Early stage venture fund focussed on consumer brands Fireside Ventures announced six new investments recently. With this, Fireside Ventures has expanded its portfolio from 12 consumer brands to 18. Addressing the media, Kanwaljit Singh, managaing partner, Fireside Ventures, said that the new investment companies were Azani Sports, an active wear brand; MGH Labs that has created a smart machine Bog Orchid which traps mosquitoes; The Ayurveda Experience; Kapiva Ayurveda; Tangy Turmeric Private Ltd which offers Tasty Tales brand of masalas and pastes for traditional dishes; and AnKaSumMor Foods Private Ltd, a tech-enabled sales and distribution company offering a complete ‘go to market’ solution to millennial brands. On the sidelines of the event, Singh spoke to Indian Retailer. Excerpts:
All your investments have been in companies that are digital first. Is it a strategic decision to not go offline or test the waters in offline space?
Well, the online channel is a testing lab for understanding various aspects of brand mix, consumer choices, price points and what kind of products sell. An online player can experiment with a lot larger range of products and on different scale, and figure out what’s the hero product for a brand.If that’s one interesting dimension, online is alsoa great channel to understand your own brand from a consumer perspective. Most importantly, dealing with inventory that’s centralized is far less expensive and that also makes the online business far more efficient, less capital intensive and faster. However, that doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it. As we build out, we need larger presence, which the offline space provides, but then that depends on categories also. About 40 per cent of business for FMCG comes from online, while we need to have offline presence. From what we see, the biggest problem is we need to have right distribution model. It’s a natural progression for any online player to aggressively expand offline, and it’s all about timing and right strategies.
Your portfolio brands Mamaearth, Vahadamare soon going to be Rs 100-crore brand. Don’t you think they have experimented enough in the market?
Mamaearth is also available in the offline market and they are doing quite a bit with offline activities. Vahadam is also going offline but it is a global brand and they are not even selling in India.Our other investment companies Bombay Shaving Company and Yoga Bar are already offline. So, there’s no reason to say we are selling offline vs online. Like I said before, it’s really matter of strategy and time, and nothing more.
Omni-channel is the way to be since customers are available across multiple touch points. Is it tricky to place bets just on digital-first approach?
So we want to be omni because we don’t know where the consumer is buying. Even in the offline space, the channel is becoming very interesting. For instance, you have companies like Store King which will take you to different parts of India and has a very efficient inventory model. Also, you have Amazon which is partnership with More and thenWalmart has acquired Flipkart. Even the online players are becoming omni-channels. It’s only natural that everything is going to be omni-channel and there’s no conflict about that.
Boat is Rs 100 crore-brand, and at least four more in the pipeline. What next for these brands?
At the core of what we are doing there is large headroom for us to grow. If we can build Rs 100 crore brand, then why not Rs 500 crore brand? We also have opportunity to go global and look deeper in the market in India 2.0 as people call it. There’s stretch opportunity to grow on both sides.
You started off investing to be FMCG only but you’re expanding fast. What other categories are you looking at?
Anything that a customer is spending out of their wallet today is becoming interesting. Who would have thought lifestyle brands like Boat, Pippa Bella would do so well and become way more than FMCG. Any brand that has the right narrative and right brand story will connect with customers. We’d be looking at anything that’s interesting.