Meet the brothers who started a Rs 300 Cr hotel amenities company from a 100 sq ft room
Remember the tiny soaps and shower gels you used when you stayed at a Marriott, Hilton or Sheraton hotel? It is most likely that these hotel toiletries were manufactured by Kimirica Hunter, an Indore-based startup.
The luxury hotel toiletries manufacturer also has a wide range of hospitality clients across the globe. So it’s safe to say that if you take frequent business trips, you’ve probably used Kimirica’s products.
But when brothers Rajat Jain (34) and Mohit Jain (31) launched the company in 2013, they were working out of a small, 100 sq ft room. The duo also had bad debts, and faced a huge cash crunch. Little did they know that Kimirica would overcome these insurmountable odds to become India’s largest manufacturer of luxury hotel toiletries and guest room amenities.
Kimirica Hunter is now worth Rs 300 crore, and records a turnover of around Rs 90 crore. It also serves a large number of international hotel chains such as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, Jumeirah, Hyatt, Sofitel, Pullman, and an array of independent luxury hotels.
In 2017, Kimirica also signed a joint venture with Canadian hospitality product manufacturer Hunter Amenities, from where it gets its complete name ‘Kimirica Hunter.’
Perhaps the reason for the brothers’ success was the inspiration they took from their small family business of Ayurvedic medicines. Or, it could simply be about perseverance and their firm belief that they could fill the gap in the hotel toiletries industry. In reality, it was a range of factors that came together at the right time and made for a truly inspiring story of hospitality entrepreneurship.
How the idea was born
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Mohit was writing his dissertation about launching a contemporary herbal skincare brand in India. With Rajat’s background in pharmacy and the family’s Ayurvedic business, the brothers were pretty confident that they could manufacture herbal skincare products on their own.
“Initially, everything seemed easy. But after 10 months of rigorous research, we realised that launching on retail platforms would require products with varied formulations for specific skin and hair problems,” says Rajat Jain, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Kimirica Hunter.
“We also needed lot of time and huge funds for marketing. Due to lack of funds, we were exploring a channel where we could start with some small steps,” he says.
“While brainstorming, we remembered staying at a hotel. The miniature amenity bottles we had used stuck in our minds, and then we were immediately inspired to get into this game," Rajat adds.
The brothers started examining the market. While conducting their research, they observed that more than 70 percent of hotel amenity products for international hotel brands were imported.
“Hotels always knew that with imports, there are a lot of challenges. These are fluctuating currency, clearance hassles, import duties, and minimum inventory orders, but hotels were helpless with respect to brand compliance and also dissatisfied with the diversity in local offerings,” Rajat says.
Further, hotels and resorts were unique, with different themes and special ambiances, the brothers found. But they observed that monotonous and conventional brand offerings were made for all hotels.
Thus, there was a clear institutional void. The budding entrepreneurs told themselves that they’d fill this gap by custom-making hotel amenity products locally and selling them to hotel chains. “Our idea was to fit the hotels’ brand images and budget, and hotels could also choose their best fit brand from our available stock,” he adds.
After gauging this demand, the brothers started making liquids such as shampoos, lotions, shower gels, conditioners, and more. They also began making soaps and accessories such as loofahs, dental and shaving kits, massage oils, bath salts, etc.
“We also designed a Kimirica Bespoke Amenity Programme where we made custom exclusive fragrances, custom labels, and packaging for hotels with wide options of bottles, caps and tubes. The goal was to make hotel amenities more memorable and give their guests a personalised touch," Rajat adds.
But things did not come easy.
“After we launched in 2013, we were struggling to make ends meet in our tiny, single-room workspace. We were also facing a cash crunch and were denied a Rs 10 lakh loan by a leading bank,” he recalls.
The brothers mortgaged their house and old office, and started taking several loans from banks. The company had just seven employees during these initial stages. Mohit was personally meeting clients for networking and marketing, while Rajat focussed on researching, formulating and developing products.
After a lot of persistence from the entrepreneurs, the Marriott Group in India finally gave them a break. The multinational diversified hospitality company signed Kimirica as its supplier for toiletries and ancillary products in India. Since then, Kimirica has never looked back. It grew to 400 employees working in a 70,000 sq ft room - a massive upgrade to the previous workspace.
Kimirica also went on to sign a number of big name clients in the hospitality sector, whom it currently serves. At this stage, Kimirica was the first supplier in India to manufacture both liquid amenities and dry room accessories.
Onwards and upwards
In just five years, Kimirica has crossed several major milestones and incorporated modern operational strategies. “We use SAP-ERP operation for easy ordering, efficient production and accurate tracking of orders. We also partnered with a renowned logistics partner for prompt delivery across the globe, and live tracking of shipment for all our clients,” Rajat says.
Kimirica is also about to launch an online ordering system for hotels, and integrate it with SAP to provide a seamless, one-click ordering experience. With its partnership with Hunter Amenities, Kimirica was able to incorporate a global approach and introduce international cosmetic retail brands such as June Jacobs, Pharmacopia, Portico, and Christian Lacroix into the hotel supplies market.
“We were the first manufacturer in India to make 100-percent vegan and paraben-free hotel cosmetics that attracted hotels a lot,” Rajat adds.
They are also the first in India to introduce biodegradable packaging for accessories such as toothbrushes, combs, and similar products, giving them another competitive advantage.
“We also started exports three years ago, and by 2020, 30 percent of our revenues will come from exports of hotel amenities,” he adds.
What makes Kimirica unique is that it sources and develops all its primary products within 100 kilometres of its Indore manufacturing plant.
“This initiative has encouraged local suppliers and our small partners. Most of our supplies are now produced within 20 kilometres of our plant,” says Mohit Jain, Co-Founder and Director for Design and Business Development, Kimirica Hunter. “This has also helped us cut down our carbon footprint and develop a sustainable and efficient supply chain.”
The business also ensures that at least 40 percent of its workforce are women. This provides them with an employment opportunity and encourages nearby village women to work closer to their families, Mohit says. Kimirica has also started working to collect and recycle discarded hotel soaps and send them for use to rural regions in India.
What lies ahead
There are many players who try and imitate Kimirica’s ideas, Mohit says, “In the midst of fierce competition, even well-established, top-notch players from the industry have tried to clone and imitate our ideas and niche that we have spent months or years building. But we have been battling this with sheer dedication and innovation. We always say that competitors can copy our products, but not our passion.”
By keeping innovation and creativity as the driving force, new entrants in the sector can survive, he adds.
“The industry constantly tests you with sky-high parameters of expectations, and it would be helpful if you stay motivated, break stereotypes and be passionate about your work,” Mohit says.
Recently, the business launched its retail store, Kimirica Shop, which is a luxury personal care store for its B2C customers who like Kimirica products and want to shop directly. The brothers have also started work on building India’s largest hotel amenity park, an initiative that seeks to offer global supplies of hospitality products to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Kimirica also wants to work on innovative software products for the hospitality segment, which the brothers believe will be a game changer. Software products may not be very common for a manufacturing company like Kimirica, but going by the brothers’ story, it seems no obstacle is too large for them.