[Awesome Startup Employee] For Flinto’s Kuttimani Tamilmani work is child’s play
“The Indian toy market alone is worth around Rs. 13000 crore in which more than 95% of purchase happens offline. Most of the offline purchases are impulsive but customers have already started looking out for innovative toys and are ready to pay a premium for such products,” says Kuttimani Tamilmani, the Awesome Startup Employee from Flinto.
Kuttimani was nominated by Arunprasad Durairaj, the Co-founder of Flinto, which is a theme-based monthly discovery box for three to seven year olds, designed to engage them in a meaningful way at home.
On what makes him the awesome employee
“Kutti’s love for operations, commitment to quality and his attention to details are what sets him apart from the rest of us,” says Arunprasad.
His ability to roll-up his sleeves and get the job done when required is a quality that his colleagues respect and value. During the initial days, recalls Arunprasad, “We dealt with ‘on-demand’ workforce for our warehouse/packaging needs. As such, there were times when we were short staffed because of absence of a few employees. Instead of grudging it, Kutti would roll up his sleeves and start packing and loading the shipments.”
His efforts have also brought down the COGS by at least 30% helping Flinto inch towards profitability much faster. Kuttimani performs his role efficiently by adhering to lean management techniques, and his previous experience as manger in banking operations has come in handy in chalking out lot of processes.
Role and challenges
With one third of the startup’s workforce reporting to him, Kuttimani manages procurement, supply management and is responsible for unit level economics of products at Flinto His role starts right from selecting materials for prototypes, managing vendors globally from RFQ stage to purchase, taking boxes into production and assembling them to finished products with strict adherence to safety norms. He is also responsible for quality control, orders fulfilment and post purchase customer experience.
One of the best modes of quality check, Arunprasad shares with a smile, is Kuttimani himself. “Kutti is a 6feet, well-built, 200 pound guy. He tests the sturdiness of the Flintobox by standing and sitting on them. If it withstands his rigorous testing, the boxes can stand the long journey to the customers.”
Kuttimani does face a few challenges given his nature of work. Foremost is the challenge to launch a new product month after month. Each month’s box contains anywhere between 30-40 different materials coming from different parts of India and sometime globally. To top it, every box has unique materials so that we can keep it exciting for the children.
Another big challenge in his way was to get the basics right for scalable operations. The first step to resolve it was to identify online infrastructure (ERP) for inventory management that could keep track of multiple stock keeping units (SKUs) on real time basis. This would help make data-driven decisions for purchases and marketing. Kuttimani says, “This became a reality when I was given enough resources for executing the plan. Now, the processes are in place to take care of any scale of operations, and the warehouse has a capacity to ship 1500 boxes per month.”
The road to Flinto
Born and brought up in a small village, Menasi, in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, Kuttimani did B.Tech in Materials Engineering from Chennai. Campus placement got him a job as Assistant Manager at ICICI where he was handling the retail branch banking department. This laid a strong foundation for him in the field of operations management.
In 2010, he quit his job and moved on to do an MBA from the UK. His research for MBA dissertation was on m-commerce, which made him realize how disruptive models can be built by leveraging the power of information and communication technology. In 2011, he went to Dubai to work in wealth management with First Gulf Bank.
By 2012, the Indian startup ecosystem was buzzing. Kuttimani came back to Chennai to join the bandwagon. He joined an online gifting marketplace startup and headed their operations.
The journey so far
It has been a phenomenal journey for Kuttimani. What he loves the most about it is the rare chance to work and brainstorm with people from different sectors like early child development, corporate law, management, and engineering and design to arrive at a consensus in bringing highly innovative products month on month.
Companies such as Avishkaar Box, Yellow Bubble and Traveller Kids are in the same domain but the primary difference, Kuttimani claims, is the intellectual property his company Flinto has built around their character Flinto, the octopus and his friends, for better brand recognition and to keep kids engaged.
He adds, “In the online model, the companies get a chance to directly interact with customers and understand their requirements. The purchase decision here is informed after realizing their need.”
There is no iota of doubt that Kuttimani lives and breathes his work. He is proud of what he does. He speaks about his founders and team with great fondness. There are no complaints about his busy schedule, for Kuttimani loves what the does. His day starts early with a walk (an hour at least) that rejuvenates his system completely and makes him ready for the entire day. “I generally unwind after checking whether our team has completed their daily tasks for the day and then keeping a note for work to be completed the next day.”