Editor's note: Chulbul store, an apparel-tainment startup completed an year of its operations a few weeks back. Here they have distilled down their learning from the first year in their own entertainment style.
We recently completed our first year of operations and, as per Chulbul tradition, decided to celebrate this by watching an iconic movie. After much deliberation, we chose Sholay, not just because it’s an iconic movie but also because it marked the beginning of a new era where villains became cool enough to start doing product endorsements. Gabbar Singh was the first villain from Bollywood to endorse Britannia Glucose Biscuits (Gabbar ki asli pasand). We dug deeper into Sholay and found we could relate it to the mistakes we made and things we learned in our first year.
This directly correlates to an e-commerce startup’s decision to implement COD. Don’t be afraid to implement COD. The more you delay, the more you lose.
Our sales have almost doubled after implementing COD. You might feel that this would eat in the margins but we charge Rs 50 extra for each COD order to balance the extra amount that we have to pay. Customers do not mind this as long as they have an option of paying cash on delivery since not all customers have access to debit/credit cards and several do not trust startups. COD solves these problems instantly.
Facebook is Gabbar Singh here and startups are Thakur.
Facebook has been telling us that it is going to take away the control of our post’s reach to our target audience. We don’t want to give this up but we are like the tied up Thakur. All we can do is shout “Nahiiiiii” but Facebook is eventually going to cut off our arms.
The organic reach of Facebook posts has gone down considerably. You need to spend money for any kind of promotion now. Facebook is not going to help you if you don’t have money to spend.The solution is to look elsewhere. There are several other social media sites which will help smart startups build their companies without spending on promoted posts. Start using Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc.
Ventures like TVF and AIB have transformed the way we use YouTube. Marketing through videos looks like the new “in-thing” although making cool videos is neither easy nor cheap. If you can crack this, your reach can improve considerably.
Gabbar is trying to assess his brand value here. The more the reward on him, the better his brand. And how does Gabbar up his brand image? Just going to Ramgarh and looting increases his revenue but does not add to his brand value and overall valuation. It’s only when he uses dramatic violence and intense dialogues (yaha se pachas pachas kos door gaaon me jab bachcha raat ko rota hai to maa kahti hai beta soja ..soja nahi to Gabbar Singh aa jaayega) that an impression is left on people’s minds and his brand image strengthens.
So spend on branding and not on marketing, at least in the initial phase.
We did some marketing with Freecharge initially by putting our coupons on their website. We expected a lot of exposure considering the million plus daily traffic on Freecharge. But we did not think why someone would take our coupons instead of PVR, CCD and McDonalds without even having the faintest idea about what Chulbul is. People have to know us before choosing our coupon over other established brands. So we changed our strategy.
We started spending our marketing budget on brand building activities. We developed our brand colour theme and implemented it everywhere - from our visiting cards to packing bags to Comic Con stalls. We made a new cool logo that would leave an impression on people’s mind. The idea was not to go to a lot of people who wouldn’t remember us but to reach a few people and leave an impression. People have started recognizing us as a brand now.
You don’t want to hear this from your customers. If you are a bootstrapped startup, chances are that you will be handling customer care yourself and will miss customer calls often due to other work. The customer will end up wondering “Itna sanatta kyun hai bhai” and lose trust.
The solution is easy. Mention it very specifically that you can be reached through WhatsApp and SMS also and that you will reply as soon as you get time. Customers prefer honesty. Most understand that you are a startup and give you time to reply.
Reply ASAP. Keep customers happy. Give free goodies (we give free stickers and posters to customers who are unhappy due to delay in deliveries or defective products). Good gestures go a long way.
This is continuous competition evaluation. New competitors keep coming up and existing ones keep evolving. You should always keep track of your competition, like how many there are and what are they doing. Markets evolve, demand changes and technology grows. If you want to keep up, it’s important that you keep yourself fully aware of the changes.
We make mistakes and we learn and move on but each mistake slows us down. Avoiding mistakes accelerates forward movement in a startup’s journey. The only way you can avoid mistakes is by having an experienced mentor. One major reason that we recently celebrated our first anniversary and are marching forward confidently is that Lalit Mangal (co-founder at Commonfloor) has been mentoring us for the past six months. Having a mentor is extremely important. So go out and find one if you don’t have one already.