Simplifying consumers’ lives: winning pitch of post-purchase customer engagement startup Narvar
Since its inception in 2012, premium post-purchase customer engagement platform Narvar has worked with more than 650 global retailers. The SaaS platform provides delivery tracking analytics, delivery notification, returns managements, feedback collection, and timely customer communications to its B2B clientele.
After having worked with brands including Patagonia, Gap, Levi’s, TUMI, and Sephora, Narvar is now helping India’s Tata CLiQ, Lenskart, Himalaya, Forest Essentials, and Bata to drive customer experiences.
Founder Amit Sharma, before starting up, has worked across the supply chain, information technology, and business analytics at companies including Apple, Walmart, and Pottery Barn.
In August last year, Narvar raised $30 million in Series-C funding in a round led by Accel. Existing investors Battery Ventures also participated in the round. The company has so far raised $64 million.
Since its inception, Narvar has served over 400 million consumers worldwide and has interacted across 38 countries in 55 languages, from its offices in San Francisco, London, Paris, Munich, and Bengaluru.
Narvar’s prominent global clients include Puma, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Home Depot, Reebok, North Strong, and Macy’s.
In a recent conversation with YourStory, Amit talks about the company’s journey and his opinion on technology.
YourStory: How has your stint at Walmart and Apple helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Amit Sharma: When you start your career, looking at data, engineering, and troubleshooting always allow you to get the foundation in place. And starting up is nothing but problem solving.
In the initial days, I used all the data as a guide to make my business decisions. I still go back to the past fundamentals of what I was doing 20-odd years back, in terms of how I make decisions, and what business impacts I am trying to drive using data and analytics. Those are the foundation pieces.
Having worked in different settings - financial services, supply chain, operations, and retail, I got the opportunity and appreciation of how these things are done – solving different use cases.
YS: What were the problems you faced at Walmart or Apple that you are now solving at Narvar?
AS: They are some of the largest companies in the world and as consumers, expectations have evolved and they continue to evolve. Companies want to understand how they can use technology and data to solve these cases.
It has helped to be in the right place and at the right time when consumer expectations evolved, looking for instant gratification, and see the approaches that Walmart and Apple have applied.
In fact, my own shopping behaviour has changed. Twelve years ago when I was at Walmart, there was no iPhone or Amazon iPhone Fire Phone. As consumers are growing more mobile, you have more expectations and something that was not there then we take for granted now.
A combination of my stints at Apple and Walmart helped me understand what I expect from retailers, giving key insights that I could draw upon before starting the company.
YS: What was your eureka moment?
AS: String of thoughts came together – consumer experiences were really important. Secondly, most times problems exist without any kind of technical solutions. Thirdly, even if there are technical solutions, you may not see them scale everywhere. For me, those three things came together.
There was a consumer problem for which we needed technology or a platform that solves the business problem and then for a company to begin, you need to look at not only solving the consumer problem but a business issue in a scalable fashion.
If you have a technology to solve that consumer problem and that can be used by anyone, then you have a potentially viable business model.
YS: What were your challenges in the first few years?
AS: First, you need to know if you are the only crazy one out there or if there are other players in the market doing the same thing. Even before starting up, one needs to have conversations in the market. And finally, if you are motivated to solve that problem.
Being in the retail market, I was lucky to have those conversations. Getting the initial prospect of how viable this can be was important. It took us the first 18 months to do all that.
YS: Who was your first big customer?
AS: It was in early 2013 when we got home furnishing company One Kings Lane.
YS: As a global company, are there any kind of trends you are noticing?
AS: We see more health and beauty companies and home furnishing companies evolving. Across the globe, consumers are getting comfortable buying products online – even high-ticket items like furniture.
YS: Is going digital the only way for traditional industries to survive?
AS: Depends on how we look at it. Technology is an integral part of any business. It’s not an option. At the same time, having a human connection and solving for the emotional needs of consumers as for businesses has been the case and will always be.
In India, as well as other countries, home shopping network has been there for more than 50 years. The catalogue has been there for 100 years. We never saw the product, we didn’t even touch the product, we just had one grainy picture and no product reviews. Still, we bought them.
It started from paper, then moved to TV and phone calls. Now people have moved online – to ecommerce websites and WhatsApp. The channel has changed but I don’t subscribe to the notion that this is happening only for the last five years.
YS: What are the differences in companies in the West versus the ones here?
AS: India has a lot of potential. We are in the early innings of servicing consumers in the metro market – people who have more disposable income.
With digital transformation, even mainstream consumers will get more confident and have the trust that they can buy online. That’s where the emotional connect comes in the picture. There is a lot of opportunities there. If you look at the stats, we are going to be at par with the UK in the next four years.
There will be a set of change where we make it relevant and thoughtful for those consumers by different geography, language, and behaviours. Those things are not addressed yet – for most parts, it’s still in English. All this will continue to evolve and change.
YS: What challenges did you face while starting up in India?
AS: When we started in Bengaluru two years ago – we wanted to make sure that we get the team right. First go around, we couldn’t quite get there. We had to change our approach and made sure we built a team the right way. Second go around, we had phenomenal success.
An enterprise business could slow you down by six or 12 months. Now we have 50-plus members in this office and are looking to doubling that in the next six to 12 months.
YS: What has been your winning pitch to investors?
AS: We are here to simplify the consumer’s life. It makes sense for consumers – that’s what they expect. It’s a big business problem that we can solve technically. Winning pitch is that we have a scalable platform – that’s what investors look for.
YS: What are your future plans?
AS: We are trying to understand how consumer experiences are going to change – not only for buying, but while returning and exchanging. One of the areas that we can still solve is consumer pain points and challenges. There’s a lot of potential there.
Secondly, we are a global company but we are still in the early stages of expanding in India. So, we will continue investing and expanding. Thirdly, we will explore using data intelligence to serving more complex problems, especially on the omnichannel side of it.
We have committed to India and will continue to do a lot more here. We have made initial investments in Australia and will continue to grow over there as well.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)