This small-town couple take traditional machinery business online to ease procurementLibza Mannan
Led by a husband-wife duo from West Bengal’s Durgapur city, Toolsvilla offers machinery, tools and equipment across a range of categories.
At a glance
Founders: Chetan Khaitan and Varsha Garg Khaitan
Year it was founded: 2015
Where is it based: Durgapur, West Bengal
The problem it solves: Online procurement of machines, tools, and equipment
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
After disrupting urban cities, the digital revolution is now reaching Tier II and Tier III cities, where many small companies and traditional businesses have jumped on the online bandwagon to expand their businesses. Using the power of the internet at minimal costs, small-town businesses are catering to customers across India, without incurring huge costs to set up offline stores.
Toolsvilla is one such story from the small town Durgapur in West Bengal.
An extension of a five-decade-old traditional family business of machines, tools, and equipment, Chetan Khaitan started Toolsvilla to eliminate product sourcing hassles for industries, businesses and customers.
India is almost a five-billion-dollar market in the machine, tools and equipment segment, which is growing at a 20-30 percent CAGR. And Toolsvilla is aiming for a 10-percent share of the pie. The online seller is catering to customers through the B2B and B2C models, offering products across a range of categories, including garden and agriculture, power tools, industrial tools, pump/motor, automotive, DIY tools, and many others.
Today, the company claims to have more than 5,000 paying customers registered on the website and regular B2B customers, who procure products from the platform to resell.
Chetan highlights that Toolsvilla has over 10,000 SKUs encompassing more than 40 categories, and its products are sourced from 20+ vendors in China, Thailand, and India.
Machinery and tools often require detailed technical consultation, which might crop up as an issue when such products are bought online. To address this, the platform has onboarded highly technical support staff who help customers in their buying decisions, and also customise products as per customer requirement.
“We offer technology-enabled, virtual after-sale service through which we help customers with product installations and repair through video calls,” adds Varsha Garg Khaitan, co-founder of Toolsvilla.
Tracing the initial days
“In the initial days, we started as a website-only model and while we were reaching out to the customers we found out that our customers were not too tech-savvy to order products online. We understood the issue and solved this by customising the UI of the website,” recalls Chetan.
He went on to rework and make the website a lot simpler by keeping only ‘buy now’ and ‘order now’ options and removing alternatives like ‘add to cart’ and ‘wish list’. With an aim to shorten the buying process, he also enabled one-step checkout process and witnessed a significant increase in the number of online orders. Also, WhatsApp and email have been integral for the customer support services.
Making purchases online was an idea that was not very palatable for customers in this segment initially, and to address this problem the couple launched a Toolsvilla Youtube channel, posting application videos of various products sold online.
“We have also posted product installation videos that helped us generate more trust among our buyers,” Chetan adds.
By mid-2017, the online seller went on to launch the first Toolsvilla physical store in Durgapur.
A third-generation entrepreneur, Chetan did his BTech at NIT Durgapur. Born into a business family, it was only a matter of time before he ventured out on his own. Though he worked for a couple of companies after graduating he wanted to give wings to his own business idea and, by the end of 2015, launched Toolsvilla.
Varsha holds a BTech degree in Information Technology and later worked as a project developer in Wipro for three years before joining hands with her husband to set up Toolsvilla.
What gives Toolsvilla an edge?
Though machinery and tools is a niche segment, there seems to be no dearth of competition in this billion-dollar space. Toolsvilla faces close competition from platforms like Wellindal, Urjakart, and Indian Trade Bird, among others. Ecommerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart also sell machinery and tools.
However, this Durgapur-based online seller bets on factors like low pricing, technical support staff and deliveries to 11,000 pin codes to create its hold on the market.
“We guarantee lowest online price for many products in our category which can at times be 20-30 percent lower than the price offered by major ecommerce players like Amazon and Flipkart,” adds Chetan.
Varsha points out the secret sauce behind the guarantee of lowest pricing: efficient product procurement strategy. This enables Toolsvilla to bring unique products onto the website and also sell them at a low price without having to offer any discounts and cashbacks or burn money on customer acquisition.
Decoding the future roadmap
Bootstrapped from day one, the company is backed by a 15-member team and is planning to raise funds. Currently, the brand that has one offline store in its hometown, but is eyeing robust offline expansion in the next couple of years.
“We aim to open at least five stores by the end of 2018 with three being fully functional by July 2018. This will enable better product fulfillment, after-sale service and optimisation of the omni-channel experience for our customers,” adds Chetan.
The platform is also planning to introduce product rentals and offer refurbished goods to customers soon, a strategy aimed at acquiring more customers and create multiple revenue streams. In five years, the startup also plans to have its own logistics setup, which can enable features like demo on delivery to customers.
“It was by December 2016 that we could finally launch a robust and compact version of Toolsvilla. After that, we have made sale of almost Rs 80 lakh till date through our website,” reveals Varsha.