Men’s grooming was essentially limited to shaving till just a few years ago. But men are now taking more care of themselves and the market has expanded to include products in facial and beard grooming like facewash for men, body wash and even beard oil and butter. Zlade was launched to fill the gap. In an exclusive conversation, Suraj Chaudhari, Co-founder & CEO of Zlade talks about emerging opportunities for start-up like his in this segment.
What is your assessment about men’s grooming market in India. According to you, what are the factors propelling growth in the segment?
Men’s grooming is currently the hottest category among personal care startups globally, and rightly so. Men’s grooming is a Rs 16000 Crore market in India right now and is expected to grow twofold in the next 3 years. Men are no longer behind their female counterparts when it comes to grooming and this is driving the growth in this segment, also not to forget a bunch of startups catering specifically to men are aiding this growth.
What inspires you to launch Zlade. Also, shed light on your entrepreneurial journey?
It was personal experience that made us start Zlade. Men always knew that quality razor blades were expensive, but they also didn’t have a choice. Men had only two options, cheap, low quality blades that cut your skin, or overpriced premium blades that cost you an arm and a leg. This gave us a reason to do something about it, and also to make shaving more than just a chore. The team behind Zlade, comes with diverse backgrounds, a pharmacist and entrepreneur, a software Engineer & CFA with both tech and finance backgrounds, and a Mechanical Engineer working in Industrial design! We started our journey with Blade & Bath, which we rebranded to Zlade about 18 months ago.
What is the current distribution of Zlade including online as well as offline channels? Have you tied up with many modern trader as the part of your distribution strategy?
Our products are currently sold through marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart and Nykaa, and also through our own DTC (Direct to Consumer) channel. Our razors are consistently ranked in the top 10 best-selling Men’s razors on Amazon. We have also recently tied up with one of the top retailers of the country and will start making our products available on their shelves in select stores in Mumbai and Goa.
How do you see the role of technology in grooming products?
Technology has a very big part to play in the CPG category and especially personal care, as you can directly interact with your customers and get genuine unfiltered feedback. This also enables brands to get into personalisation, and made to order products. I think this is just a start and we will see more brands following this strategy by going direct to consumer through technology and the internet.
Big MNCs already hold the largest market share in this space. How do you plan to counter the competition?
The Men’s grooming market is still new and the big FMCG companies have started to get into the newer categories created by startup brands and also by aquiring these new brands. We believe the market will grow tenfold in the next decade and there will be plenty of opportunities for creating new iconic homegrown brands. We plan to not follow the me-too strategy and make a name for ourselves through quality and differentiation.
Being a start-up have you raised any sorts of funds so far? or plan to?
We have recently raised an angel investment which will be used to increase our product portfolio and we plan to raise an institutional round to support our inventory requirement for offline retail.
According to you what are the major challenges of wellness retailing in India?
Through it is very easy to start a new brand online, it’s very tough to make products that truly delight your customers. Personal care is tricky, as brand loyalty is still high and the big corporations spend huge sums on marketing. The barriers to entry are high in organised retail, where shelfs are tightly controlled by the big corporations, so it’s very difficult to get into organised retail and scale up a successful online business.
At last, kindly highlight your growth plans? What is your vision for 2020?
We have been growing consistently by more than 20% MoM for the past 6 months, and our website is driving this growth for us. We are on our way to reach 1.5 - 2 Crore in Revenue this financial year and are planning to reach revenues of 16 Crore next year. Next year, we will introduce a few more products that will make Zlade a one stop solution for all your shaving and grooming needs and 2020 is when you will start seeing Zlade in your neighbourhood stores.