aspect which sets us apart from the rest is the intuitive user interface of the website making it easy to use for every demographic segment. Beyond this, the delivery systems of Flaberry such as the same day deliveries, midnight deliveries and fixed date deliveries enable us to meet the very specific requirements of every customer. While deliveries in this business compete on the metric of fastest to the customer, in the gifting space it is of paramount importance for the deliveries to be completed on the day that pertains to the special occasion of the customer,” says Srivastava.
Corporate Gifting Solution is another segment in which that have a custom built CRM system which enables their corporate partners to easily schedule deliveries of gifts and check the progress. It is an end to end automated solution aimed at reducing manual intervention through a one time “delivery scheduling” service for the entire year servicing cities all over the country. Alondside, “with our Augmented Reality service, the corporates can show appreciation and delight employees and their families alike on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries with corporate branded video messages,” he points out.
Journey so far and lessons learnt
“For a first generation entrepreneur like me, the biggest risk was to take the plunge into entrepreneurship and persist with it through the highs and lows. Since there was no cushioning in terms of support and funds, every new initiative at Flaberry was a risk in itself. In hindsight, the highs we have seen in Flaberry have been worth the risks which we have taken, all of which have paid off more than expected,” says Srivastava.
“My attempt was to build in the technical capacities from the first stage itself. Since we had a sense of how the business was shaping up, it was a good investment we did on our technical front. Apart from this, my experience at Lenskart helped greatly in being able to understand the bigger picture of running a business,” he adds.
From 2-3 orders a day during its inception, today, they handle close to 2000 orders during occasions which reflects that Flaberry has come a long way in the past 1 and a half years. Building alliances and tying up with corporates is something that they have been doing aggressively. However, their journey is not all about roses.
The initial challenge for the 20-member-team was building the vendor/associate networks who could handle the final stage deliveries. “I spent about 2 years building the associate network and incorporating them with our SOPs and best practices. The market is unorganized and when we set out, many of them did not even own a computer to support their business. Since we realized quite early on that these associates would be the building blocks of the business and were key stakeholders, I invested time and effort to get this right. We travelled extensively in identifying and shortlisting our associates. It was essential that they shared the same synergies of Flaberry, which was to give their best to the customer always. The basic pre-screening of associates took the maximum time and once done, we were able to quickly carry on with the on-boarding process with our practices and SOPs. Today, we have an associate network spread across major metros all the way up to tier 3 cities and this is the key building base of Flaberry,” says Srivastava.
The other big challenge that they faced initially was getting onboard a talented pool of team members. Building a team is the biggest challenge in any startup and it was likewise for Flaberry. A year into the operations, they have surpassed the initial challenges, the next focus was to provide an elevated experience to the customer and hence they launched MyVoice4U and the Augmented Reality App.
Future and funding
Flaberry will soon be expanding its product portfolio to extend into the gifting aspect of the wedding segment. Right from wedding invites to return gifts, the category will have a comprehensive solution for wedding gifting.
On the internal front, they are working on enhancing their back-end process and providing real time updates on deliveries. The back-end infrastructure to provide the best user experience is also a constant work in progress for them. Moreover, they are on a hunt for hiring concept designers and simultaneously working on taking customization of gifts to a new level.
Flaberry is currently bootstrapped and has evolved into a profitable business of around 40-45% within just 6 months of the inception of its operations. “Although we take pride in our high rate of top line growth, we have earmarked huge plans for Flaberry, and for that next phase of exponential growth we will look for fund infusion in the near future. Since we have a sustainable and scalable model, external funding was not an imperative concern until now. Rather, establishing the right practices and a cohesive and competent team at Flaberry was our foremost priority. We are poised to tread the path of our next stage of growth and external funding will certainly catalyze the expansion,” says Srivastava.