How WhatsApp is helping this woman entrepreneur grow her kids apparel startup
Nikita Jain often accompanied her husband on his travels and her desire to continue travelling after becoming a first-time mother introduced her to the world of ergonomic baby carriers.
“Surprisingly, my friends and family members were completely unaware about baby carriers. As I explored and enjoyed hands-free parenting with the ergonomic baby carriers, I wanted to introduce them to the parenting community in India," she says.
When her firstborn was four months old, Nikita started a babywearing marketplace, which pivoted to Klingaru in 2016.
“We began producing and retailing Indian-made budget buckled carriers. Gradually, I began adding other products, such as kurtas in Indian prints and fabrics. Today, we have products for little girls and boys, in addition to the ergonomic carriers and related accessories.”
A home-grown label
Today, Indore-based Klingaru is known just as much for its kidswear as its for its ergonomic baby carriers. Affordability has been one of Klinagru’s USPs. This means that while a majority of their apparel offerings are made of handloom cotton, they don't indulge in superficially upmarked price tags.
“Today, kurtas are the fastest-selling product range for Klingaru,” Nikita shares.
After expanding its portfolio to include affordable Indian wear, Klingaru sought further room to expand. In 2019, the label expanded into kids' bedding and newborn clothing while also adding to their range of kidswear for girls.
“Apart from this, we have been taking custom orders for sibling sets and twinning sets for families, and have been amazed by the response,” Nikita says. The team is now working towards reducing and reusing their fabric waste. “We are bringing a new suite of utility products made using these scraps.”
WhatsApp: a key growth driver
For Klingaru, 50 percent of sales come from the website, 30 percent from WhatsApp, and 20 percent from referrals. “WhatsApp majorly includes our repeat customers,” says the entrepreneur.
Initially, Klingaru focused on local networking and exhibitions to drive sales. In fact, the startup has been organising ‘Klingaru Garba’ for the last three years in Indore, a city that loves its Garba nights. However, the founder says that promoting Klingaru on Facebook groups and providing personalised support on WhatsApp was a game-changer.
“We began using WhatsApp to educate new parents and answer their concerns about baby carriers as that was our key product in the early days of Klingaru. They preferred personal support, before making a purchase. Today, we share tracking details for orders, promotions, and much more. My experience of running a small online business has led me to believe that while purchases happen online, customers still want to easily reach out to the person running the business. In my experience, new parents, especially mothers, prefer WhatsApp over email, call or chats.”
Switching over to WhatsApp for Business an year ago, Nikita says life as an entrepreneur has become a little easier. “There were times when customers used to send a message at odd hours but expected an instant reply. But today, with features like ‘Away Reply’ and ‘Scheduling Business Hours,’ I am able to set the right expectation and choose my own working hours. This has become more important with a second baby, who is now a year old.”
Explaining the additional benefits of switching to WhatsApp for Business, Nikita says, “We get multiple inquiries a day. At times, it was impossible not to miss responding to a query. That’s where labelling the queries has helped immensely..”
WhatsApp has also enabled the young brand to explore another revenue channel: custom orders. “We take custom orders only through WhatsApp, which is becoming a key and growing revenue stream, contributing 20 to 30 percent of new in-bound business.”
One of the biggest advantages of WhatsApp for Business is that it builds brand credibility.
The challenges of a Tier II city business
Running a business from a Tier II city in India, and as a first-time entrepreneur, Nikita has faced many challenges to run, sustain, and grow the business The biggest challenge has been related to sourcing the right material for both Klingaru baby carriers and their clothing line.
“With carriers, it was a one-time challenge, until we found the right suppliers for buckles and webbing. But with clothing, prints are a key USP. So, you need to find suppliers who are authentic and keep a tab on customer pulse and source accordingly,” Nikita says.
The additional challenge has been that of setting ground rules among the suppliers and staff. “While people in a small town like Indore are enterprising, not everyone understands the importance of adherence to timeliness and quality.So organising production and defining processes took time and effort.”
Today, Klingaru has a lineup of dependable contacts for all their B2B sourcing needs. For production and logistics, the startup has set defined timelines that are mutually agreed and adhered to - be it pre-planned production, urgent orders, or ad-hoc custom orders.
With an annual turnover of Rs 15 lakh, Klingaru is now working towards enabling international sales.
“We are working on the possibilities of partnering with popular multi-brand kids stores to retail Klingaru-labeled clothing. But that will take some more time," Nikita says. The team is also working on expanding its product portfolio.
Entrepreneurship: an extension of motherhood
Leading a five-member team and running her household is no challenge for Nikita. “In the morning, it's all about getting my older boy ready for school while an active toddler runs around. The morning chaos settles only when the help comes in,” she says.
A detailed call with the production lead sets the work order for the day; it usually involves visiting suppliers, replying to customers, and coordinating the shipping.
Amidst all this, she also spends time with the kids “It’s just like a day for any other mompreneur elsewhere --ticking off all the tasks on paper and wanting to crash in the bed by night. But at the end of it, there’s happiness and satisfaction to look forward to.”
Reflecting on her journey, Nitika says, “Klingaru started with my motherhood journey and continues to do so. With my first-born it was baby carriers, accessories, and kids fashion. With my second, it was newborn essentials. That’s why Klingaru is literally an extension of what I love.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)