EDITIONS

How an army veteran’s passion for the military turned into a premium e-commerce platform for military gear

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Captain Chethan YK is a retired short service commission officer (6 Engr Regt - Madras Sappers) and served as a captain in the Indian army from 2002 to 2007. While in the army, he realised that army personnel had limited avenues to purchase goods that they required and sometimes quality was also a concern. He also realised that there were a lot of civilians too who were interested in purchasing army-inspired products for different use cases. During his many postings in the army, Capt. Chethan got exposed to armies of different countries and got an idea of the best products from different countries. So, he started curating and making a list of the best suppliers and brands of military gear, both in India and abroad. An architect by qualification, Capt. Chethan completed his resettlement course at IIM Ahmedabad after his retirement. It was here that he was introduced to the world of business and entrepreneurship. His passion for the army and the idea of collecting military gear and starting a business around it led him to start Olive Planet. Capt. Chethan noted that the name, ‘Olive Planet' was inspired from the ‘Olive Green' colour, which is a default and identifiable colour for many army-related goods and products. [caption id="attachment_251071" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Capt. Chethan YK[/caption]

Starting up

From a humble beginning with a handful of products in 2009, today Olive Planet stocks hundreds of products under different categories and continues to add new products every month. Capt. Chethan noted that they have some of the best brands in military gear exclusively sourced from across the world and from India. Olive Planet was also one of YourStory's E-Sparks companies in 2013. Capt. Chethan noted,
2009 is actually the year this idea was conceived and was started as a small collection. It kept growing organically and the demand for these products kept increasing. It was only in 2013 that we decided to setup a premium webstore for our products.
Talking more about Olive Planet's origins, YourStory asked Capt. Chethan to recall what Olive Planet's first ever order was. In 2015, Flipkart had revealed that its first ever order was a rare and hard to find book ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change The World' from a man who lived in Mahabubnagar. Olive Planet's first order though was more straightforward though and from an outdoor enthusiast who had seen their newly created Facebook page. Capt. Chethan noted,
He was living in Mumbai then and was heading for a trekking camp. He bought a few camping and survival equipment from us.
Talking about the maturity of the market, Capt. Chethan noted that in 2009, the military gear market was very niche but growing. But fast forward to 2017, he sees a lot of Indians being extensive travellers, who spend more time outdoors and have taken to adventure activities in a big way.

E-commerce focus and customer base

While a majority of Olive Planet's sales occur online through their website, the startup also has a retail store in Kattigenahalli, Bengaluru, which also functions as their warehouse for shipping and packaging orders. Capt. Chethan noted that Olive Planet has made s [caption id="attachment_251073" align="aligncenter" width="800"] View of the retail store[/caption] mall steps to enter the wholesale category and are also in talks with the Indian army to help them procure specific goods. Capt. Chethan noted, “We have our own warehouse and stores. We have increased our product range and have been regularly supplying to defence establishments apart from civilians. Today, we have grown from a premium military gear company to a community of adventure seekers and enthusiasts.” In terms of B2C customers, Capt. Chethan said that almost 80 percent of their customers are currently civilians, while the remaining 20 percent are either army folks or retired veterans. As Olive Planet mainly goes after premium military products, Capt. Chethan has noticed a buying pattern emerge. He said,
A lot of customers generally start off with small souvenirs and then after gaining confidence and appreciating the quality, move onto more expensive utility products. Custom dog tags, jackets, helmets are some of our popular products that a lot of the college crowd buys. Our average ticket size is currently Rs 1,200 per order. The sizes of bulk orders are a lot more and usually ordered offline.
Talking about the shortlisting process and how they curate products, Capt. Chethan noted that a product needs to meet a certain standard to qualify as a premium product. The Olive Planet team follows global trends and also source products from across the world to study their technical specifications. He said, “For our products, we lay down strict parameters and share them with manufacturers. Before being packed, all of these products have to pass Q/A tests. We also do a second check before dispatching the product.”

Future plans

[caption id="attachment_251072" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Gloves and a flask[/caption] Olive Planet has a team size of 12 members and is currently bootstrapped. Capt. Chethan's strategy for 2017 is:
  1. Focus on providing high quality products online to Tier 1 cities (currently biggest customers) and other small cities.
  2. Offer a retail experience to customers who want to experience their products first-hand before buying them.
  3. Teach people more about self-defense and the army life. To take this ahead, Capt. Chethan plans to open a military themed cafe next to Olive Planet's retail store.
While being an e-commerce aggregator has its advantages, there are downsides too. For 2017, Capt. Chethan also wants to take on the ‘full stack' approach and start manufacturing military gear from scratch in India and sell them under Olive Planet's brand. This would ensure better control over whole supply-demand chain and also better profit margins. Website- Olive Planet Video credits- Shot by Rukmangada Raja and edited by Anjali Achal

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