From the verge of shutting down, to earning Rs 2 crore in five days, how this first-time entrepreneur turned his business around
Pushpendra Kirtiwar built a career ground up and went to work with some of the biggest retail brands in India - Shoppers Stop, Big Bazaar, @Home and Housefull. A journey close to 17 years.
It was while working at Housefull, the last job he went on to hold before turning an entrepreneur, his colleague Narsi Reddy asked what stopped them from starting their own furniture business.
“When the question popped, I realised I had spent the majority of my career handling the furniture business for the retail brands and knew what it took to run a furniture business. So, I jumped on the idea,” shares Pushpendra.
A troubled start
With an initial investment of Rs 18 lakh, pooled from their personal savings and loaned money from family, Pushpendra and Narsi launched a furniture showroom in 2017 in Hyderabad. “Initially, we opted for a reselling business model and didn’t factor in manufacturing because the latter was investment heavy. But soon, we realised it was a mistake. The quality of the sourced products wasn’t great and hence a cause of concern among customers. And, that’s when we decided to manufacture our own products, even if it meant that we had to pump in additional money.”
This decision didn’t make things easy. Finding a reliable source to buy raw materials proved to be a major challenge as was getting skilled professionals who understood furniture design. “We burnt a lot of money as we weren’t entirely aware of the cost of raw materials. But, we learnt in the process.”
Even when they did everything that felt right, the business failed to pick up. The credit transactions with the suppliers stretched as long as three months resulting in a liquidity crunch and market access turned out to be more challenging than ever before. The business looked bleak. The first year was anything but forgettable for the entrepreneur. “By that time, I had mortgaged the house. I even sold my wife’s gold jewellery to sustain the business. The losses were pushing us to shut down the business.”
A decision that changed the business' trajectory
That’s when he turned towards e-commerce -- as a last attempt to give the business a new lease of life. “I saw it as a means to keep my business afloat. I realised I could still run the business minus the overhead cost of rental space.” Pushpendra took a bet on venturing into e-commerce and onboarded Flipkart in December 2017, unaware that the decision would prove to be a turning point for his business.
In the first two months itself, Pushpendra got a glimpse into what was to come.
Homefull’s revenue rose from Rs 2 lakhs a month to Rs 9 lakhs a month. “This gave us the confidence to pivot into an online-only business.”
He adds, “That said, we were still sceptical. We assumed that running a business online would be challenging. But, Flipkart made the journey easy for us. From visiting our warehouse, organising photoshoots of our products, registration, cataloguing, pricing, enabling partnerships with financial partners for flexi loans, to updating us on market and competition insights, the Flipkart team invested in our business at every stage of the growth.”
An additional factor that turned out to be game changing for a small business like Homefull was the access to customer feedback.
“This has helped us put thought into bringing to the market unconventional designs for everyday furniture products. Our product designs and quality are now our key USPs”
All this led to Homefull registering a 200 percent YoY growth and expanding their product catalogue.
“We started off by offering a range of wardrobes, shoe racks, kitchen cabinets, modular kitchen, and modular wardrobes and went to launch 17 new products including centre tables, bookshelves, kitchen tables, dressing tables, and TV units. In fact, TV units are one of our best sellers and we sell at least 600 units a month.”
Homefull is now looking at further expanding its product portfolio to include centre and study tables.
Like many other businesses, Flipkart’s Big Billion Day (BBD) has grown to become a key growth driver for Homefull.
“The business peaks during Big Billion Day sales. The revenue simply pole vaults. In 2018, we generated Rs 85 lakhs. In 2019, we generated a revenue of 2Cr in just five days of the sales period.”
And, if you’re wondering if he had to make any major changes to his business model to be able to sell online, Pushpendra clarifies, “Not really. We had to only make minor changes, mostly related to logistics and packaging of the products. Here too, we received a lot of guidance and training from the Flipkart team. Once you understand and put in place the basic necessities, you are good to go.”
Of goals and dreams
With the number of orders growing, Homefull has been able to buy a factory spread across 8,000 sq ft and a warehouse of 9,000 sq ft. They are in the process of building a 20,000 square feet warehouse to cater to the growing demand. It recently introduced new machinery worth Rs 1.3 crore to meet the growing demand and upskilled their employees into handling them. Homefull began with just seven people working. Today, they are more than 50 of them and growing. Once limited to just Hyderabad, today Homefull reaches out to customers across the country.
“In the last two years, our achievements have been many. And, a lot of it can be traced back to the decision to launch on Flipkart. We began our journey here just to keep the business afloat. But, now we are gunning to reach Rs 1 crore in revenue a month,” beams the entrepreneur.
Pushpendra has not only achieved his professional goals but also his many dreams. “My wife has been a constant supporter through my ups and downs as an entrepreneur. I sold her gold jewellery when the times were tough not knowing if I would be able to give it back to her. But, today, I have been able to provide her with much more than what she had to give up. And, to be able to do that simply makes me happy. We also are happy owners of our first car - a dream that was unfulfilled for many years.
“The journey as a first-time entrepreneur has been fulfilling, even though the start was gruelling and testing. I am working towards our big dream - owning a home.”