The experience of a young bride from Mumbai, who came across jewellery site VelvetCase looking for bridal jewellery designs, defined the problem statement, the solution, as well as VelvetCase’s destiny. After searching for designs on the website, she got in touch with the customer care team to see it through. The customer care team at VelvetCase constituted jewellery experts, who guided the bride with how 3D printing works, and how it would be beneficial in the entire jewellery making process. At this point, she involved her family, who then got on a WhatsApp group with one of these in-house designers. The bride was sent over a thousand designs on the group, as the ‘shaadi waala ghar’ had the traditional experience of picking out the choicest of jewels. She did end up selecting a range of designs for a whopping sale of Rs 1.62 crore was closed by the portal.
VelvetCase is a curated platform that has assembled the choicest of jewellery designs that are classic but contemporary, which one can tweak, customise, and order. Started in early 2012 by Kapil Hetamsaria and Runit Shah, VelvetCase went live with the first version of their product in November 2012.
“Velvetcase.com was born out of the need to ‘give the customer what they really want’ – not what jewellers carry in their stock,” says Kapil, describing the conceptualisation of his company.Upon returning from the US, Kapil and his wife were shopping for jewellery, but even the best-known jewellers in the city, didn’t house the perfect piece, and refused to customise their designs, gunning for their inventory to be sold first.
Kapil then studied many different companies across verticals, and thought about how Dell transformed the PC industry and gave customers the exact configuration they wanted in their laptop. He even considered Raymond’s Made-2-Measure model, which gives men a custom fit for their suit. If that was possible, why should this not be available to buyers of fine jewellery?
Back when the market was more spacious, their ability to give a consumer the kind of relevant design breadth and depth, right from the comfort of their home is what set them apart. They leveraged technology to this end to rapidly scale and created a platform that showcases jewellery from over 300 new designers and jewellers globally.
Initially, there were a lot of challenges –building a robust ‘zero inventory’ supply chain was still a raw concept, and they were one of the first crop of companies that tested the waters.
They started with very low expectations on the consumer adoption side, but got a bipolar response – some consumers immediately took to the concept of organising the jewellery industry, and lapped the concept of curation and customisation;but there was a set that needed more convincing.
They had foreseen this resistance – the lack of trust, due to their inability to provide the touch and feel factor,had to be the greatest challenge in running a jewellery marketplace. To counter these, they instated a whole lot of processes, which included trained jewellery designers guiding online purchases and shipping 3D printed jewellery to their customers all over the world before the actual product is sent.
Another sure-shot growth hack for them was leveraging WhatsApp, for it was the time when e-retail was almost synonymous to selling on BBM, Facebook, and WhatsApp. “We created WhatsApp groups with customers for bridal jewellery and shared over 1,000 designs to ensure that the customers get what they want. In fact, our largest order worth Rs 1.62 crore took place over WhatsApp,” shares Kapil.
Having hit the road with this vigour and three people to share their vision, the team had a sparkling start indeed – and recorded revenues of Rs 3 crore in 2012-13, and scored almost 300 percent in growth in 2013-14, registering Rs 8 crore with just five staffs.
Kapil and Runit pumped in their own capital to grow the business for the first year and a half, but 2014 brought with it $1 million in a funding round led by the Chennai Angels.
“Finding an A+ team with talented individuals, who have a strong sense of work ethics, team spirit, and passion was a real challenge. We were very selective in their hiring since we invest a lot in our people and view them as assets for the long term,” says Kapil.
In the year 2014-15, their team multiplied eightfold and became a 40-member strong team, and the brand generated revenues of Rs 23 crore.
Thus,the online destination for jewellery has grown over 300 percent Y-o-Y with a unique cost-effective business model and a three-pronged strategy ‑ no inventory, rich customer service, and higher value product sales.
Recently, VelvetCase even secured their second round of funding, raising over $1.5 million from Uniqorn Ventures Fund anda group of angel investors via the LetsVenture platform.
“With the extraordinary diversity in jewellery patterns across India and the growth in lifestyle purchases, a specialised marketplace, which brings the best of designs, customisations and prices from across India to the consumer’s doorstep, is an unmatched value proposition. We believe that VelvetCase will disrupt the way we discover and purchase jewellery and will emerge as the top destination for both jewellery manufacturers and consumers,” says Shiraz Bugwadia, one of the investors at Uniqorn Ventures Fund.
But the market, which is supposed to touch $90 billion in 2018, isn’t short of funded players with unique differentiators – Voylla.com, Caratlane, Bluestone, WearYourShine and Jeweller are just few of the examples. Titan acquired a major stake in Caratlane this May, and the brand has hit the 100,000 download mark and expanded to 12 offline stores. Their app also has a virtual jewellery try-on feature, making it one of the firsts, for the world. WearyourShine, on the other hand, introduced a feature where their products could be returned and exchanged at any one of their 40 offline outlets.
In the face of overwhelming competition, VelvetCase’s goal is to continue the wave of innovation in this segment, by leveraging technology, focusing on customisation, and virtually bringing products as close to the customer as possible. Investments in 3D printing, augmented reality, high-quality analytics are all in the works.The brand has recently strengthened their technology and marketing team with the appointments of Dheerendra Kulkarni as VP of Technology and Abhishek Bhartiya as Director of Marketing and Analytics.
On scaling further from here, they are building a proprietary tech platform to enhance the customer experience.