How BigSmall packaged personalisation and creativity to give India's gifting culture a quirky twist
If necessity is the mother of invention, then Yatin and Aman Hans probably hit the nail right on its head. It was during a train journey that the brothers saw their mother using her hand as a pillow while sleeping. A few days later, they saw a hand pillow which they felt would not only solve a problem but would also make for a great gift for their mother. At the same time, it made them realise the lack of a dedicated online platform for gifts that could help people go beyond regular options to give their friends and families more personalised gifts. A few brainstorming sessions and strategies later, the duo were ready to launch their new business venture — BigSmall — in 2015.
"The gifting platforms that existed back in 2015 were mainly selling flowers and cakes. We wanted to build a platform where the gifts were more personalised and matched the interests of the person who was receiving it," says Aman. The two started curating products to put together an impressive range of products. "We imported products and tied up with different brands to cater to different segments and categories. Until a few years ago, you wouldn't think of a pair of socks as a gift. We have worked hard on our designs to turn a simple pair of socks into a gift that could bring a smile to someone's face." he adds.
Over six years later the online gifting portal is spreading smiles and leaving people in splits with its quirky, creative, and personalised gifts. The brand offers gifts across several categories like personalised gifts, corporate events, Secret Santas and, even festivals like Christmas, Diwali, and Rakhi.
Small yet steady steps for progress
Looking back at their journey, Aman says that the team always had a clear aim that was to help the brand become the first choice of consumers looking for creative, personalised and unique gifting options. As the team started operations, there were many initial challenges that hindered their progress. "Given how the e-commerce sector was making a splash, back in 2015, we faced a lot of tech challenges. Instead of going for a customised website right from the start, we retailed on Kartrocket (now Shiprocket) and then on Shopify and leveraged the tools offered by these platforms to ensure seamless user experiences," he explains.
From the brand perspective, Yatin and Aman had to focus on winning the client's trust by ensuring that there was no difference between the quality of the products that they saw on the website and what they received. "Another challenge which continue to focus even now is logistics management. As we offer gifting options, there is always an element of urgency. The customers prefer to have the package delivered before a certain date. If a customer wants a gift the next day, he had rather go buy it from an offline store rather place an online order," he explains.
Being a bootstrapped startup, it is currently not feasible for BigSmall to have an independent logistics arm like some of the leading e-commerce companies. Alternatively, the brand is partnering with companies like FedEx, Delhivery, Bluedart and ExpressBee to ensure faster and safer deliveries, he says.
Proud to be made in India
BigSmall later launched its own independent website which Aman says helped them gain their customers' trust and opted to go for a .in extension. A domain name can be instrumental in lending credibility to a brand, and in BigSmall's case the extension has helped it strengthen its online presence as an Indian brand in a very niche sector.
"We had settled on the name 'BigSmall' after a lot of thought. However, it was only available with a .in domain name. So, instead of changing the name we decided to change our preference. After some research, we realised that it made sense also because we are based in India. Moreover, even while completing international orders we wanted everyone to know that we are a 'Made in India' brand," Aman reasons. He also said that brand has helped it boost its search engine optimisation and get more organic searches.
The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has helped hundreds of businesses across sectors and sizes distinguish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain — which is India’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). It’s among the few internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages.
Aman added a .in domain name that gave small and budding businesses the opportunity to compete with bigger brands without having to invest heavily. "Overall, it reduces the cost of managing a domain, increases your visibility and creates a level-playing field for even smaller brands," he says.
A touch personalisation and creativity
The brand has been able to make a mark for itself in a niche market with effective strategies that have made shopping for gifts easier and more transparent. "For instance, our users can get real-time photos and videos of the products listed on the website via WhatsApp or via a call. This boosts their trust in our brand as they are getting exactly what they see on the website," he adds.
Moreover, it's the company's agility to ensure better user experience that has enabled it to survive many a crisis including the COVID-19 pandemic. Shedding light on how the pandemic impacted BigSmall, Aman says, "It wasn't easy at all as we faced quite a few challenges. Being an e-commerce brand, the packaging needs to be done onsite. As we have an inventory-heavy model, we had to implement strict safety guidelines in our warehouses to ensure that every product that's being shipped out is sanitised."
The team also doubled down to get its employees regularly tested to avoid an outbreak in BigSmall warehouses.
BigSmall is one of the earliest direct to consumer (D2C) brands to have been launched in India. The D2C ecosystem has evolved massively over the past few years to become a key growth driver for the economy, with many D2C startups even gaining the unicorn status. Talking about how the sector has evolved, Aman says, "Today, there are many leading brands that didn't have an online presence until a few years ago, but are now selling their products on their own websites. With more offline brands entering the online space, more customers are willing to give D2C brands a try. This has lead to fewer frauds and the availability of multiple channels of payment has made these brands even more accessible." Plus, as more brands offer cash on delivery options, it builds the customer's trust.
As part of its future plans, BigSmall will continue exploring manufacturing its own products. "We started out as an import-heavy business wherein we imported a lot of stuff from countries like the US, the UK, Japan, South Korea and China. After the pandemic, we pivoted and are roping in more Indian brands on BigSmall. Combined with the reach of a .in domain name, we expect these local brands will help us capture a bigger share of the Indian market" he adds.
The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.