The ongoing pandemic that started in 2020 has still continued to keep most of the country locked inside their homes, with many states going into partial or phased lockdowns and then unlock with required restrictions. With offices asking their employees to work from home, schools being operating online, and other restrictions in movement and going to the public places, the home became a place where people started spending most of their time making it the new normal. This new normal has given birth to consumers upgrading and redecorating their homes with functional and quality furniture.
There has been an immense growth in demand for work from home furniture and living room essential furniture since the lockdown. And while the demand is rising in the furniture category, online channels is where the maximum traction is right now with consumers more skeptical than ever to step out and shop, due to the fear of infection. Some may argue that this is not for the long term but it sure has affected consumer behavior for the unforeseen future. These and many other factors are facilitating the tremendous ballooning of the furniture industry and this has certainly allowed the segment to remain optimistic even in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
Furthermore, D2C has bagged gold in this segment as well. The consumer inclination towards D2C brands has proved true for the furniture category as well with even investors backing brands catering to this space.
Lightbox Ventures and DSG Consumer Partners were the most active investors in D2C brands post Covid-19. With 41 deals, a total amount of US$ 409.8 million has been raised during 2014-2020 by home decor, online furniture start-ups.
In fact, besides fashion, the D2C wave is redefining the furniture, home decor, and furnishings market. Late-stage D2C start-ups raised the highest funding of US$ 964 million during 2014-Q3 2020 with 45 deals of 14 unique late-stage start-ups during the same period. Pepperfry, Furlenco, Urban Ladder were among the major funded late-stage start-ups.
D2C business model is here to stay and it was never easier for brands to go D2C right now. Data analytics tools are helping brands sell more by leveraging consumer buying patterns and preferences, collect feedback to iterate on products and create a customer experience strategy.
Besides, the presence of e-commerce software providers such as Shopify, Wix, Woocommerce, and others has erased the entry barriers for new online stores. The year starting 2020 saw some remarkable developments by key players that have further fuelled the growth. In fact, established players like Ajanta-Orpat, LG, Havells, etc. have transformed into a D2C business model.
Here are few D2C start-ups in the furniture category, that are ruling the segment with their direct-to-consumer service and customer engagement strategies.
Launched in 2015 by Lokendra Ranawat, Dinesh Pratap, Virendra Ranawat, and Vikas Baheti, D2C start-up WoodenStreet offers ready as well as custom solutions for people’s home furniture needs, with a focus on innovation and providing better utility. The brand prides itself in its global presence with 50+ experience stores across the globe that provides a touch-point to experience premium furniture.
The custom furniture brand had raised US$ 3 million investment in Q2 of FY21. Despite the pandemic, the company completed its round of salary hikes and launched two new experience stores in 2020 within Kolkata and Kochi.
WoodenStreet is planning to invest about US$ 5 million in the next 2-3 years to expand its warehousing capacity by five-fold to 50-lakh sq.ft. across the country and has also launched a franchise expansion program ‘Partner to Win’.
“The very reason behind the expansion of our multiple stores throughout the country is to create a better connection with customers. We want people to not only just visualize, but also feel the quality of furniture that we offer. 2021 is just the beginning of a new wave of our expansion drive. In the next 36 months, we want to raise the count to 100+ stores, in terms of both franchisees and experience stores and we are all set for it,” Lokendra Ranawat maintained.
The brand expects revenue of around Rs 300 crore over the next two years courtesy the consumer sentiment. In fact, the Jaipur-based start-up claimed to have bounced back quickly compared to heavily funded players in the segment, as Lokendra Ranawat said that his company is witnessing 80 percent sales of the pre-Covid period. The brand has also launched virtual reality solutions to give customers a feel of the store while shopping from home.
Raghunandan Saraf launched Saraf Furniture as an online D2C furniture brand in the year 2014. The Rajasthan-based company was born from the four-decades-old legacies of his family’s furniture export business.
The brand manufactures and sells 6,000 varieties of furniture, including beds, boxes, drawers, tables, clocks, and more.
Post his graduation from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi, Raghunandan Saraf, after returning to his hometown in Sadarshahr, Rajasthan, realized the need to transform his family’s business and the entire furniture industry.
The brand deals mainly with Sheesham wood furniture and is a prime example of bringing traditional home-based furniture business to greater heights with the use of innovation and the latest technology.
The brand has registered an overwhelming year-on-year (YoY) financial growth and has witnessed a turnover of Rs 100 crore in 2020 and Rs 35 crore in the year 2019. This remarkable growth in the business has been witnessed despite the slowdown in the market due to Covid-19.
Raghunandan Saraf said, “We are happy over the substantial growth but we are not going to sit back and relax. The jump in our sales volume and financial growth signifies that Saraf has established a reputed name in the furniture industry due to its one-of-its-kind designs and quality offered in the 100 percent Sheesham and solid wood items. To cater to an even bigger base of furniture customers, we will focus on offline presence as well. We are already a well-established furniture brand in big cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Surat, and Sardarshahr, our actual base. Now, with a greater focus on offline channels, we expect to perform even better to beat our estimates and surpass the financial figures achieved in the year 2020.”
The brand had announced in 2020 that it plans to invest Rs 25 crore for its 20 acres production unit.
Founded by Chaitanya Ramalingegowda and Ankit Garg in 2016, D2C sleep and home-solutions start-up Wakefit.co initially started by offering premium mattresses at affordable prices before launching sleep accessories like back pillows, neck support pillows, and comforters. The brand later introduced its home solutions range in 2020 which includes furniture such as work desks, wardrobes, office tables, bookshelves, wall shelves, sofas, TV units, and shoe racks, among others.
Wakefit manufactures its products in-house in its manufacturing unit in Bengaluru and prides itself in its six backward integrated factories across Bengaluru, Jodhpur, and Delhi and has announced the setting up of a factory in Hyderabad to bolster its manufacturing capabilities. The new facility in the Medchal-Malkajgiri district will make sofas and furniture products.
The home solutions provider has seen strong growth in its business during a pandemic year and expects to register Rs 450 crore in revenue in the financial year 2021.
“We had started with just mattresses and post that, we expanded into all sleep products, including bed sheets, comforters etc and last year, we expanded into the complete home solutions range. We have been fortunate to grow very fast this financial year, we are on track to hit about Rs 450 crore. This Rs 450 crore is just in 10 and a half months because April was a complete washout and in May, we lost half a month... the pandemic has had a very positive impact on our industry. Investments in furniture and other home solutions have also gone up as people spent more time at home because of the pandemic,” Chaitanya Ramalingegowda asserted.
Wakefit had raised Rs 185 crore Series B funding led by the European investment firm Verlinvest and existing investor Sequoia Capital India, in December 2020.
D2C kids furniture start-up Ikooji was founded by Karan Singh and Manuraj Singh in 2020 with a vision to fill the gap in the kid's furniture market. In less than 1 year of operations, the brand registered a revenue of Rs 1 crore.
Ikooji is an online furniture marketplace and manufactures with a modern twist and functionality. The brand offers products like cradles, study and craft tables, nursery chairs, Montessori storages, toys, nightstands, bed bunks, etc. Ikooji’s mission is to provide the best childcare through quality, sustainable furniture for children.
The Gurugram-based start-up recently raised an undisclosed amount in a seed funding round led by woman entrepreneur Aakansha Bhargava, CEO of PM Relocations, who has joined the firm as Director and Advisor, as part of the transaction. Aakansha Bhargava will be managing public relations, marketing, branding, overall logistics, building strategies to accelerate the company’s growth, and driving customized solutions to mothers for the dream room for their kids.
“This market has to be ventured into carefully with practical steps and having Aakanksha on board makes the task easier as she comes with a wholesome package. Apart from bringing to table a diverse range of skill sets and decades of experience in the entrepreneurial world, she is also the right voice to drive our mission and help in the growth of Ikooji”, said Karan Singh.