Rental marketplace Mutterfly is tapping the sharing economy by renting out household items, electronics, party gear, cameras, outdoor equipment, and helicopter and yacht experiences.
Wouldn’t a karaoke set or electric barbeque grill set your Friday night shindig apart? And wouldn’t your significant other love you forever if you proposed from a helicopter? Mumbai-based Mutterfly can help make these dreams a reality.
Mutterfly, founded by Akshay Bhatia, is betting on the rise – and the rise – of the sharing economy in India. In a bid to increase collaborative consumption, the startup has created a sharing network that lets people rent a range of products not available on rent elsewhere, including party gear, electronics, cameras, outdoor equipment, and premium helicopter and yacht experiences. Rental periods start from a single day to months at a time. The startup is operational only in Mumbai and Pune as of now.
But Mutterfly – a take on butterfly, which does not go far in search of resources – did not begin life in this format. Akshay, 27, an ex-Morgan Stanley banker, started Mutterfly in 2015 as a local food-sharing platform that connected home chefs and food lovers. A few months later, he realised the model was not scalable due to supply issues.
Akshay’s thoughts went back to a small survey he had done during Mutterfly’s initial days. He had found that an average Indian house has items worth Rs 30,000 lying unused. “The most common item people have to spare is a barbecue grill. Similarly, leg massagers. These are bought, but rarely used. We suddenly had a value proposition,” he says.
He decided to pivot to the daily use item sharing market in January 2017. Akshay started with a very lean team - three people, including an android developer and CTO. The startup currently has 15 employees, including its logistics team.
Mutterfly now provides end-to-end logistics in five segments: home appliances, photography (cameras, lenses, drones, etc), gaming (rentals for consoles), house party items (speakers, smoke machines, LED TVs, karaoke sets), consumer electronics (laptops, smartphones, projectors), luxury premium rentals (yachts, vintage cars, helicopters) and outdoors (trekking backpacks, shoes, walking sticks, lights, tents). It offers desktop and app interfaces to its customers. The app is available on Android and iOS platforms.
Mutterfly has a customer base of about 72,000 and claims around 3,500 active customers per month. “Our current month on month growth is 20 percent and we have around 55 percent of repeat users,” Akshay says.
Akshay is banking on the desire of the middle-class to experience quality and high-end products. India is poised to have 35 million gamers in the next three years, but the number of consoles sold in the last three years is around 3 lakh.
“So there is a disconnect between the number of gamers and the number of consoles available. A console costs around Rs 30,000-40,000, but Mutterfly charges around Rs 800 for a day and Rs 5,000 per month. Similarly, for between Rs 800 and Rs 1,500 per night, you can convert your home into a party area for the night,” he says.
In the luxury segment, Mutterfly charges Rs 1,100 per person for eight persons for four hours of a yacht experience. A helicopter ride is available for Rs 8,500 per hour per person while trekking equipment can be rented for Rs 1,500 per week. Laptops are on offer for Rs 2,300 (Windows) and Rs 5,000 (Mac) per week, respectively.
Mutterfly enters into a rental agreement with users and needs documents like voter ID, PAN, Aadhaar card, etc. It also charges a security deposit (Rs 6,500-Rs 10,000).
The initial challenge the bootstrapped startup faced was people’s attitude. “People don’t go to rental sites for such things generally. Our first challenge was to educate customers that there were things they could rent, not buy. The second challenge was about trust and quality as people tend to be apprehensive. So we focused on product quality.”
Mutterfly competes with other rental platforms like Rentomojo and Furlenco. But there’s a strong differentiator. Akshay says: “Our competitors are bent towards furniture and home appliances, and rent these out for longer periods. But our model lets people rent consumer goods, electronics and premium luxury items for the short term, even a day. That is our key differentiator.”
Akshay pegs the rental market at around $3 billion, but says the rental ecosystem in India is “at a very nascent stage”. “In the US, about 21 percent customers prefer renting. In China, it is 3 percent. There are no clear statistics here, but I believe it is less than 1 percent,” he says.
Mutterfly is targeting revenues of Rs 3 crore by the end of this financial year and aims to grow that to Rs 9 crore by the next financial year.
Ninety percent of its market is in Mumbai; the rest is in Pune. It is currently talking to a few investors for angel funding.
The startup is planning to launch operations in Delhi and Bengaluru soon, and is also in the process of offering vintage cars on rent in its luxury segment.
“We plan to tie up with wedding companies and launch a baby products segment. We are also talking to co-working spaces as we want to ride on the sharing economy,” Akshay says.