Back in 2001, Ashok Rajpal (39) had been in the textile business for 11 years, when he saw the tech industry booming. Noting a huge growth potential in the demand for peripheral devices, he decided to venture into this nascent industry, though he had no knowledge of it.
Putting his head and fortunes together with his brother, Sanjay Rajpal (36), who already had a small peripheral devices shop in Nehru Place, New Delhi, Ashok began his journey as a retailer of mobile accessories.
Speaking to SMBStory, Ashok says,
“I realised that the world is going to be ‘smart’. And that, if we want to succeed, we must have a business model that revolves around technology.”
Capitalising on a first-mover advantage, the duo founded Ambrane in 2012 with an investment of Rs 10 lakh from their personal savings.
Making a big move
When Ashok entered the business of manufacturing and retailing powerbanks, the smartphone industry was burgeoning, and he saw an untapped opportunity in the powerbank segment. He notes that, back then, the concept of powerbanks was still alien to India, though the product had gained popularity in China and Japan, among other countries.
“People were not aware of the powerbank and its usability, and we thought it would be right to start with it. Also, the demand for powerbanks was bound to increase with that for smartphones. So, in 2014 we set up our manufacturing unit in Kundli near Sonipat in Haryana, and began manufacturing powerbanks,” says Ashok.
Ambrane started selling its powerbanks through various ecommerce portals, including Snapdeal, Flipkart, and ShopClues. However, the product was listed under the category of chargers as there was no specific category available for powerbanks then.
The reception for the products exceeded all the expectations of the founders. Within three to four days, Ambrane’s powerbanks were stocked out, leaving the entrepreneurs amazed that this huge a market demand had been unmet. The success also nudged ecommerce companies to create a new product category on their portals.
Ashok says theirs was one of the first brands to adopt the ‘Make in India’ ethos, long before the movement officially began. After the launch of its powerbanks, there has been no looking back for the brand.
“Within a very short span of time, we became one of the top manufacturers in the powerbanks category in the Indian market. We have maintained that position consistently over a period of time, along with growing brand loyalty and recognition. Even against the stiffest competitors, we have hit a 10-million customer base, just in the powerbank category.”
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Innovation is key
Today, Ambrane manufactures and sells mobile accessories and audio products across India and internationally exports to Dubai and Sweden. Its wide range includes speakers, chargers, and rugged cables, apart from powerbanks.
The company's main agenda is to balance the fast-changing needs of the Indian consumer with product innovations and designs. The company claims that is fully committed to developing its products, services, and consumer relations through extensive R&D, strict control over quality assurance practices, and effective outreach initiatives.
Ashok stresses the importance of continuous innovation to stay relevant in the industry. He says, “Any technology can be developed at any time. There is always something new in the market and we always try to be a pioneer in our categories.”
To observe the technological advancements in vogue, the brothers often travel across countries and note the developments in the tech world. They also visit their competitors’ facilities to keep an eye on their plans for the market.
Ashok says that the company’s customers serve as its biggest innovators, as, many a times, with their feedback the entrepreneurs innovate to bring new features into their products.
However, he adds, despite innovation in products being a mainstay, creating a new category is always a challenge. The fast-changing technology makes the market essentially time-bound and dynamic, he points out.
The brand is currently listed on all the major ecommerce portals and is also available in modern retail chains like Walmart and More.
The challenges and the competition
With substantial and ever-rising growth in the adoption of smartphones and tablets, the mobile accessories market in India is expected to reach about Rs 252.8 billion by 2023.
Other factors such as a growing younger population and the rise in disposable income are also anticipated to drive the growth of the Indian mobile phone accessories market during the forecast period, says Ashok.
He adds that the market is currently exploding with several new brands as the industry has no entry-barriers. To differentiate itself from the competition, Ambrane has a single-minded focus on its value statement: ‘Let the product do the talking!’
According to the founders, the brand, from the beginning, has focused on the quality and price-points, which has enabled the business to garner the recognition and trust of consumers.
Though Xiaomi, Syska, and Anchor are holding sway as Ambrane’s competitors, the startup has an upper hand with its existing range of products, say the entrepreneurs. Ashok affirms,
“We are not really bothered about the new competition because I don’t think, in this segment, brands can last without a strong footing. Ultimately, you must earn margins and work towards smart pricing. These companies are burning money, and this strategy never works in India.”
The way forward
Ambrane has a lot in store for consumers. The company is now mainly focused on increasing its market share and enhancing its foothold in the accessories market.
The founders are looking at continued growth by constantly diversifying the portfolio into other segments.
“Currently, the personal care market in India is quite monopolised with a few brands and there is a huge scope for new and quality entrants. We have started off with the men’s segment and will be launching the women’s segment soon,” says Ashok.
Apart from the personal care category, Ambrane is also focussing on IoT devices and smart gadgets for their future markets.
(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)
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