Supam Maheshwari on evolving baby care multi-brand category, the opportunities, challenges and the future.
FirstCry recently announced same day and next day delivery for their customers in as many as 75 cities, absolutely free of cost.With this new service, says Supam Maheshwari, CEO & founder, FirstCry.com, parents can easily order for essentials that they may require anytime in a day without any extra cost. While the space which was once niche is getting crowded today, FirstCry has built an ecosystem for parents and promises a delightful experience by consistently innovating in the space. In a tête-à-tête with the Retailer Media, Supam takes us through the evolving baby care multi-brand category, the opportunities, challenges and the future.
Did you have a problem in rooting FirstCry in the market in 2010?
We did not face any hiccups launching FirstCry in the market as during that time the environment had tremendous hype around the eCommerce market. And by the end of 2010, India’s consumer facing eCommerce market was growing at a whopping 49.1 per cent and reached a market size of $9.9 billion the next year. Thus, it was a good time for us to launch a niche e-retail company then.
How is FirstCry different from other baby and kids’ products e-tailers?
The idea was very clear when we started off with FirstCry.com. Our focus was to bring easy access for baby and kids products for the parents. When we began, the market was unorganised, where customers did not have easy access to world-class brands or even enough variety and good quality products. We observed that the Indian parents largely preferred buying offline that gave us great inspiration to adopt the hybrid model. We were determined to create an ecosystem in the niche by providing a well-integrated offline as well as online option for parents to avail whatever product or brand they needed for their kids. We are glad that we have been able to create a strong omni-channel presence with our online store, over 100 offline stores and mobile store.
A lot of e-tailers are opening only-mobile shops; do you think eCommerce will give way to mobile commerce? How do you see the buying behaviour changing in the near future?
Smartphone penetration has effectively empowered consumers in India to make purchases through mobile, saving on time and energy. Mobile commerce has brought in a new wave that most brands are looking at optimising. With the considerable increase in the smart-phone users, the mobile apps are trending. We at FirstCry have also built the mobile technology space wherein we have a lot of parents shopping through mobile phones. This gives us an idea as to how the buying behaviour is effectively shifting towards more and more convenience, hence the mobile revolution.
Talk to us about the opportunities and challenges being in your kind of business.
The baby and kids industry in India is massive with an estimated turnover of nearly Rs.50,000 crores. As of today, in India, even though 95 per cent people still prefer buying offline, the online market is 5 per cent of the retail market and is likely to outpace organised retail especially in the baby and kids segment. Thus, there exists a tremendous scope of growth as the demand for quality baby products in India is growing steadily creating huge opportunity for us to thrive in this sector.
Although large, the kids’ products business is extremely sensitive, how do you make sure of the quality of the products?
Concern of quality products for babies is one of the major aspects we promise to cater for. At FirstCry, we have a wide array of well-known national and international brands. We not only provide great variety, but also monitor and assess the quality aspect for all brands on our portal. Parents in India do not have many options when it comes to high quality products for their kids. We, as a baby care multi-brand leader, aim at bridging this gap and fulfilling their demands and needs through our online and offline stores. We adhere to very strict quality checks before we list or accept goods in our warehouses.
Why only kids and baby products business, do you have plans to venture into other categories as well? If not, tell us why.
FirstCry has grown to become Asia’s largest baby and kids’ products store. We do not plan to venture into other categories. At present, we cater to products for moms-to-be, new mothers, baby and kids. We have built an ecosystem for parents and we would want to focus on creating shopping a delighting experience for parents by consistently innovating.
Is there a particular product that has a huge demand?
Apparels are the most popular products followed by diapers and other baby essential products. We do have a wide variety of gift sets and combo offers available, which are appreciated by our customers.
Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.
We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong.
Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.
What do you have to say about the changing trends in the mom n baby products industry?
Urban India today is characterised by a nuclear family with double-income parents, who are willing to shell out the additional money on their children. Consequently, the spending on children’s apparel, with better brand image and quality, has received a significant boost.
When it comes to buying clothes for the little ones, parents, especially mothers are the decision makers and are always looking for trendy, basic and casual wear with little party or occasional wear. At the same time, Indian kids in both urban and semi-urban parts of the country are increasingly exposed to various media and are thus aware of brands which cater to them. They have also started participating actively in purchase decisions related to their apparel.
The same day delivery option is what most e-tailers are talking of today, what would you say to that?
Yes, most e-tailers are looking at strengthening their delivery systems, but are also charging for this service. We recently announced the same day and next day delivery for our customers, which is absolutely free of cost. We aim to provide our customers with unparalleled shopping experience with wide range of products and fastest delivery mechanism through innovative supply chain solutions. It’s been our endeavour to make shopping for kids an easy and effortless job for parents.
With this new service, parents can easily order for essentials that they may require anytime in a day without any extra cost. Such a service also will help us build higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) and build more loyalty with our customers. There is no platform in the country today which promises same day or next day across 75 cities at no extra cost. It is a very big milestone for us and our customers and we will continue to expand the number of cities under this service.
FirstCry has kiosks at their offline stores, tell us something more on that front. How do you think the offline model is faring as against the online one?
In efforts to further enhance the consumer experience, FirstCry stores are equipped with ‘Kiosk Innovation’. It is a novel concept that allows customers to browse through 1,200 brands and 90,000 (and above) products on a 32-inch screen in stores, order online on spot, and find the product available at the store in 2-3 days. The kiosk not only saves on time and effort in selection, but also provides a quick glimpse of the massive stock and variety which might not be possible to surf through physically.
The processes are turning simpler creating a user-friendly ecosystem for the customers and making them feel special and comfortable when shopping. On the same lines, FirstCry.com continually strives to create an easy world for the moms!
Tell us more about worldofmoms.com
www.worldofmoms.com is an initiative from the house of FirstCry.com, Asia’s largest online store for baby and kids. It is an online social platform for moms to connect, share and help each other through the journey that is motherhood. www.worldofmoms.com is a space where moms can build and grow a community that’s By Moms and For Moms. We aim to become India’s most loved mommy community, helping moms to find peer moms to resolve their queries, make parenting fun, grow their businesses, and create a one-stop-shop for all their needs.
Most importantly, we understand that Moms need a space of their own, where they can browse, share and connect with other moms, in a closed, safe and protected environment. We take pains to ensure to the best of our ability that all our registered users are women, by allowing access only through Social Media channels, where we can run a gender check. Moreover, each mom is special and we recognise and celebrate that, through our effort to personalise to your stage, and localise to your city.
After securing a series-D funding, what is the vision for the future?
FirstCry has rapidly expanded its online dominance to achieve the leadership position in the multi-channel baby and kids market. The Company is delighted to have Valiant, NEA and our existing investors as investment partners in this round. We plan to use the funds to focus on expanding our leadership across all channels (online, mobile and offline), as well investing in the growth of our private label business.
What's the future of baby and mom products in India?
The Indian baby and mom industry is emerging as one of the most lucrative markets and has been witnessing phenomenal growth in comparison to the other emerging markets. With few organised brands in the sector, there are manifold opportunities in the industry. With increasing disposable incomes of the families, parents have become more willing to fulfill the demands of their kids according to the latest trends. The other important change that is taking place in this area is the emergence of kids as an independent buyer group. Influenced by mass media and peer pressure, today's kids are more informed and self-conscious.
Consumers want brands to engage with them on the platform of their choice; the explosive growth in smart-phone adoption in India means that this (eCommerce) trend will only grow stronger over the next five years. Also, rapid urbanisation and growing awareness about buying quality products are among the factors driving the baby care market in India.