The last few years have seen tremendous disruption in the Direct-To-Consumer (D2C) space. The opportunity it presents to reach out and connect with customers directly has equipped young businesses to build their ventures into brands, sans dependencies on age-old and complex systems of wholesalers or distributor networks.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further highlighted the potential for D2C brands to grow despite tough market conditions and the limitations of traditional retail and its reliance on wholesale distributors and secondary retailers. Businesses that have held their fort in the D2C space have created a strong business model, robust operational processes and most importantly, have kept the user at the core of its business.
Wakefit.co, the Bengaluru-based D2C sleep and home solutions brand, is one such company that has driven growth based on the twin pillars of product innovation and customer centricity. Launched in 2016, with a mission to promote a healthy sleep culture with its products, the firm has seen a 3x rise in annual revenue since its inception. From retailing mattresses online directly to customers, today the company has expanded its portfolio over the years to include bed frames, bedsheets, comforters, neck pillows, pillows, back cushions and mattress protectors. Wakefit.co also collaborates with startups and companies, who recognise the need for employees to de-stress and have set up nap rooms in their offices as well.
YourStory caught up with Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Director and Co-founder, Wakefit.co, to uncover more about its brand journey and how the company has relied on business and marketing acumen to make Wakefit a household name.
YS: From starting an online mattress company to becoming a startup that has pioneered the revolution of the sleep and home solutions segment, Wakefit.co has had quite a journey. Can you share a bit about this journey and highlight the key milestones achieved?
Chaitanya: Ankit Garg and I started Wakefit.co in 2016 with a vision to revolutionise the way India sleeps, by offering premium quality mattresses at an affordable price directly to the doorstep of the customer. The mattress industry had seen minimal innovation and the sector was hardly listening to what the customers really needed. That’s why when we made our first 100 deliveries in Ankit’s car, we made it a point to personally speak with each customer, understand their pain points and make our products better. That DNA remained rocksolid, even as we expanded beyond mattresses to other sleep and home products. By virtue of positive customer word-of-mouth, we ended FY 2017 at Rs 6 crores. And, we have recorded 3x growth in revenues since then, while always maintaining healthy profitability. Catering to over five lakh customers in the last four years, we have continued to invest in research, customer experience and feedback and product excellence to become a household name among consumers in India.
YS: How have you leveraged R&D and customer feedback uniquely to better decode the science behind your products?
Chaitanya: R&D and customer feedback is at the core of the business at Wakefit.co. Our manufacturing facility has a testing laboratory, with capabilities for temperature testing, pressure and humidity mapping, among other things. The lab tests help to create a variety of products and test their usability in different climatic conditions and for different body types. This is relevant and important to us because we cater to customers across 19,000+ pincodes in India and the weather conditions and requirements for consumers across locations vary. In addition to the lab tests, we also take into account customer feedback to customise and iterate our products on a regular basis. Our 100-day trial policy enables us to constantly get feedback from users and if patterns are identified, the feedback goes into the product development loop. All of this has helped us stay ahead of the industry curve.
YS: You pointed out earlier that Ankit and you took customer feedback in person when you started up. How has that changed today?
Chaitanya: Yes, we made the initial few deliveries ourselves and spoke to customers personally. The initial customers were people who had taken the leap of faith and put their trust in a new brand. Our visits resulted in honest and open conversations about unique problems customers were facing. They spoke about how comfort level on mattresses changed at different points in the year, how salespeople hardly knew the impact of a mattress of sleep or the materials used in it, among other things . That’s when we realised that keeping in touch with the customer would be of paramount importance even after we scaled up. Hence, we set up an extensive Customer Experience Team (CET) that constantly engages with customers. This team has an in-depth understanding of the manufacturing processes and the science of sleep. This knowledge helps them understand the root cause of a customer problem and relay the feedback effectively to the R&D and product development teams.
YS: What led you to position yourself as an online sleep and home solutions startup?
Chaitanya: The brand positioning was a result of multiple factors. The primary being the gap we identified in the market i.e. a lack of good quality, affordable sleep products that truly caters to customers’ needs. The price was inflated, products had seen little innovation and the customer was catered to by salespeople who had no visibility to the manufacturing processes and no knowledge about sleep. At Wakefit.co, we wanted to address these gaps optimally. The second factor that determined our brand positioning was the vision to become a household name among Indian consumers and bring sleep and home care to the consciousness of our consumers. Our belief is that if we equip them with the right and necessary knowledge to make informed decisions, our product quality and service excellence will speak for itself. Hence, all our marketing initiatives have taken a stance of education and awareness.
YS: Wakefit.co’s marketing campaigns have been widely covered. Last year, when you announced the sleep internship programme, it got everyone talking. Can you tell us the thought behind that and other campaigns Wakefit.co has launched over the years?
Chaitanya: I will circle back to what I said earlier about keeping the customer at the center of everything we do. We knew that marketing would play a key role in gaining critical mass and expanding beyond it as well. For the first year-and- a -half of our existence, we relied solely on word-of-mouth to expand our customer base. My experience of building engaged online communities with no marketing budgets helped too. In 2017, we sent a mattress to Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi with messages from people across India. We were termed as the new startup on the block that made an innovative campaign with a shoestring budget. Last year we launched the Wakefit Sleep Internship, where people could apply to sleep for nine hours a night for 100 nights on Wakefit mattresses in the comfort of their homes and earn INR 1 Lakh as an internship stipend. The idea was to encourage people to take pride in sleeping well and help Indians take action towards better sleep health. We received 1.75 Lakh entries from 130 countries and 23 interns were selected for the internship. The marketing mantra of educating and creating awareness towards sleep health was central to this campaign as well.
YS: As a brand, what do you stand for today? What does the future look like for the brand?
Chaitanya: As a brand, we believe in making people’s lives better at the place where they create innumerable experiences. Homes, and especially bed spaces, are meant to be created and cared for with the utmost love and we want to help people do this. As we expand our business in the coming years, we hope to make Wakefit.co a household name that people love and care about as much as their own homes.
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