How house of D2C brands Join Ventures is tapping India’s $200B celebration market with dark stores
In 2019, Tarun Joshi had started seeing the early days and tailwinds of D2C brands and the ecosystem.
As a serial entrepreneur, he realised there was huge potential in the “celebratory” space in India, and that evolving technology and innovation could help create new and exciting experiences.
This led him to launch Mumbai-based Join Ventures that very same year with an undisclosed amount of initial investment.
The company, a house of D2C brands for celebrations, is building leadership through its growing portfolio of brands, including IGP.com, India’s largest D2C platform for gifting on occasions; Interflora India, India’s largest D2C brand for premium flowers; IGP for Business, a leading B2B2C partner for reward management and corporate gifting; and Masqa, which aims to create India’s leading D2C brand for gourmet foods.
“Pre-pandemic, the count of digital customers in India was 100 million; this is expected to cross 300 million by 2025, with upcoming 88 million customers from Tier 2 cities. The extensive data from consumer preferences and their market potential was the Eureka moment for us - they are still a largely underserved audience that needs a brand to serve their needs for every special occasion,” Tarun says.
According to the team, despite the magnitude of India’s “celebration ecosystem”, there aren’t many players serving it at scale. The challenges include robust supply chain, transparent last-mile delivery, or personalised options.
Join Ventures overcame these challenges by building a curated merchandising platform with proprietary logistics infrastructure that comprises three mother warehouses and 20 dark stores.
“Our proprietary tech stack, combined with a network of strategically located dark stores and mother warehouses, will also help us create India’s largest temperature-controlled, same-day delivery network. At present, we provide same-day delivery to almost 250+ cities in India and 24 to 72-hour delivery in 1,000+ cities. New dark stores will make many of these 1,000+ cities part of our same-day delivery network,” Tarun says.
Going the dark store way
At present, the house of brands serves 100 million visitors every year across 100 countries with its design-to-delivery consumer experience, farm-to-table supply chain, and by expanding the same-day delivery distribution network in over 100 cities.
The company is looking to create more than 100 dark stores in a year.
Tarun believes a faster response time always helps the company’s bottom line, adding that hyperlocal capability will be a strong part of the future of the D2C space in the country.
“Dark stores are the future of retail, and the rapid growth in demand in the celebration landscape requires solutions for automation and quick fulfilment. With urban and rural areas both emerging as active consumer bases for us, setting up dark stores has proved to be extremely helpful. Furthermore, dark stores help improve customer experience and provide better control on the quality of the products delivered, so they became a logical choice in our expansion plans,” he says.
The team refused to divulge unit economics and details of setting up the dark stores. However, the Join Ventures’ dark stores locations are strategically selected based on population, active consumers, infrastructure quality, and more.
Their aim is to improve distribution and reduce delivery time while reaching a larger audience. The stores provide improved inventory control and management, reducing operational costs. So, any investment made in dark stores has a very high ROI in the long run.
As of now, the purpose of dark stores is to increase the efficiency of Join Ventures’s in-house brands IGP.com, Interflora.in, IGP for Business, and Masqa.
Bringing in tech
The team however had the same challenges as any other D2C business faces in the initial stages: a disorganised market that needs upheaval and disruption through proprietary tech.
“We already have good coverage in Tier 1 cities and areas around it. So our focus is on emerging cities in the country. We believe that emerging (Tier 2 and Tier 3) cities are the new warehousing hotspots serving as focal points to meet demand beyond metros,” Tarun says.
During the pandemic, the team was able to provide employment to 10,000+ artisan families in Rajasthan. Even before the pandemic began, Join Ventures and its portfolio brands have always been Vocal For Local – most, if not all, the raw material is locally sourced.
“We are a brand that is made in India and made to celebrate India. Furthermore, we have been supporting artisans with training, consumer insights, and trends, to create new products, and constantly improve their skills,” Tarun says.
Market and the future
Join Ventures has managed to get over 200 mn global trade numbers, 30 million Google impressions per month, and deliveries in over 100 countries.
“We handle more than two million deliveries pan-India annually and are expecting 80-100 percent growth in revenue by the end of next year,” Tarun says.
The first half of 2021 saw more than $250 million pumped into D2C startup brands. There are already two unicorns - Mensa Brands and Good Glamm Group - in the space.
Avendus Capital says the retail market in India will touch $1.7 trillion by 2025 – presenting a huge opportunity to Join Ventures.
The company aims to tap this market by becoming the go-to destination for all special occasions, festivals, corporate events, parties, and more, through brands that can capture the growing market of special purchases in Food, Home, Fashion, and Fresh categories.
The 10-member team aims to serve the celebratory needs of millions of Indians using the internet through proprietary infrastructure and a curated merchandising platform based on AI and intelligent automation.
“We also look forward to capturing a large market share by consistently launching new brands and services based on consumer insights derived from our existing brands.
“Overall, we envision building the largest ecosystem for celebration, with handmade, customised, curated, and unique products for every special occasion and celebratory moment in the lives of our users,” Tarun says.
To support this goal the team is currently expanding their delivery network through dark stores and looking to automate “wherever possible”.
“We have already begun the process of setting up 100+ new dark stores pan India to bolster our fulfilment infrastructure of 20 dark stores that three mother warehouses support. We are planning to launch 100 dark stores by the end of FY23, covering India’s Tier 2 emerging cities, making Join Ventures one of the largest and fastest-growing house of D2C brands in the celebration ecosystem that is estimated to be over $200 billion in size,” Tarun says.