Starting off with Rs 7 lakh, this startup has generated Rs 10 Cr in three years: the story of CellBellAthira Nair
Ulhasnagar-based CellBell has established itself across ecommerce marketplaces in three years.
Founders: Chirag Demla and Pawan Demla
Year of launch: 2015
Sector: Mobile accessories
Problem it solves: Affordable alternatives for mobile accessories with guaranteed customer service
India, being a growing economy, has a market for any item in various price segments. If there is a HeliTaxi service, there is also an autorickshaw; if there is a DLF Emporium, there is also a Sarojini market.
Similarly, for every Phillips or JBL earphone, there is a bunch of more affordable choices now. In the mobile accessories category, CellBell brand from a small town outside Mumbai is making a mark already.
From childhood, Ulhasnagar-based Chirag Demla (23) and Pawan Demla (28) were exposed to the local business community, as their father ran a local transport network. As time passed, Pawan became an IT engineer and Chirag, a finance graduate. But entrepreneurship was always in their destiny.
In 2014, the two brothers were also selling bags as a part-time business.
Also, Chirag had started a Instagram handle (cell_bell) as a hobby, to offer one-day delivery of premium mobile accessories of various brands to local town audience.
Within two months, he had made Rs.40,000 as gross margin, which strengthened his confidence in the mobile accessories domain.
In early 2015, with an investment of Rs 7 lakh, they built an ecommerce platform for their mobile accessories - Selfie sticks, headphones, cables, screen glass, and covers, selling them on Snapdeal. Their price range: Rs 200-1499. By the first week, they shipped more than 110 orders.
“To build a sustainable business and provide value to the customer, we needed to rethink our cash flows, catalogue and sales channels. By March 2015, we reduced our catalogue to only three categories: Selfie stick, Screen Tempered Glass and Transparent Cases, and started selling on Amazon also,” says Pawan. Within two months, they were getting more than 250 orders monthly with just 10 percent returns. (Industry average on e-commerce returns is 25 percent.)
By closing down all other categories and specialising in screen tempered glasses for all latest mobile launches and iPhones until 2016 end, they grew at 20 percent monthly.
Today, CellBell sells phone cases and covers, chargers, cables, and photo frames. Their numbers are impressive to say the least:
- GMV: Rs10.6 crore
- Average Rs 275 order value, with two items in basket
- 500 orders daily
The success story
Recently, CellBell was selected by Amazon as a ‘strategic account’ due to its consistent sales performance, and was the single brand account to achieve sales target of over Rs12 crore in 2018. Pawan adds that currently CellBell serves around 20,000 units a month on Amazon India alone.
“We increased from our first month sales of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 60 lakh per month in the last three years over Amazon,” says Pawan. CellBell is also available on Cellbell.in, Flipkart, Paytm, and Snapdeal as well as local retail stores.
CellBell has a team of 15 across customer support, operations, purchasing, design, marketing, technology, production and accounts. “We have got 5-10 percent margin in each product since day one in the business. We reinvest the profit from each month into expanding the product portfolio and catering to increasing orders,” Pawan tells YourStory.
However, he adds that CellBell is too far from the likes of Canon. “We don't see other rising brands in accessories as competition, as the scope of customer-caring brand is still under-served in India. We get inspiration from competing brands like Boat, Mivi, Unistuff, Amazon Basics, Amfilm, Flipkart Smartbuy etc. though.”.
The small town startup
Being based out a small town is hard for any startup. For instance, Ulhasnagar does not have a specific startup group (like Headstart) or investors to contribute for capital.
Pawan says that whenever someone needs financing, they have to arrange it themselves via personal loans, family connections, etc. “We don't have large spaces for big trucks. Some marketplaces don't have our pin codes as their pickup locations, which limits our catalogue on those marketplaces,” he elaborates.
Also, although Ulhasnagar is a town merely 13km in diameter, it has three railway stations, and all reputed courier companies have business offices there. Most importantly, it is near the Bhiwandi warehouses from where all marketplaces ship their products to the whole country.
Pawan adds, “Due to our connections, overnight we get our supplies from Gujarat, Mumbai, and China. Whatever we require - like packaging, transportation, and supplies – can be arranged within a week with limited cash, because we are connected to various vendors via family connections. People won't default on their commitments for supplies due to relations.”
Incorporating customer feedback
For CellBell, the most important metrics include customer repeat rate, sales and revenue growth, and product feedback.
Pawan explains, “When we started in 2015, customers were complaining about damaged deliveries (from other sellers too.). So we developed rigorous breakage tests and colour fading experiments on our glass and covers, by providing extra foam padding inside small packs and sending them in 5-play strong boxes by working with Amazon FC directly. We also provide installation kits.”
CellBell provides centralised customer service for customers of marketplaces as well as their own site. They offer one-month money-back guarantee and 12 months warranty support too.
Additionally, CellBell provides 24 months low-cost warranty, which offered 50 percent discount coupon for CellBell product purchased on any sales channel.
“It resulted into increased traffic and orders on our site. Currently, that scheme has been more improvised by giving 100 percent refunds on any sales channel (even for marketplace orders) under a 12-month warranty support scheme,” says Pawan.
CellBell will soon launching premium products such as car chargers, Qualcomm superfast chargers, trendy data cables, bluetooth speakers, rugged premium cases, and 5D strong tempered glasses.
“In 2018, we will build repetitive brand visibility via customer referral schemes. In 2019, we may push for offline resellers contest to gain faster leads for offline sales,” Pawan concludes.