How “mothers” have helped this homegrown startup get an edge over international competition
Who doesn’t love those adorable ads where cooing babies are lovingly swaddled into their diapers by their doting mothers? What is often overlooked is that those disposable diapers are clogging landfills all over the world, and are made with materials that not only have harmful side effects on babies, but take 500 years to decompose.
Many argue that disposable diapers are the only viable option for mothers in nuclear families and working mothers. However, in recent times, cloth diapering has begun gaining ground. And, it’s only in the last three-four years that cloth diapering is being increasingly talked about in mom circles in India. Launching cloth diapers was a brave move at a time when disposable diapers were still de rigeur, owing to lack of practical alternatives, and the term cloth diapering was synonymous with reusable nappies,
Superbottoms has played a key role in changing that mindset and making cloth diapering mainstream in India. In less than four years since its launch in December 2015, Superbottoms, India’s First and Only CPSIA tested and certified cloth diaper brand, has become the go-to brand for thousands of new mothers.
The key to winning: building trust and loyalty
With the launch of its cloth diapers, Superbottoms gained an instant connect with mothers. Today, the startup has many offerings – from organic cotton wear for kids to diaper accessories like wet bags and diaper bags, and baby accessories such as muslin wipes, leg warmers, and more. Hence, Superbottoms has become the go-to brand for many mothers in India, most of whom prefer this homegrown brand over many Indian counterparts and even well-known international brands.
“Winning this trust and positive recommendation is what I would consider our biggest achievement, and not just the growth that we have managed to achieve,” says Pallavi Utagi, the founder of the startup, who prefers to call herself the mom-in-chief.
Building that strong loyalty has been a journey that’s worth talking about. Explaining why she was keen on gaining the trust of mothers and not just fuelling sales numbers, the entrepreneur shares, “They say ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, which is especially true in this age of nuclear families. That’s why you see online and offline mom community gaining ground. Mothers turn to other mothers for a lot of genuine and unfiltered feedback and advice on baby care in these communities. Ask any growing brand, and they will agree that a great word-of-mouth recommendation is invaluable, which cannot be possibly matched by any amount of marketing and advertising.”
That thought was instrumental in Superbottoms engaging with the mothers community in multiple ways - online, offline, one-on-one, and in groups. Pallavi says, “Mothers are hard pressed for time and often have individual preferences on where and how they want to connect with the community. As a brand, especially a baby care brand, we realised the importance of making it convenient to interact on a platform of their choice.”
The startup has built communities on social media - on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp to expand its reach. The Superbottoms Family group on Facebook sees its 12,000 strong community of parents engaging in discussions not just around cloth diapering but also related baby care topics. Superbottoms also organises fun and formal playdates where mothers also get an opportunity to connect with other parents from the neighbourhood. But, hands down, the most popular platform that mothers today reach out to the brand is on WhatsApp. In fact, they have 24*7 helpline via call and WhatsApp, which is managed by a team of eight mothers, of which three manage the queries that come on WhatsApp alone. Pallavi says,
“The helpline, especially via WhatsApp, has helped to disseminate relevant information seamlessly with customers, provide easy post purchases and trouble support, build deep rapport with customers, close transactions during the conversations."
The helpline, which was launched in mid 2016, is also India’s first cloth diaper helpline run on WhatsApp, says Pallavi. The Superbottoms team answers about 150 to 180 queries a day on WhatsApp. On busy days, that number goes up to 200+. In addition to answering queries, the team also shares relevant videos, pictures, and even troubleshoots via video calls if required. “All this has made a huge positive impact on sales. But, most importantly, it has helped to build an image of the brand being friendly and approachable.”
This close community connect has not only helped Superbottoms share product information and knowledge with customers, but has also served as a reverse communication channel. “We see customers give us critical and honest feedback on the products and share their expectations on new products freely. We believe it is a privilege to have a community of mothers who are passionate about your company and feel a connect strong enough to demand product improvements and more products.”
At Superbottoms, it is the voice of the customer and not the company that dictates their product pipeline, reiterates the mom-in-chief. She says,
“It is through conversations with the community that we bring products to the market that have genuine demand. If you ask why they prefer us to launch new products when there are other brands with similar products, it is because they trust us like none other.”
Keeping the needs of the mothers for their babies in prime position, how they foster a feeling of community, and how they win trust is just one key aspect of Superbottoms journey. What is equally appreciable is their commitment to generate employment for new mothers who wish to get back to their professional life.
A pro-mom employer
“As a new mother, when I went back to my corporate job, I realised that the 9 to 5 culture that corporates have was really not designed keeping the needs of a new mother in mind. Often meetings would extend beyond set office hours, there would be expectations of attending office parties and events, which would put mothers in a difficult dilemma. Like many mothers, these were some of the reasons I decided to take a career break,” says Pallavi. She adds,
“Ask any working mother or a mother who wants to return to work, and all she truly wants is an environment flexible enough to accommodate her baby's needs alongside her professional commitments.”
That’s why, becoming an entrepreneur, Pallavi committed to become a pro-mom employer. “As the owner of a small and growing business, I knew I had the flexibility to build a culture that gave new mothers the opportunity to work, keeping in mind their needs.” That intent has today translated into Superbottoms becoming a 15-member mom team, managing the entire company’s operations including the order processing, product sourcing, marketing, and essentially growth in every aspect.
“But the important thing here is, this mom team has not only been a real asset to the business, but has also been able to connect authentically with customers, because at the end of the day, we are all parents wanting the best for our babies.”
In addition, Superbottoms has also built a mom-led retail networking channel, employing mothers who were using Superbottoms to sell via social media such as WhatsApp. “This gives mothers a great opportunity to work from home and also double up as our brand ambassadors.”
As someone who is closely involved in the day-to-day management of the business as much as her family responsibilities, she says, she learnt to do a balancing act in two key ways – by being open about seeking help both in her professional and personal life and building a team. “That said, the real balance comes from consciously deciding how much of a mother I am and how much of an entrepreneur I am to be, each day. Some day, I am more of a mother, some days the latter.”
Why the brand resonates with the identity of new-gen mothers
As a mother, an entrepreneur running a mom-led business, a business that puts the core needs that a mother demands for her babies first, we ask if the mothers today are any different from those a generation ago.
Her reply is candid, more importantly beautiful and one that mothers today will nod in agreement. “I believe the expectations of any mother, across generations has always simply been that their child be happy, healthy, and active. There has been no difference in that respect. But, this generation, however, has and rightfully so, started to seek an identity for themselves as a person, beyond simply being a mother.”
Pallavi believes that Superbottoms in a way is a true representation of women and showcases what women are capable of. “Contrary to the popular belief that mothers engaged in baby-care are not the best choice for employees, we have found that mothers in fact are much more efficient at their work. Mothers who are really keen on continuing their professional careers, if offered a little flexibility to manage their babies, will often go out of their way to reciprocate.”