How an IITian behind this online furniture brand let go of fear and found success while experimenting with creative designs
For Abhinav Singh, the road to becoming an entrepreneur has taken him through diverse sectors, from infrastructure, to consumer electronics, and then finally to furniture and decor. Armed with a B. Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT Bombay, it was only natural that he would go on to work at an infrastructure consulting company and then as head of projects at a real estate venture. Nevertheless, his true calling lay elsewhere, and he says, “Infrastructure happened because of the B.Tech stream I chose, but I was always drawn towards the products business. It’s just that I stuck to the product stream where I got my eureka moment.”
This eureka moment is his furniture and decor venture Bluewud, which he and wife Ankita are operating from Noida. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing which led up to the lightbulb moment. Initially, Abhinav’s foray into the entrepreneurial world was through a consumer electronics company called Riona Electronics Pvt. Ltd. Their vision was to create innovative consumer electronics. The company even launched mobile holders in the market under the Riona brand. But soon, Abhinav realised that this was not something that could be scaled without significant investment. So he decided to pivot to something more process oriented rather than product oriented and could grow on its own without too much investment.
Abhinav says that Bluewud happened by chance when they were trying to make ends meet after the failed Riona experience. “We were broke and had started a distribution business for home utility products like bath accessories, ladders and cabinets, including through online channels. While it did bring us some money to sustain ourselves, we soon realised that this business would not fetch us shareholder value in the long term. In the meantime, we had hired a carpenter to do some work around the office and in order to sustain his salary we got a few key holder designs made from him and started selling them online. That was the start of our decor journey.”
Bluewud came into being in September 2015. According to Abhinav, they were inspired with the amount of product innovations happening around them and decided to follow the same path in the furniture and decor space. “We are explorers who are trying to implement cross industry trends and bring in truly innovative designs and concepts into our product range. We are always excited to work on fresh designs which are always ahead of the curve,” he describes their product philosophy.
Today, they exclusively sell their offerings online, most popular among these being TV units, bookshelves, coffee tables and wall shelves. In the three years since they launched, business has grown significantly, says Abhinav. From a turnover of Rs 20 lakh in 2015 to Rs 5.5 crore in 2018, today their projected sales for 2019 is approximately Rs 11 crore. A bulk of these sales is from Amazon.in, while roughly 10 percent is through Amazon US website. According to Abhinav, they were able to achieve this phenomenal success with minimal investment thanks to a number of features that came as part of being on Amazon.in -- from sponsored ads, Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) Services, lightning deals or efficient reporting and order management which help them successfully cater to more customers in a short time.
Abhinav says the decision to sell online came about due to the negative experiences they had when selling through offline channels. “In my previous venture, we tried to sell the products in the offline retail space where we found that the traction was too slow and the energy spent was disproportionately high. Moreover, we faced issues in payment collections, client coordination and travel.”
He continues, “When we first got introduced to e-commerce, we started to get good traction for our products. However, it got even more fast tracked when we associated with Amazon.in. Amazon.in is an extremely mature and system-driven ecommerce marketplace which has brought in best business practices of online selling to India. We are a systems-driven company ourselves and could see a long-term growth partner in Amazon. We found that selling online on Amazon.in was better as it gave us national visibility, facilitated secure and timely payments, and needed fewer co-ordination efforts from us. In addition, with Amazon-verified reviews, we get valuable customer feedback which gives us great insights. It also tells us about possible gaps which we quickly fill up and helps make our products more meaningful and attractive to our future customers.”
Abhinav attests that being on Amazon.in has been a seamless experience, right from opening their store, to creating listings and ads and fulfilling orders. The added advantage, he says, is having access to millions of potential customers. He is now planning to replicate inventories in multiple other Amazon.in warehouses so that Bluewud can reach these prospective customers even faster.
According to Abhinav, selling online via Amazon.in has motivated them to not be afraid of experimenting. “We can play around with designs and innovate in unrelated categories as now we do not fear a go-to market strategy. We are able to pursue our passion without investing loads of money. he adds. They’re still a bootstrapped venture with their sights now set on growth. “In future, we plan to expand in both breadth and depth of product lines and also get into multiple other sales channels. We are planning to enter into international online marketplaces as well as start exports to other countries besides the US. Ankita, who has an MS from the University Of Newcastle, UK and an MBA, is currently overseeing our export initiatives. We are also working aggressively towards entering into the offline retail space with a mix of company/franchise-owned stores in a year or so,” he says.
The team which has grown from just two members to over 60, consisting of product designers, engineers, 3D artists, sales, finance and departmental in-charges, works out of the Bluewud office and factory in Noida. “We keep innovating, experimenting and improving regularly, which results in cool products with awesome quality and an affordable price tag,” says Abhinav.
Abhinav and Ankita are a great example of entrepreneurs who could grow their business manifold in a short time without having to break the bank and invest huge amounts of money, or relocate to another city. All it took was #BadaltiSoch, which led them to register as sellers on Amazon.in, brought them access to millions of potential customers, and gave them ample time to focus on other aspects of growing their business since Amazon.in was handling all storage and fulfilment worries.