Four years ago, if you had told me about buying furniture offline, I would have laughed. But things have changed, and now I cannot think of another way to get my furniture. Making rounds of multiple stores to find the items that fit my tastes is just too much effort, even for an essential, high-ticket purchase.
While this is the tale most urban customers will tell, it isn’t the only reason for buying furniture online — more options in terms of design and pricing are other important factors, and startups have fully capitalised on them.
While the sector’s early beginners like Pepperfry and Urban Ladder have the upper hand with marketplace and inventory models respectively, youngsters like design platform Livspace and rental startup Furlenco have also established themselves.
Furniture is one of those few categories in e-commerce where quality triumphs over discounts. Since different models target different consumer segments, innovations are already coming up.
The following are the five online furniture startups we think will make a change in 2017.
Gozefo: This online marketplace specialises in secondhand and factory second furniture and appliances. Gozefo was founded in 2015 by Rohit Ramasubramanian, a former Helion Venture Capital executive, IIT graduates Karan Gupta and Himesh Joshi, and ex-Flipkart and ex-Amazon executive Arjit Gupta. They recently raised Rs40 crore from Sequoia India, BEENEXT, and Helion Ventures. Claiming a monthly growth rate of 40 percent, they serve in Bengaluru, Mysore, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, and Mumbai, and sell 400–500 products a day.
Homefuly: This Bengaluru-based online platform makes your new home ready to move in by providing not just furniture but home automation, lighting, gardening, as well as paintings and soft furnishings. Collaborating with interior designers, factories, and vendors, they have served about 100 customers so far.
Founded in September 2015 by Arnab Saharoy (ex-Myntra), Vinay Indresh (ex-Flipkart), and interior designer Madhu Sarangi, Homefuly recently started an omnichannel model by tying up with 12 offline stores. The 10-member team plans to expand to Pune and Hyderabad this year. With a profit margin of 10–15 percent, they have earned Rs 4 crore in revenue this fiscal year, and are targeting Rs 10–12 crore in FY 2018.
Helpmebuild: Founded by Prasoon Shrivastava in February 2015, this technology-centric platform with a managed marketplace model focuses on interior design and architecture-related ideas along with sharing content on designs. Helpmebuild delivers furniture and décor products in more than 1,000 pin codes, and works on projects across India as well as the US, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Africa. A team of 25 people, they have more than 10,000 users registered on the platform. In FY 2015–2016, Helpmebuild saw an annual turnover of Rs 80 lakh.
Homestudio: The one-year-old Bengaluru-based startup provides design, execution, and customer service for designing kitchens and furniture online with the assistance of trained designers. They have partnered with brands in Italy, Romania, and Germany for manufacture.
To provide touch and feel before the purchase of furniture, they have an experience zone too. Founded by Alok Duggal, HomeStudio got investment of $5 million from BRENCorporation owner Bhoopesh Reddy in the same year. Homestudio claims to sell for Rs 75,000 what would otherwise cost Rs 3 lakh or more. Homestudio has a 51–member team now, and have done 650 installations so far.
WoodenStreet: This Jaipur-based startup provides readymade as well as customised solutions for home furnishing needs with affordable, space-saving, and multi-utility furniture. They manufacture the furniture themselves and follow an inventory model. WoodenStreet was co-founded by Lokendra and Virendra Ranawat, Dinesh Pratap, and Vikas Baheti in 2015. Within 18 months, they have had 100 employees, more than 5,000 customers, and Rs 12 crore in yearly revenue from 12 cities. WoodenStreet was among the 10 innovative startups at SINE IIT Bombay for startup speed engagement. Recently, they also got recognition at Hindustan Times’ Excellence Awards 2016.
India’s furniture sector is 90 percent unorganised. Of the organised, only one percent is online. According to a Redseer Consulting report, the home furniture industry in India was worth $25 billion in 2016, with the online furniture industry alone making up $250 million. By 2020, the furniture industry is expected to grow to $35 billion, and the online section will be worth $700 million.
Since logistics is a major challenge (and costs 10–15 percent of value in the online furniture industry) the omnichannel model will see more growth this year. With the Swedish furniture giant IKEA’s impending entry into India, Indian competitors will have to venture into smaller cities. For Pepperfry and Urban Ladder, 80 percent of orders come from Tier-I cities. Horizontal marketplaces such as Snapdeal and ShopClues are also building on this category. But the younger players are taking it beyond metros, and this could be the beginning of the organisation of the furniture industry in general.