Voonik, a leading fashion app, today announced that it had raised USD 5 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital and Seedfund. They had earlier raised a 2.5 Cr round from Seedfund. Breaking away from the conventional e-commerce business model, Voonik is powered by an in-house personal shopping platform that makes recommendations to shoppers based on their profile and preferences.
Voonik was founded in 2013 by Sujayath Ali and Navaneetha Krishnan. Sujayath is an ISB alumnus and had worked with Visa and Amazon. Navaneetha has been involved with startups for many years, having previously worked at Zoho, Aryaka and Freshdesk.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, Voonik, a MobileSparks 2014 company, is one of India's fastest growing fashion shopping apps for women. Consumers can buy fashion products that suit their preferences such as body type, personality, lifestyle, and budget. They offer multiple stores on a single platform and lets consumers shop in a single checkout. They have about half a million stock keeping units (SKUs) offering apparel, accessories and footwear as well as beauty products.
The company has a strong team of people who have worked at leading technology companies and alumni from top engineering and management institutes in India. They currently have four stylists on board with 30 people working on product and engineering and 30 on support and operations.
Mobile app strategy
Voonik launched its mobile app last year and rapidly grew to 1M+ downloads and recently achieved a rating of 4.2 on the Google Play Store. On their mobile app strategy Sujayath, CEO and Co-founder of Voonik, says,
We already had a desktop user base and initially we pushed them to our app through email newsletters, text messages and spent some amount on marketing. Once we reached a certain user base, we focused on certain segments like traditional and modern clothing and increased marketing within that segment. Word of mouth also helped us grow these segments.
They took their app ratings seriously and reached out to customers to troubleshoot in case of any feedback or negative reviews. They also gave priority to support for their app and focussed in growing month-on-month and capturing different segments. After focussing on modern and traditional segment, their next focus is on western clothes and outfits. Voonik currently sees about 95% of usage on mobile, but are active on both mobile and web. Sujayath says:
I can understand why Myntra went app only. Conversion and stickiness in the app is far greater than the desktop. On desktops we can never own a user, they come make a transaction and leave, getting them back is difficult.
Voonik currently considers their desktop website as a secondary channel for their mobile app. They aren’t actively focussed on acquiring desktop users but feel that there are some use-cases where users would prefer to purchase on desktop and hence do not plan on shutting it down. In terms of experience, Voonik feels that their mobile app provides a better UI and UX compared to the desktop version, as it includes more features.On an average, Voonik sees close to 2,500 purchases daily from 1,500 unique customers, a majority of which is through their mobile app. They feel that even though it is a little more expensive to acquire users on mobile, in the end it is worth the effort because of the stickiness that it offers. Regarding the Indian fashion and e-commerce segment, Voonik feels that personalization is the way to go. Sujayath says, “Even Myntra pivoted from their value proposition of the No.1 fashion store to a personalised fashion store, a trend which Voonik started in India.”
Push notifications form an important part of the mobile app strategy. While there is no fixed number for push notifications, Sujayath agrees that they should always add value and not burden users with too many notifications. He says:
For some users push notification is the product itself. Many users generally don’t open apps but instead respond and react to notifications. There is no fixed number but push notifications need to be done right. The penalty for getting the push notification strategy wrong is very high as the user may uninstall the app.
Funding and future plans
Speaking about the fund raise, Sujayath said, “While e-commerce portals have been extremely popular, we have observed m-commerce is increasingly becoming the de facto mode for making transactions. With the ubiquitous smartphone getting cheaper, along with better connectivity, we believe mobile is the future of commerce.”
Sujayath’s advice to early startups’ targeting mobile and e-commerce in India is to focus on the Android platform initially as it currently commands the largest market share of users. Then in the future once the startup has achieved the required scale and traction they could focus on iOS and other platforms.
Shailendra J Singh, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India Advisors, added:
Voonik is a next generation business model that has created a ‘lean marketplace’ for fashion that allows users to discover personalized apparel from dozens of other e-commerce sites. So people can shop on the Voonik app and mix and match from styles and SKUs across other sites like Jabong, Fashionara, Zovi, and so on. This allows Voonik customers to get personalized recommendations from across e-stores in a single app. This is resulting in terrific user engagement, retention and growth at Voonik. We are delighted to partner with Sujayath and Navneetha in their journey to redefine fashion e-commerce.
Voonik was the second most downloaded fashion app in May. They grew their business from around 2M GMV run rate to 9M in the last five months. They currently see 50% of their traffic and transactions from Tier 1 cities and remaining 50% from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. They plan to use this funding round to enhance their personalisation and style recommendation technology. Based on consumer demand, they are launching the iOS version of their app next month. Sujayath says:
With this funding, we will be focussing on innovations that would enhance our mobile platform and provide an unmatched shopping experience to our users. We are glad to partner with Sequoia and Seedfund, and are certain that their combined experience and knowledge will help us build a strong company.