With 12,000 customers and recent funding of $2.5 million, Shantanu Deshpande’s The Bombay Shaving Company aims to hit a revenue target of Rs 30 crore in the next fiscal.
Shantanu Deshpande was happy with his McKinsey job. But things changed after a conversation with a friend who was then interning at hipster New York shaving brand Harry's. The thought of blades, shaving creams and men’s grooming got Shantanu’s brain cells buzzing. Could there be an opportunity in India?
He spoke to family, friends and general consumers about their shaving habits and one thing became clear – nobody really wanted to shave. In fact, many men hated the daily ritual and, if given the option, would not shave. That was Shantanu’s Eureka moment; it led to the birth of The Bombay Shaving Company in October 2015.
It had become clear to Shantanu that an opportunity existed in India – and that this was a large, underserved and monopolised market that needed a brand disruptor. After ruminating over the idea for over a year and multiple conversations with FMCG veterans, it seemed like the time was right.
Building the core team
Shantanu soon roped in his school friend, Raunak Munot, who was Director of Social Strategy, GroupM New York, and college friends, Rohit Jaiswal, the Head of Channel at Emel and Crompton Greaves, and Deepu Panicker, a senior analyst at McKinsey.
Raunak always wanted to build a brand from scratch. Rohit was keen to establish an FMCG company and make great products. And Deepu had a passion for engineering and design. Together, they were the right fit. After several conversations, calls and Skype sessions around the vision, business model and go-to-market strategy, the Delhi-based company was founded.
“Maninder Singh joined us in a few months to head operations and Shanky Chauhan to head sales. They both bring tremendous hustle and the ‘get-it-done’ mindset, which has set the team up to be top-class executors of a sound strategy,” Shantanu says.
Today, the Bombay Shaving Company claims to have over 12,000 customers, has expanded to 18 different channels and been has chosen by Amazon for a global launch.
But getting there wasn’t easy. The biggest challenge was in designing and formulating products.
Also read: Where there is beard, there is Beardo
Consumer insights led to product iterations
The team had to work on identifying and working with world-class experts and manufacturers, be it fragrances, raw materials, chemical engineers, industrial designers or packaging innovators.
“Going forward, we envision challenges in creating an authentic, at-scale brand narrative as well as establishing a robust offline distribution channel,” Shantanu says.
However, what worked for The Bombay Shaving Company, according to Shantanu, was the fact that the team was always “outcome and process-driven”. He says coming from organisations that respected systems, they never had the typical struggles that a “straight-out-of-college” entrepreneur has.
“From day one, meetings were calendared, invites sent, meeting logs registered, recruitment is done with consensus, values and culture defined, professional standards and expectations drafted out. So organisationally, we had a solid foundation,” Shantanu explains.
The products, however, have gone through several iterations, all primarily driven by consumer insights and feedback.
Citing an example, Shantanu explains that when a sizeable number of customers wanted the shave to be closer and more aggressive, they designed a new razor part and shipped it to everyone free of cost.
Tweaking and improvising
“When we realised our boxes were not able to take weight during transport, we solidified our outer boxes. While our core designs and formulations are trademarked, we ensure we tweak and improvise all the time. That is our philosophy - our harshest customers help improve our products,” Shantanu says.
He adds that in the past year The Bombay Shaving Company has grown from six members to a 20-member team, but the challenge has always been to attract, excite, develop and retain good talent.
Often, startups are not in a position to offer great salaries and perks.
“Creating an environment where employees are rewarded and are passionate about their work is a big challenge.”
But the first two rounds of funding and having 30 high-profile investors, including a marquee VC, in the latest round has helped. The Bombay Shaving Company recently raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding from Fireside Ventures and HNI’s, including senior McKinsey & Co executives.
Outlook for the future
The team claims that currently 95 percent of sales take place online, and a part of the current funding will be used to expand the brand’s offline presence in salons and stores.
The beard grooming industry targets over 25 million users and has a market size of Rs 2,000 crore. Apart from The Bombay Shaving Company, there are several brands focused on men’s grooming products. These include Gurgaon-based ManCompany, Ahmedabad-based Beardo (acquired by Marico), and Chandigarh-based LetsShave.
But Bombay Shaving Company believes there’s no reason to worry.
“By expanding across products, channels (online, offline and B2B sales) and geographies (we’re present in the US, will expand to other countries as well), we plan to hit an annual run rate of 30 crore per year in the next fiscal,” Shantanu says.