BombayMerch is India's largest online retailer of Posters & Prints that includes genres such as Music, Movies, TV Series, Cartoons, Comics, Sports, Humour, College, Iconic, Spiritual, Inspirational, Art and Photography. All BombayMerch products are 100% officially licensed products. The money you spend while shopping does make its way back to the Artist or the Brand Owner. BM is now dealing with 4 of the largest licensing/publishing companies in the world that have given them access to over 700 titles to offer across 5 Print Categories. They also have merchandise such as wallets, purses, key rings, tin signs, fridge magnets and playing cards.
“I always wanted to do something myself, something different. I guess it’s in the blood! My father is a business man who started his own business when he graduated and over the years I have seen him grow. There are people who know that they’d want to become a journalist, a lawyer, or may be an actor.. .I knew I wanted to start my own company but I never knew what it was going to be about! So, I just went with the flow..” says Akshay Butani, Founder of BombayMerch. We at YourStory find out more about his entrepreneurial journey.
So how did the business blood manifest?
“While in my final year of IT, a few friends and I got together and started an IT company which basically involved us grabbing a lot web application development jobs from the US. And this really took off well! I always favoured ideation & business development and that was my job. I knew I needed experience and thus got campus recruited by DirectI in their sales department. At the same time moonlighting with the IT company that my friends and I had started. A year of no sleep! After bidding goodbye to DirectI, I went back full time to working with the other company, but, things had changed and I felt I wasn’t working with the right people. At the end of the day a united approach is what leads to a company’s success, and this wasn’t happening. A year after graduation I had learnt a lot in terms of working and growing in both an Organized set up and a start up. But, at this point in time, there was nothing else to do, no job or business. But, I still knew I wanted to start something, which was really important to move on”.
How do you go from IT to posters?
I didn’t decide I wanted to start Bombay Merch, or something even close to it. I am a complete music buff and I used to collect posters. And the thought just crossed my mind that there must be a whole lot like me who would want all of this cool stuff and this is where it all started. Here’s when the search started for companies abroad to deal with to bring in Official Movies, Music and Sports merchandise into India! When I found a company, it took a lot of persistence as they didn’t want to deal with a 22 year old from India with just about $1500 to spare and didn’t even have a company name! Yes, my first email to them went out from my personal gMail ID! Haha! But, it all fell into place and I had around Rs. 60,000 left in my account and so I emptied it!
As soon as the order arrived at my house, I started knocking retailers whom I thought would be interested in selling the products I had imported at their store. And I guess, I identified the right stores and all of my stock was sold out within 2 weeks from the date of import, which was fantastic! Yes, for 3 months, I was using my home as a warehouse, until my mother threw me and all my stock out :) And this is when I realized this is now serious business.
So, I started with 1 company and 60 products and now I deal with 5 Licensing companies and currently stock over 2000 products!
How has the growth been so far?
It’s been great so far! We started as a distributor and launched our End Customer Focused portal in December 2011. We currently distribute our products to select stores in Bombay and Pune which include the likes of Crossword, Rhythm House, Granth, Danaii. We are setting up a stronger Distribution Network to support organized large retail formats with all of our products.
Turn-over and Funding plans?
Our second year turn-over crossed 25 lacs. We are currently looking for investors to take Bombay Merch to the next level. The last two years have been spent on learning the distribution business and a good amount of time was spent on launching our end customer portal as well. The ground work has been done, distribution rights acquired. We are looking at exponential growth by going Pan India both online and offline.
We currently offer 2000+ products and we are looking at doubling this number by the end of this year. The team I’ve been able to build has contributed a lot to our little glory! We have the right products & the right team to keep our customers happy. The feedback we receive on our eBay store justifies that!
Going ahead, how do you see you see your venture growing?
I started with Rs 60,000 as mentioned earlier. This initial amount is responsible for much of our growth. Just as any start up, there comes a time when the unthinkable happens. What I mean is you realize you don’t have money to buy a “vada pau”! Haha! It was in these times, that my parents have been my angel investors. 6-8 months into the business, I faced a cash flow problem as retailers enjoyed a credit period against merchandise that was initially purchased outright, and whatever money came in was invested right back in. The money I received from my parents helped me keep the company afloat and also invest in new product lines for the Indian market.
The goal is to be a company to be reckoned with when it comes to Pop Culture Merchandise in both, the retailer and distribution format. Along with this, I’ve planned our own set of product lines which will be launched later this year.
BM recently won exclusive distribution rights from a company based out of New York for the Indian Sub-Continent. The company is called DynoMighty which designs and manufactures wallets that are 100% recyclable, paper thin, weigh just 17 gms, expand to your own personal needs, non-tearable, water resistant! I am really excited about this one :) These are the sort of products we want to introduce in India. We are looking at launching this product line by the end of this month.
Please tell us more about BombayMerch Foundation.
I personally believe knowledge is supreme. In the future we’d like to commit a set percent of our profit in providing free education or vocational education to kids/teenagers from families that can’t afford it. We do what we can now, there’s a Girl’s orphanage next to my house in Juhu where a little from the Bombay Merch kitty goes in to educating girls. And a handicapped school in Bombay Central that provides surgical support to kids from families that can’t afford any form of correction surgery or support instruments. At the end, the real pleasure is in giving.
Bombay Merch was an accidental thought that crossed my mind. And it is just the beginning :)
Click here to check out BombayMerch posters and merchandise.