Over the past year, people have become cozier and more attached to their beds. Immersed in a work-from-home situation, they are working from their beds, relaxing on their beds, and spending most of the day’s time in the sack. This and the rising awareness about benefits of a good quality mattress and moreover the benefits on the health of getting better sleep and having a better posture, increase in earning capability, growth in the real estate and hospitality sectors, etc. have led consumers of today to opt for the best of the brands offering innovative and quality mattresses. There has been a visible shift in the consumers’ perspective, where the main focus is on the comfort and functionality of the product.
According to Redseer, the mattress market in India was around US$ 1.7 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10 percent to reach US$ 2.5 billion by 2022.
While the overall retail industry has been facing the brunt of the pandemic, the demand for quality mattresses has seen an uptick across the country during the pandemic. Today, consumers of every age group have realized the importance of taking 8 hours of sleep and the effect a comfortable mattress can have on their body, mind, and soul, and investing in a good mattress no longer pinches them.
Even as there are popular mattress brands like Kurlon, Sleepwell, and Springwell, already catering to the demand, the last few years have witnessed a number of start-ups disrupting the segment with their innovative offerings. And Morning Owl is one such D2C, Made in India mattress brand that offers eco-friendly, non-toxic, chemical-free mattresses with natural materials – including 100 percent natural Dunlop latex, priced upwards of Rs 25,000. The average ticket size at Morning Owl is Rs 35,000.
Morning Owl is a bootstrapped company operating since June 2019. The brand offers premium yet affordable certified natural products backed by a strong supply chain to deliver these products direct from the factory to the customer's doorstep.
Gaurav Raj, Co- Founder, CEO, Morning Owl, avers, “Sleep was a mere bodily process addressed with no care and hence sleep aid did not receive much focus. Customers didn't spend much on it. The industry did not innovate. There were only cotton mattresses. But today, consumers have realized the importance of good restful sleep and are paying a lot of attention to how they sleep. The sleep aid industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year has seen more and more people preferring natural and healthy products in the bedroom. The branded market constitutes around 34 percent of the market, with around 20-25 players spread across the geographies. The branded mattress market is expected to grow at a CAGR of ~13 percent over the next 5 years and will constitute 37.5 percent of the market by 2022.”
Indian Retailer interacted with the man behind this innovative start-up to know what really worked for Morning Owl during the pandemic and the lockdown and how did it leverage the D2C trend in order to stay ahead.
Excerpts from the interview...
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on demand for sleep aids? What are the major factors affecting this change?
Gaurav Raj: Indians are the second-most sleep-deprived people after Japan, says FitBit study. Over 80 percent of the population will suffer from lower back pain during their lives, aggravated by poor sleep. India is now beginning to wake up to the importance of healthy sleep aided by natural products for a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is important for the healthy processing of emotions, and mental and physical capabilities. Disturbed or less than normal sleep can have harmful effects on your metabolism and also spikes up levels of insulin. It can lead to low immunity inviting infection. While not sleeping correctly can add to your physical fatigue and pain, a good comfortable deep sleep can actually aid in recovery. When you sleep, your body cells repair and rejuvenate for the next day. Covid has made consumers more conscious about their health and the need to take care of themselves. Consumers now want to invest in a healthy lifestyle and buy healthy natural products.
Indian market lacks genuine and natural products when it comes to mattresses and pillows. Many are made up of petroleum-based polyurethane foam/ memory foam, chemical fire retardants, and potentially carcinogenic pesticides. Cotton or Spring Mattresses lose shape/ are unable to provide proper spinal alignment. Latex mattresses sold offline are way too expensive because of the high margins imposed by retailers. Non-latex mattresses lose shape/ are unable to provide proper spinal alignment (especially Cotton, Spring Mattress).
Elucidate on your digital and omnichannel initiatives and technological integration at Morning Owl.
Gaurav Raj: Morning Owl is an online-only brand. Today, customers want to research before investing in a mattress, they want to know more and want to know directly from the source. The pandemic has made them more conscious about their health and the need to take care of themselves. They ask questions, visit blogs, and view video tutorials. Digital content consumption has shot up by 2x in the post-pandemic world. In order to be in line with what customers are looking for, it is important to design your website and marketing strategy to inform the customer about the product and the space you are in and thereby boost online sales. I invest actively in building consumer awareness.
What, according to you, are the key strategies to build a successful D2C brand in this category?
Gaurav Raj: The Internet democratized the resources needed to launch and grow a business. These days, digitally native brands have grown to surpass the handful of legacy brands that have dominated every industry worldwide. Online retail sales are expected to hit 23 percent of total retail sales by 2023. Why is this happening? Two primary causes: Customers want to know more and want to know directly from the source; Customers want to save more and not pay the middlemen margins. The key part to note is that D2C brands own a relationship with their customers.
Now, how you reach your consumer becomes important. One needs to leverage and invest in digital content and strategize their marketing plan in line with this. The other key question is what makes you stand out? What are the 2-3 unique features of your products? We wanted to sell 100 percent pure latex which is designed to offer optimum support to your spine and give you a great night's sleep while making luxury affordable. What is your product positioning? Which space do you want to capture? How focussed will you be on providing a great customer experience? We ensure that we provide a seamless experience and the brand invests greatly in customer support to make this happen.
How 100 percent pure latex mattresses and pillows give consumers healthy sleep? What are its benefits?
Gaurav Raj: Morning Owl latex mattresses and pillows offer pressure point relief while keeping the spine in the proper position. They strike the perfect balance between comfort and back support. All our products are sourced from certified natural units in Kerala. They are tested rigorously at our end to check for quality before getting assembled as the final product. We also test all the products rigorously before assembling and sending them to customers.
Some of the benefits are as listed below:
• Pain Relief: Due to its supportive nature, latex alleviates the stress of the sore muscles. The comfort ensures muscles and bones rest, relax and de-stress. While your regular cotton and coir mattress can cause back pain, latex is the only mattress that will heal you.
• Toxin Free: Latex is free of chemical toxins. Memory foam mattresses use solvents that are water-based adhesives for binding, which can be noxious that emit carcinogenic gases over their life. In fact, memory foam itself is a chemical compound. A pure latex mattress is made out of the sap of a natural rubber tree.
• Bacteria and Dust-mite Resistant: Latex is the only mattress that is naturally inhospitable to dust mites, bed bugs, and bacteria. It prevents bad odors and allergy symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, itching, and cold.
• Mattress that Breathes: Do you often sleep feeling hot on your bed? Foam mattresses do not let air circulate. Latex mattresses are made of pin core holes. Latex allows airflow and hence temperature remains regulated. It does not trap the sleeper’s body heat. Hence the sleeper sleeps on a cool surface.
• Better Durability: Memory foam and other regular mattresses are more prone to wear and tear. Latex, on the other hand, has a longer life. You will notice these non-latex mattresses start to sag or lose shape over time. Latex mattresses will stay intact for over 15 years. Morning Owl is certified by Oeko Tek and Eco-Institute.
What are your plans for Morning Owl, going forward?
Gaurav Raj: We, at Morning Owl, are continuously working and investing in making the consumers aware of the right kind of mattress and invest almost 15 percent of our revenue in such marketing strategies.
Going forward, we are working on some new product designs that will further facilitate and offer a great and healthy sleep to our consumers. While we are bootstrapped, we have arrived at an annual run-rate of Rs 8-9 crore and are working continuously to keep growing above this.