Twenty-five-year-old Shilpa Suresh loves brands, especially high-end ones, but she knows that her job as a client servicing executive at an advertising agency cannot pay for her want. Unavailability of her favourite brands further compounds her problems.
It was problems like these that prompted ISB graduates — 39-year-old Siddhartha Nangia and 33-year-old Swagata Sarangi — to create Smytten, an online discovery and trial platform for premium products and services. The idea was to change the way aspirational consumers discover, interact, and purchase premium products and services.
Friends since their ISB days, the duo has worked together at Unilever and brings in complementary skillsets. Siddhartha is an FMCG industry veteran and has over 15 years of experience in operations and supply chain. After his Unilever stint, Swagata went on to work at McKinsey and head business marketing at Google. He brings with him knowledge of the digital ecosystem.
The pair would often discuss the different gaps they saw in the market, and one such discussion last May led to a eureka moment. Two weeks later, Smytten was born.
They were joined by Anand Sankar, a MICA alumnus, at a very early stage. Speaking of the gap they found in the market, Siddhartha explains:
As someone who spent more than 15 years in various regions outside India (the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe), I felt a huge lack of quality of service for consumers in the premium space in India. Swagata felt a need for quality service for high-end brands in a crowded and cluttered digital space.
Smytten is available on iOS and Android, and the web version was recently launched. An invite-only platform, it involves in-depth consumer profiling prior to allowing access to the app.
Having received an invite, a consumer has the luxury to discover, try, and buy premium products. The app platform has an intelligent predictive behavioural model that decides a user’s interest and affinity continuously and curates products in the feed accordingly.
“The product is built-in with a native advertising engine that pushes content ads in the user feed in a non-intrusive way to achieve maximum user relevance and value for our partnering brands,” explains Siddhartha.
Until recently, luxury goods were considered the exclusive domain of multi-millionaires and celebrities. However, thanks to a few startups that have entered the space, a large number of consumers are now able to access luxury products easily.
A report by Euromonitor International states that India is the fastest growing emerging market for luxury goods. In fact, the market is believed to be growing at approximately $225 million a year, significantly stronger than Australia and Singapore.
Confidential Couture, a startup in the luxury space, has a waiting list of 30–35 people for a Louis Vuitton bag, which costs above Rs 1 lakh, according to their founder Anvita Mehra.
High-net-worth individuals (HNIs) are the target for startups in the space. Nakul Bajaj, Founder of Darveys, says, “Flagship store visitors can now get the same products online at better prices. We also capitalise on the first-time buyers of luxury goods, who want to spend only about Rs 6,000.”
A recent ASSOCHAM study has stated that high-income group consumers spend over 40 percent of their monthly income on luxury brands, whereas the middle-income group (MIG) consumers spend 8–10 percent on luxury products.
Siddhartha, however, believes that despite the huge market for premium products and services, the information available is fragmented, interaction with brands sub-optimal, trial avenues limited, and the sector has massive consumer trust issues due to counterfeit products. Explaining the key differences, Siddharta says,
Further, our personalisation features, made possible with our backend algorithm, focus on analytics, which allow us to curate offerings for consumers as per their individual preferences. Smytten differentiation is its heavy focus on curation, offered by very few platforms in India.
The team claims to have had over 10,000 consumers on the app with over 80 percent weekly returning users.
Smytten has brand partnerships across multiple categories — beauty and male grooming, premium wellness services, health and fitness, smart technology, and food and beverages. The team claims to have onboarded international brands like LA Splash, Warren Tricomi, Truefitt & Hill, The Different Company, Mark Buxton, Sebastian, Mancave, Anatomicals, Maskeraide, and upcoming Indian brands like Hedonista, Inoho, Skinyoga, The Kettlery, and The Man Company.
“Most recently we launched ‘Smytten Experiences’ that brings the most luxurious, niche and curated experiences for special occasions or leisurely indulgence,” says Siddhartha.
This April, Smytten raised an undisclosed amount of funding from angel investor Rajan Anandan, MD of Google for Southeast Asia and India. Prior to that, the startup had raised $200,000 in a seed round of funding from industry veterans led by Rimpal Chawla, ex-MD of Credit Suisse Asset Management India and Anuj Srivastava, CEO of Livspace.
The team is working towards becoming the de facto platform for premium consumers in India’s lifestyle space. Their short- to medium-term focus will be to add more categories and have more consumers before they start expanding outside India.
On the product side, the team claims to be working on advanced machine learning algorithms and AI-enabled chat -bots for a more immersive consumer experience on the platform.
“We are going to leverage technology to find additional sources of revenue beyond advertising in the areas of direct consumer engagement for brands, market research and analytics,” explains Siddhartha.