Aiming to provide best shopping experience to expecting mothers as well as kids through online and retail stores via franchise model is Firstcry.com. In an interview with Supam Maheshwari, the co-founder of FirstCry.com, he shares the brand’s expansion and future aspirations.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the inception, growth and success of Firstcry.com? What inspired you to start this unique brand?
Supam Maheshwari (SM): Amitava Saha and I co-founded FirstCry.com in 2010. We both used to travel abroad in our earlier jobs and during that time only we both had become fathers. As choices for baby products in India were quite limited around eight years ago, we used to buy a lot of stuff for our kids from abroad. We discovered an opportunity in this and thus conceptualised FirstCry.com.
Today FirstCry is largest online shopping portal for kids, and expecting moms in Asia.
AG: When and what motivated you to adopt the franchise route for expansion? Where do you see the brand in five years?
SM: We opted for franchise model fairly recently and we already have six stores in cities like Bhilai, Dehradun, Haridwar, Kanpur, Bharuch etc. As we were getting an overwhelming response on our online shopping stores, a thought struck us that most of the people in the Tier 3 cities may not be open to buying online. So we adopted the franchise model to open retail outlets. We got some enquiries and decided to partner with few enterprising, like-minded professionals and opened these franchise stores.
As for five years from now, we have this inherent desire to be omnipresent. When people think of baby products, the first name that should come to their mind should be ‘FirstCry’. This is what motivates us to work hard.
AG: How is Firstcry.com different from other retail brands selling baby products? What is the USP of Firstcry.com?
SM: We have the highest numbers of Stock Keeping Units (SKU’s) and we offer the largest range of products. We also add close to 200 SKU’s on a daily basis. It is like a megastore for parents. From maternity wear to accessories for nursery, diapers, clothes for kids till the age of 9, toys, school gear, prams, strollers, car seats etc, we have it all. We are the one stop shop for all baby needs. Most retail stores for kids do not stock a varied SKU. If it is a clothes outlet, you would find clothes only of that brand or maybe toys. Our USP is that we offer a great customer experience and an amazing variety at the most affordable price.
AG: What are your views about facing competition from other brands? What strategies have you adopted to face this competition?
SM: There are far too many portals which have mushroomed in recent times but our team stands out in delivering an outstanding customer experience right from ordering to fast delivery with great convenience and thereby generating a very high repeat purchase behavior. Another competitive channel is offline world where there are few organised players and with our integrated offline franchisee partners and online retailing – we stand to gain a lot more than our competition.
AG: What according to you is the scope for aspiring franchisees in this business? Is the future of this industry bright in the years to come?
SM: One thing that is sure in this line of business that recession will never affect it. People will continue to have kids and the demand for kids products will always be there. And what sets us apart is the quality of products that we offer. So yes, the future of this business is bright! With a payback of 18-24 months, our franchisee partners would gain a lot along with us in establishing this business.
AG: How many franchisees do you have presently? What are your future expansion plans?
SM: We currently have six franchisees. We are working on the expansion plans and we plan to open at least 60 franchisees in next 12 months.
AG: What are the qualities and qualifications that you seek for in your franchisees? How much investment is required by aspiring franchisees?
SM: We are looking at young, high energy professionals with strong desire to do retail business and who can relate to young parents and their needs. We have four models which require an area ranging from 500 sq. ft to more than 1,500 sq. ft. Moreover investment ranges from Rs 9 to 26 lakh and above.
AG: How does the company support and train franchisees?
SM: We help franchisees do the interiors of the showroom, choose an appropriate location, make local trips to study competition and thereby facilitate making recommendations to a product mix that our franchisees must keep. We have people from our organisation to help them set shop and be with them for a couple of days so that there is a comfort factor. We also help them in building their marketing plans, collaterals in their local market. On a regular basis, we understand their market and customer audience better to provide them with high margin products with most cost effective deals for their end consumer to create a great win-win for all of us.
AG: What challenges do you see for your franchises? How can they overcome the challenges?
SM: The availability of products can sometimes be a huge challenge. When you want to offer the best, you do not compromise on the quality. And getting the right quality product can sometimes be challenging. We plan to start our own label of products soon to counter this problem.