How this bootstrapped startup is bringing the European kitchen to Indian homesNeha Jain
Bengaluru-based lifestyle brand Wurfel Kuche makes modular kitchens and wardrobes.
Startup: Wurfel Kuche
Founders: Khanindra Barman, Pankaj Bhatia, and Naveen NJ
Year it was founded: 2015
Where is it based: Bengaluru
Sector: Lifestyle brand - Modular kitchens and wardrobes
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
In 2012, Khanindra Barman (41), Pankaj Bhatia (39) and Naveen NJ (29) were importers, and distributors for a kitchen brand from Europe. During that stint, they learnt it involved a great deal of cost and waiting to get an imported modular kitchen, along with some hassle in service and responses.
Khanindra says, “Our zest to be the best, instigated us to set up a research team to investigate on the finest European kitchen brands, raw material suppliers in Europe, German machinery, for execution in the Indian market.”
The findings highlighted that the Indian modular kitchen and furniture industry is majorly unorganised (85 percent). Furthermore, the organised sector is branched into two types of modular kitchen providers – imported and Indian.
The imported brands come from Europe along with high quality and high price, whereas most Indian brands, keeping their focus on pricing, compromise with quality.
Hence, they started Wurfel Kuche in 2015, which is into selling modular kitchens and wardrobes.
It started with an aim to deliver not just a product, but an experience with no compromises in quality. For this, the founders brought in 40 vendors from Europe who also supply to leading kitchen brands in the world.
“We imported all raw materials (boards to screws) from Europe to meet the quality standards of imported kitchens and wardrobes. All technology, including the machinery, is imported from Germany to ensure that we achieve the best precision levels across the globe,” he added.
Inspired by the Europeans
After bringing technology and raw materials from various parts of the world, they decided to follow European techniques in their execution as well, with all the departments being headed by professionals from Europe.
“This not only helped us in setting up the European process right, but also encouraged our Indian team to grow positively and develop an attitude of not compromising on quality,” Khanindra adds.
Pricing, inventory, product delivery cycle and logistics were some of the key challenging areas. Khanindra said, “Since we import all raw materials, process them in India, get a rebate on excise duty, highly competitive margins had to be kept while focusing on purchase volumes to reach a competitive price point for a European product.”
He added, “As all raw materials come from Europe, the purchase cycle is a minimum of 90 days. The production time offered by it is 30 days, and we believe in standing by our commitments which makes it critical to maintain an inventory of at least six months. This was a huge challenge in terms of investment.”
The founding team is an association of two companies – KP Group and Maruthi ceramics. Khanindra who hails from Guwahati has a BTech from NIT Kurukshetra and an MS from BITS-Pilani. He, along with Pankaj, are co-founders of the hospitality giant KP Group, which has executed 21 successfully hospitality projects in the last 13 years.
Pankaj has a master’s degree in Information Technology from Delhi University. He has also worked as a Software Engineer with Hughes Software Systems and Lucent Technology from 2000-2005.
Naveen who is from Bengaluru, runs Maruthi Ceramics along with his brother Yathis NJ.
Wurfel Kuche hired its first employee — Anna Jimenez Morera (29) from Spain to be a part of the core research team. She heads Sales and Marketing.
The total team size is 120, combining the factory, corporate office and showrooms.
Franchising its way
All sales take place through showrooms located in cities such as Bengaluru, Patna, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Surat and Thiruvananthapuram. The stores work on franchise model with set cost of Rs 50 lakh.
With a total of 27 stores within two years, Wurfel Kuche clocked a revenue of Rs 10 crore at the end of 2015. It expects to close this financial year at around Rs 30 crore and has seen a growth rate of 100 percent.
The demand for modular kitchens is growing, particularly with regard to branded quality products. As the demand for apartments grows and lifestyles change, style, convenience and efficient use of space drive the demand for prefabricated kitchens. A TechNavio's analyst forecast the modular kitchen market in India to grow at a CAGR of 42.93 percent over the period 2013-2018.
While there is a plethora of small manufacturers, there are also a few large players with a national presence such as Sleek and H&R Johnson.
Talking about Wurfel Kuche’s differentiator, Khanindra says, “We are a brand and we focus on driving all our actions to build it further. Our product placement is the biggest exclusivity for us — top-notch European kitchens and wardrobes at a great price point. Besides, our products have a lot of unique properties such as the eco-friendly boards, anti-bacterial boards, E1 compliance.”
In future, Wurfel Kuche’s mission is to establish 100 stores by the end of 2020. It has also signed up at three international locations — Doha, Oman and Sri Lanka — and it plans to focus a lot more on international expansion in 2018.
“We are working on acquiring patents and aim to take them global. The building of an exclusive series of Wurfel products is in the process that would set benchmarks in the global kitchen industry,” Khanindra added, signing off.