Creating strong brand recognition, these D2C brands are poised for growth and advancement

Sustainable, eco-friendly, natural, recyclable, local – these buzzwords are the essential features of most of the products that India’s emerging D2C brands are building. Founders and entrepreneurs from the ecosystem share their success stories, decoding why and how they are winning the trust.
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“It is a $15 billion industry, and we talk about disruptive innovation and business ideas but see what our kids are eating. India lacks healthy snacking options, and occupies the third position when it comes to packaged food,” said Ahana Gautam, Co-founder and CEO, Open Secret, a Mumbai-based healthy snack brand.

Ahana was speaking at a session titled ‘Small steps, giant leaps - The next wave of Indian D2C Superstars’ at the premier edition of YourStory’s Brands of New India Mega Summit. Celebrating the growth stories of some of the high-potential, emerging D2C startups, the panel also featured Akshay Verma, Co-founder, Beco; Arman Sood, Co-founder, Sleepy Owl Coffee; Dharmistha Goenka, Founder and CEO, Praakritik; and Raunaq Singh Anand, Co-founder, Flexnest.

The eureka moment

Founded in 2018, home and personal care D2C brand Beco claims to be a 100 percent eco-friendly and zero plastic startup. “In 2018, plastic was recently banned in Maharashtra, and alternatives of plastic were very expensive. Using paper bags also meant trees had to be cut down,” recalled Akshay.

“Taking a chance on brewed coffee, we spent 5+ years on category building alongside changing consumer habits. We are enjoying the process where the industry is dominated by legacy players,” shared Arman of Sleepy Owl Coffee, which made its mark by launching India’ first cold brew coffee.

It was during Mumbai Organic Fest when a farmer contacted certified organic retailer Praakritik to save his plants. “We circulated a simple message over WhatsApp and got around 3,000 kg of order in response and the journey began,” shared Dharmistha.

Flexnest’s Raunaq talked about how they had been looking for fitness products for home use when the pandemic hit and all gyms shut down. “Soon we realised there are no premium home fitness equipment D2C brands in India. We initiated Connective Fitness providing hardware, software, content, and community experience at home”, he said. Founded in 2020, the Gurugram-based fitness startup offers premium smart and non-smart fitness equipment for home use.

Building brands in D2C space

“Building a brand or building a sale, I don't see them as mutually exclusive. Being a purpose-driven organisation, we make differences very authentically and smartly that reflects in our communication, manufacturing, and marketing where sales and brand building work simultaneously,” said Ahana.

With an influx of programmes, said Arman, people are becoming mature and willing to try and experiment. “In today’s highly competitive market, becoming a differentiator is tougher and tricky, where the bar is set and the competitor needs to make highly differentiated quality products to convert customers. In end-to-end customer experience, we have a seamless and authentic process to build business,” he said.

Talking about costs and utility, Beco’s Akshay explained that cost is always high for eco-friendly yet quality products. Explaining the process, he said, “We build products with bamboo and cornstarch, so the cost will be higher by 10 to 15 percent in the market. To use bamboo effectively, 20 percent is used to make toothbrushes and 80 percent of waste is used to make tissue paper.”

“As we directly connect to farmers, supply chain is our main concern. Putting everything together - organic products, good packaging, correct packages, we are doing great,” added Dharmistha.

Talking about how the fitness industry is constantly evolving and changes in consumer behaviour, Raunaq said, “FlexNest comes in the market as a premium tag, with higher price results in higher margins that can further be used to create better content and ads.”

What’s driving the next phase of D2C?

While Akshay suggested that brands could focus on pampering customers by sending them products as a trial along with a thank you note.

Dharmistha added that constant innovations are required, giving customers reasons to come back to you.

Speaking about the future of the D2C ecosystem, Raunaq strategised to leverage digital marketing to build brands online and approach customers to present a value proposition that allows D2C brands to scale swiftly.

60 percent of Open Secret’s sales growth is generated from outside metro cities, revealed Ahana and suggested to be innovative in the market.

“D2C is the place where you build a brand and everywhere else you sell the product,”said Arman, projecting the scope of omnichannel play for D2C to survive effectively and efficiently.

You can watch videos from all the sessions of Brands of New India Mega Summit here. Don't forget to tag #BrandsOfNewIndia when you share your experience, learnings, and favourite moments from the event on social media.

For information on future events, collaborations, and information regarding the D2C ecosystem, please visit our website.


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