Bootstrapped online furniture platform Wooden Street bypasses middlemen and directly connects with makers to provide value-for-money multi-use furniture.
Furniture that is multi-utilitarian, space saving and yet aesthetically pleasing is something most homeowners are always on the lookout for. Friends for a while, Lokendra Ranawat, Dinesh Pratap Singh, Virendra Ranawat and Vikas Baheti realised this was a major customer need.
Looking to bridge this gap, the foursome came out with the concept of multi-utility furniture that could serve more than one purpose and started online platform Wooden Street. Their idea was to design and make dream furniture that all home owners would love.
The team says India being a country full of diversity means diverse choices and preferences in every single home. Despite the presence of a few major e-commerce players providing furniture, the fact was that their pieces were readymade, which meant a compromise for the next-best thing, rather than the best, for the customer.
The team and their background
Lokendra explains: “Seeing this huge gap, Wooden Street began as a means to provide an easy way for customers to not only buy furniture, but also customise it to their liking.”
Coming from different backgrounds, the four friends had to work hard to understand the market.
Lokendra has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing and worked with Birlasoft Ltd and Axis IT&T in London and India. Dinesh has worked with P&G and CSC. Virendra has eight years of experience with TATA and Energo while Vikas brings experience of 12 years of furniture sourcing and manufacturing to the team.
During the course of setting up, the co-founders realised that the biggest challenge was setting up a supply chain for heavy furniture pieces so that they could be delivered to various points across the nation without any damage. This required a lot of effort.
Make in Rajasthan
In 2015, the team launched the platform, Wooden Street, for custom-made wooden furniture.
“Staying rooted to the theme of Make in India, our aim is to provide furniture to the people of this nation, as each home is different, and one size doesn’t fit everywhere. The furniture is designed by a varied team of designers and artisans who hail from the corners of this diverse sub-continent. It assuages the furniture appetite of our customers and tailored to their needs, for 100 percent satisfaction.”
Being based out of Rajasthan, the first order of business was gathering a team of artisans, designers and crafters.
However, Lokendra says local vendors are less innovative with new ideas and technology for quality furniture manufacturing.
Setting up the manufacturing setup
So the team scouted around and decided to set up their own manufacturing plant where they could commission different carpenters and artisans to build and manufacture furniture. Building that team took time as they had to convince artisans and get them to work.
Starting with a team of 10 people, Wooden Street now has over 125 members based out of Udaipur, Rajasthan.
“Owning a manufacturing plant is the wisest decision to get quality furniture at low cost; it also avoids middlemen who affect the overall cost of the furniture. Wooden Street started with its first unit in Jodhpur, and now has manufacturing units in Jaipur as well,” Lokendra says.
Different operations are specified for different kinds of furniture. To manufacture solid wood furniture, several specific steps are needed to ensure that the product quality matches customer expectation and prices remain under control.
“Wooden Street’s focus is on guided process steps like seasoning of wood, proper joining methods and smart adhesives. Wood seasoning is the key to strength and quality of wood; it also makes it lighter and gets a better finish after polishing,” Lokendra explains.
Revenue and market
Starting with an initial capital of Rs 5 lakh, the team claims to have touched annual sales revenue of Rs 20 crore. The team claims their monthly revenue to be Rs 1.5 crore, and says they have over 10,000 visits per day, translating into traffic of around 3 lakh users per month.
“So far, we have served around 10,000 customers,” he says.
According to a Research and Markets report, the furniture market in India will grow to $27 billion by 2022. Only about 10 percent of the industry is organised, with a fraction of that online.
Players like Pepperfry and Urban Ladder have been around for a few years but have barely scratched the surface. In FY 2016, the largest online furniture player Pepperfry had revenue of Rs 98 crore.
However, this is not an easy market to capture. The logistics are expensive and process heavy. This is also a high-involvement purchase category and “touch and feel” becomes important – one of the reasons why Pepperfry and Urban Ladder have set up brick-and-mortar experience centres.
Differentiator and future plans
While Lokendra agrees that they have several competitors, he emphasises that Wooden Street is different. He says they provide more flexibility to customers by allowing them to tailor furniture to their specifications.
The team also claims to provide a host of customisation options on the ranges of high quality hardwood furniture, so that the customer always gets to tweak anything to their liking.
“Wooden Street offers furniture at a price lesser than its competitors by eliminating middlemen,” Lokendra says.
Bootstrapped Wooden Street already has four experience stores in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Jaipur and Pune and is planning to come up with 10 more experience stores within 12 months across India.
“The team is also looking at providing free delivery and installation facilities in 15 cities. We are aiming to expand to 20 more cities soon,” Lokendra says.