How a first-generation entrepreneur from Panipat built a multi-crore business selling online
For Bhupendra Patel, life was not very different from other young Indians who finish their education and settle for a well-paying corporate job. However, with the boom of e-commerce, he saw an opportunity to explore his entrepreneurial ambitions and script a new narrative for himself. “I didn’t come from a family that had an understanding of what it takes to run a successful business. My father was a government employee and I had only seen the stability of a regular 9-to-5 job. I was a stranger to the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. But, the buzz about the opportunity in online selling was hard to ignore.” And, because he had studied retail management during his MBA, he had a basic understanding of how e-commerce functions. “While I was contemplating, a few of my friends had already ventured into online selling. So I reached out to them.” Speaking to his friends gave Bhupendra the nudge he needed.
Bhupendra began by researching the potential and needs of the market and saw an opportunity in the home furnishing space. “A lot of the initial research was about understanding the market, competition and product pricing.” Pooling Rs 5 lakh from his own savings and a little help from friends and family, Bhupendra started building the foundation for a home furnishings business in Panipat. “Towards the end of 2015, I began investing in inventory, manpower, product line and also a framework for managing logistics with what limited resources I had. The key was to plan well and plan ahead so as to optimise the limited investments that I had. A few months later, I felt we were ready to launch.”
In 2016, Bhupendra started Home Sizzler as a home furnishings brand for bed linen and curtains on Flipkart. They print custom designs on fabric and get them stitched into bed linen and curtains at their manufacturing unit. At the moment, Home Sizzler is an online-only brand and sells via e-commerce platforms like Flipkart.
Sharing why he ventured into online selling, he says, “For one, a platform like Flipkart provides a big reach. Secondly, the whole business model becomes easy to run and sustain. Thirdly, it is really simple. All you need is a GST and PAN number to register on a platform like Flipkart and get started. The entire onboarding process is so simple that you can do it yourself. And in the event of a challenge, the Flipkart support team pitches in to assist. Once you get registered on a platform like Flipkart, you instantly get access to millions of customers. As a new business, access to customers is crucial as it ultimately decides the growth of the business.”
Like most first time business, Home Sizzler started with a limited set of product variants. “We had about 5-6 sets of designs when it came to curtains and bed linen. And, over time, we created our own in-house designs.” Today, they have over 300 designs which act as a key competitive advantage and differentiates them from the competition. The other big USP for Home Sizzler has been their product quality. “We saw sellers selling home furnishing made of 125-130 GSM fabric. To ensure, ours was among the best, our products are made from 150 GSM fabric. But, at the same price points. That’s why you see most of our products have a 4+ rating.”
That’s not all, starting out as a Bronze seller, the default tier that a seller starts his journey on Flipkart, today Home Sizzler has become a Gold seller, a testimony to the brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction. At Flipkart, a seller is upgraded to a higher level based on performance metrics, with Gold being the highest achievable status.
The Flipkart Advantage
Today, Home Sizzler is a multi-crore business. Its annual turnover touches Rs 20 crores. In this journey, Flipkart has been a key enabler says the entrepreneur.
“We received immense support from Flipkart since day 1,” says Bhupendra. He adds, “When we became a Gold seller, we were assigned an Account Manager who has been instrumental in helping us grow by providing key insights on the market, price gaps, quality, designs, etc. We also received advertising advice.”
The support from Flipkart has also helped Home Sizzler cater to customers across India.
Today, 50 percent of business comes from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. When you look at the geographical spread, 40 percent of Home Sizzler’s business comes from the East and North East, especially from states like Meghalaya and Assam. “This is because of the in-depth penetration across India that Flipkart has built over the years. The scale of our business wouldn’t have been the same if we were to start an offline business,” shares Bhupendra.
The potential and excitement of the Big Billion Day sale
October is one of the busiest months for Home Sizzler. While on average, their monthly sales on Flipkart touch Rs 40 lakh, it peaks to Rs 2 crore during October. “That’s because of Flipkart’s The Big Billion Days,” beams the entrepreneur. “At least five months prior to the launch of the sale, the Flipkart team briefs us on the expected demand and provides us with insights and inputs. This helps us prepare in advance and meet the spike in demand.” During The Big Billion Days in 2018, Home Sizzler sold 17,000 units. And in 2019, the venture witnessed a 300 percent spike in sales and sold 65,000 units. Bhupender explains they have already begun preparations for the next year’s The Big Billion Days.
After a ‘sizzling’ start...
Bhupender is now working on expanding Home Sizzler’s portfolio and also further increasing its growth rate. “We are currently in touch with category managers to learn how we can explore other categories.”
As a first-time entrepreneur and a successful one at that, Bhupender says seeing his business grow 100 percent YoY is an achievement that he takes pride in. But, his achievements do not stop here. Today, he is looked upon a local hero at Panipat for starting and running a successful business. Aspiring entrepreneurs knock on his door seeking advice. “It’s a nice feeling to see people taking inspiration from you. But, it is even nicer when you can help them by simply sharing the knowledge and experience you have,” he signs off.