In the past few decades, the Indian furniture segment has been largely disorganized. It has been difficult and tedious for people to procure good quality wood, find skilled carpenters, and carve out finished products, or even find ready-made furniture. There are many startups and established players solving this pain-point for the end consumer.
WoodenStreet.com is a startup that provides ready as well as custom solutions for people’s home furnishing needs. They provide affordable furniture in a variety of styles with a focus on innovation and providing better utility. They bypass middlemen to cut additional costs and look after manufacturing themselves.
Wooden Street was co-founded by Lokendra Ranawat, Dinesh Pratap, Virendra Ranawat and Vikas Baheti. Lokendra is an engineering graduate with 10+ years of experience in sales and marketing and has worked with Birlasoft, IT&T, Keane in India and London. He also founded Cognus, a digital marketing company, and ran it for three years, before progressing to Wooden Street.
Dinesh is an alumnus of NIT, Jaipur and holds an MBA from IIM Kozhikode. He has worked with P&G and CSC, and is an expert in procurement and general management. Virendra is an engineer with an MBA from IIMM Pune, and has eight years of experience with TATA and Energo. Lokendra and Virendra earlier co-founded Shilpa Mantra, an online portal showcasing traditional Indian handicrafts. Vikas is a finance graduate, has worked at firms like DELL and Vertex. He comes with 12 years of furniture sourcing and manufacturing experience.
Apart from the founding team, they have a team of 50+ overlooking activities such as designing, prototyping, sourcing, order management, sales etc. Currently, their teams operate from multiple offices, located in Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur.
Wooden Street follows an inventory-based model, wherein they monitor quality and service closely. Lokendra added: "Furniture making is a delicate skill, and based on our understanding, less than five percent of current Indian makers can deliver superior quality products. We want to continue working with our makers. We are not against a marketplace model, but we do not want to sacrifice customer satisfaction to save inventory costs."
Wooden Street found that, as Indian consumers acquire new tastes, retailers are less and less able to satiate their appetite with readymade choices. So they are also focusing on providing custom-made furniture. They offer detailed pictures of different products on their website, along with dimensions and videos, to help a consumer better understand the product they wish to purchase.
The startup is currently self-funded, and they aim to grow their business organically without raising venture capital, atleast for the initial few months. Lokendra believes:
Bootstrapping is a must in order to understand the challenges your business can face. It also forces you to overcome them frugally. We will seek funding maybe in six to seven months from now.
Through detailed marketing analysis, the team has tried to better understand their target market. They are focussing on digital marketing currently. Most of their current marketing campaigns are running across social media. On the offline side, apart from word of mouth, they plan to launch customer engagement activities shortly.
Before founding Woodenstreet.com, the founders had helped 500+ clients manage their online and social media marketing through a separate venture. So they are looking to leverage their past experiences and good practices in Wooden Street.
Market size and competition
After a detailed study of market trends, Wooden Street realized that there was a need for cost effective furniture in the multi-utility category, which helped save space as well; for example, study tables combined with bookshelves.
Given the growth and penetration of e-commerce in India, WoodenStreet believes that the market is opening up, and that their efforts will be fruitful in both horizontal and vertical layers. Talking about potential market size, Lokendra added: “As per our understanding, the Indian furniture market is valued at above $10bn. Given fragmentation and unavailability of data, though exact figures are hard to ascertain.”
FabFurnish, PepperyFry, and Urban Ladder are three of the big players that WoodenStreet is following closely. Coming to only customised furniture, there is also Stitchwood, which recently raised an angel round of $400,000, led by Powai Lake Ventures. Lokendra adds,
What sets us apart is our working methodology. Most of them source products locally,whereas we custom manufacture each product at the unit.
Challenges faced and future plans
WoodenStreet is currently in their pre-sales stage, and has fulfilled around 100+ orders across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in the past few months, since the team started operations. Going forward, they estimate that their average ticket size will be similar to other online and offline stores, ranging anywhere around 15K to 20K.
During the past few months, WoodenStreet has faced many challenges, and has learnt a great amount through them. Lokendra adds: “From sourcing to order fulfilment, we have been literally reinventing the wheel again and again, so that we stand true to our promise of superior value to our customers. Major challenges faced were with the supply chain, and inventory management and logistics. However, we are working hard to overcome every minor challenge that comes our way.”
Going forward, they will continue developing utility and affordable products as they grow, but their major focus will be on creating a wider range of products, with strong logistics and installation network.
They are launching a mobile app in the coming weeks, that will serve as an alternate to their web platform. It will include features which will allow WoodenStreet to co-design furniture with their customers, to automate the process and make it more convenient for users.
Website: Wooden Street