[India MSME Summit 2021] Why the next 5 years will be epic for online consumer brands

Panelists at YourStory’s India MSME Summit 2021 believe the worst is over and the next few years are going to be epic for online consumer brands.

A panel at YourStory’s India MSME Summit 2021 that included leaders from the direct-to-consumer (D2C) landscape unanimously said that the next few years would be very exciting not just for online brands but for the customers as well.

Next five years is going to be very exciting for online brands. I am not taking it year on year, I am looking at the next four to five years, it is going to be something that will be epic. Why I say that is because we follow a lot of what happens in the west and usually India trails behind but eventually we surpass the rest of the world,” said Manish Chowdhary, Co-founder, Wow Skin Science, one of India's fastest growing new-age beauty and personal care companies.

An equally bullish Anju Srivastav, Co-founder, Wingreens Farms, the popular farm-to-table dips, sauces, and spreads brand, however, had a word of caution for the smaller online brands, as incumbent offline biggies across product categories raise their online game.

In fact, Wingreens itself was largely offline till last year. With several stores shut due to lockdowns last year, it saw its sales take a hit and thus decided to focus its energies on online channels.

By the time the second wave hit, the company had its house completely in order as far as digital was concerned, through its own website as well as marketplaces like Amazon and BigBasket.

“The main thing is let’s not underestimate the guys who are going to come in, in a very big way and they are going to try and sweep a lot. So they are not going to sit and be offline retailers for long, in all categories of products, across the board. So, I would see it happening in luxury, in fashion, who were sitting outside, let’s be prepared for that also,” she said.

Even in the food segment, “huge brands” are suddenly getting their online act together thanks to the pandemic, she added.

Saravanan Ramakrishnan, SMB Strategy and Business Development Lead at Amazon Internet Services Private Limited (AISPL) echoed Anju’s sentiments. Like the Wingreens Farms Co-founder he too believes that while the first (online) movers from among the D2C businesses will definitely have an advantage, they cannot take things for granted.

“I would say watch out, there will be new disruptors coming in the process and it’s going to be a completely long term game. Offline to online will keep happening over the next few decades,” he said.

Chinu Kala, Founder, Rubaans, a Bangalore-based jewellery brand, which has made a name for itself in the branded fashion accessories segment, believes that customers are unlikely to throng stores anytime soon and this would provide a huge boost to digital brands this festive season.

“We are an online brand completely and looking at people bouncing back. People are not going back to stores soon, this festive season they are going to shop online, so anyone who is digital-first will have a huge advantage right now. So we are looking at a huge high coming in,” she said.

According to Bharat Kalia, Co-founder, Lifelong Online, a fast-growing, digital-first consumer durables brand, customer behaviour online has changed dramatically from the days when people primarily shopped online for discounts. A thought wholeheartedly echoed by Wow Skin Science’s Manish.

“This is the best time to be a customer in India and to be a D2C brand. Customers are coming online with very strong fundamentals, not just coming for price but buying for the convenience, buying for the selection,” Bharat said.

The pandemic has without a doubt changed the landscape for the D2C industry in several ways.

According to a recent Deloitte report, online shoppers are expected to constitute 50 percent of the online population by 2026 with significant demand coming in from tier II and III cities.

It’s no wonder then that D2C brands are bullish and expecting high growth over the next few years.