How Chinmayie Bhat bounced back from adversities to revive her baby carrier business
Chinmayie Bhat, the founder of Soulslings, shares her entrepreneurial journey of overcoming challenges and personal loss to successfully revive her baby carrier business. Despite the pandemic causing a major setback in sales, Bhat managed to re-establish the brand.
While entrepreneurs usually pray for quick success in business, Chinmayie Bhat, founder of baby carrier brand, has had to deal with the pains that come with growing too fast too soon.
In 2014, she started Soulslings along with her husband Ravindra, and the brand quickly found success, selling around 1600 baby carriers a month across the world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put brakes on its growth. Almost overnight Soulslings’ international sales, which accounted for about 80% of the business, dropped to zero.
Bhat also lost Ravindra to depression in 2021, leaving her with the entire responsibility of running the business alongside raising two children.
“Ravindra was managing all the manufacturing operations, we even had offices and warehouses in Singapore, plus company registered in Malaysia, USA and Europe which he was handling, but in a blink of an eye all that was gone,” she tells SMBStory.
Over the last two years, Bhat has been actively revitalising her once thriving enterprise. The past year has been particularly positive for her, as she has seen steady growth of selling 500-600 baby carriers from zero in 2020 on a monthly basis with an increase of 20%.
The making of Soulslings
The company started its journey by making ring slings, a baby wrap with rings that allows one to carry a child without having to tie anything. Back then, Bhat and her husband would make small batches of ring slings with locally-available fabric and sell it through a Facebook community.
“It was a Facebook world then and the ring sling that we were offering was nowhere to be found in India. In fact, I was inspired to make the ring sling after I was pregnant with my second child and was in search of a baby carrier that would match my lifestyle, but couldn’t find any,” says Bhat.
Bhat’s search for a perfect baby carrier ended when she came across a brand making the same in the US and she had to import it. This was when Bhat realised the dearth of baby carriers in India despite being a fantastic parenting tool. She started her own business to fill this gap in the market.
“As this was a one-of-a-kin d product in the market, we saw a huge demand,” says Bhat. As most of the orders would be placed from outside India, Bhat had set up distribution and retail networks across the country including the US, Europe, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Soulslings’ baby carriers use cotton and linen, which are kid friendly. The brand also has a one-of-a-kind carrier called AseemA that can be used by a newborn as well as an infant of four years of age. Products price range from Rs 1,149-Rs 8,000
Reviving the business
Between 2014 and 2019, Soulslings launched several varieties of baby carriers for newborns, toddlers and infants, and was selling in almost 30 countries.
As the pandemic killed Soulslings international sales, Bhat realised that the brand had grown too fast and had failed to establish a presence in India, a mistake that held it back during the lockdown.
Once the market opened up, Bhat had an uphill task of reviving the business in India. She first established an online presence and launched a D2C (direct-to-consumer) website, along with re-engaging with her customer base.
“The growth doesn’t come easy these days and we have now started spending in social media ad campaigns which was a thing alien to us before the pandemic,” says Bhat.
The market for baby carriers in India has since evolved with the emergence of brands like Luvlap, Kol Kol and Butt Baby, all of which have eroded Bhat's first-mover advantage. However, Bhat says that there is still room for growth and that her company is introducing a new range of baby carriers.
According to Mordor Intelligence, the baby carrier market is projected to register a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 5.08% over the upcoming five years.
Talking about future plans, Bhat says that she is partnering with a hospital to organise a workshop for new mothers on baby wearing.
Bhat is also reconnecting with distribution and retail channels internationally to revive their export chain and rebuild the business she had lost.
“I want Soulslings to be back in the international market soon,” she says.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti