‘Keep marketing for later, first focus on product assortment,’ Vikram Chopra of FabFurnish
We recently caught up with Vikram Chopra, Co-founder of FabFurnish, who was in Bangalore recently, to learn more about FabFurnish.
Vikram Chopra and Mehul Agrawal, Co-founders of FabFurnish, started about two years ago but it seems they have been around much longer because of the exceptional growth they have seen.
Here are a few important points he shared with us about the niche market in which he is operating:
Focus on Assortment: get it right
When we were planning to get started we had the usual questions and inhibitions about how much to spend on marketing, handling finances and handling operations etc. Most of the people we spoke to gave us just one advice and that was to get our assortment right. When we met with Rocket Internet we got the same advice – keep marketing and hiring for later but spend all your energy, time and focus on getting the assortment right.
In the case of FabFurnish, this converted into looking at our core audience. In our case, this was the mass market and mostly middle class, which meant starting with an entry point and covering all price points.
If the assortment is not right you spend a lot on marketing. Marketing may attract a lot of consumers but they may not convert. So I do spend a considerable amount of my time on the assortments by looking at all price points and seeing what is missing, where designs can be better and where there is need for more variety. It is not a one-time activity but needs continuous engagement.
Building a brand: brand loyalty and customer experience
With FabFurnish we are building a brand. Unlike other players in the market who are trying to get onboard different vendors and customers who try and look at the best prices and take their pick, we are not looking for a transaction but a FabFurnish experience for the consumer.
Electronics and books are standardized products and can be bought from any store and the purchase is often based on pricing. This does not work for fashion or specialist markets like furniture. These are elements that are based on personal choices. Buying furniture or clothes or home décor is a personal thing. It represents who you are. In this case, price takes a backseat.
Since we are dealing with a niche market it is not always easy to convince all our consumers. When we started we had about 50 percent of people who were ready to give us a chance and that was all the encouragement we needed. We were providing a good option to people in different cities who had run out of options because they did not like the stuff available in the market or what they liked was way out of their budget. These consumers would buy new contemporary furniture that we had to offer. What they could not do was touch and feel and but that was a trade off they were ready for. There are still a few who are hesitant to buy online because they cannot touch or feel the product.
So we went ahead with that in mind and till today we have that philosophy. We keep the prices affordable and focus on designs that are differentiated from an organized market.
Customer Care: customer is always right
We have a dedicated team for customer service that deals with the complaints in real time. If there is a complaint we have been able to resolve it within 24 hours or 12 hours given the nature of the complaint. We have two dedicated project managers just for consumer complaints. I make it a point to go through the complaints everyday. Both Mehul and I ensure that we are very accessible to the consumers.
We measure complaints across three or four dimensions and if the customer is not satisfied with a product we have even done away with the total inventory and incurred huge revenue losses. If the delivery has been delayed then we look at how we can change that. Or if things are damaged or defective, then we try and change the packaging vendor etc. We look at the complaints over different dimensions and then take a call.
The team: it is all about hiring right
When we got started there were only two to three of us in the team and today we are150. Initially, we wanted to hire only people who we could trust. We were not looking at age or experience for we needed someone who could handle the finances, deal with cash properly, and was honest with negotiations. We were fine with a person who had no experience but it had to be someone we could trust. The best people who fit the bill were our college juniors. We could get them excited. We got IIT and IIM juniors to join us. All of them were young with two to three years of experience, had fire in their belly, and were tired of their current jobs. This was our first batch of hiring!
After this we started looking for expertise, buyers with 10 years of experience or so with knowledge on vendor contact and quality. This part of hiring took us longer. We spent hours talking to them, we invested considerable time in back ground checks as well. This helped us then to find the next set of people.
“Hiring is definitely 90% of the battle won,” says Vikram. If you can hire the right people things will happen really fast and quick and all will be smooth especially when you are scaling. Having managers who are grounded and agile is important when scaling.
Marketing and Media
We have grown and this year we are targeting 200 cr plus. The real effort goes behind merchandise, reiterates Vikram. It needs a lot of hard work and attention to detail. Online marketing is a very efficient tool but we do not spend more than 10 per cent on it.
This year for building our brand and we did do a TV ad. Few more will follow. We are launching ads on radio as well. In the mobile sector, we will be launching an app very soon. It is only now that we are genuinely starting our efforts in the mobile sector.
Customer Base: metros and tier I cities
Most of our customers are women. They are the decision makers when it comes to furniture. These are women between the age group of 25-45. They comprise 70% of the consumers. These women are middle class, aspirational, well travelled and they want their home to look different and are into contemporary products and a different look. We have male consumers too but we see them making decisions regarding male oriented categories.
Our focus is on tier I cities and metros. As for building a brand and creating loyalty, we need to go deep. For the next two years our main focus will be on products, new designs, increase in volume, reduced pricing, and to reach out to more and more people. We will also focus on categories that have not done well. Our media marketing will also focus on these regions. If we get this right all will fall into place. Tier III will automatically adapt.
We have set up our warehouses in metros and now in the offline space we are planning an extension of building that brand trust and credibility. For this we have made small stores and showcased some inventory there for customers to see and get their questions answered by our team. It is an experience centre to gain more confidence and trust that allows for the first sale to happen. It’s a creative way for rapidly building trust.
With FabFurnish you will always find unique, affordable and good products. That is our aim.