In the rapidly growing India's D2C space, how are D2C brands tackling the major challenges in their path of growth
For a new D2C brand or one planning to enter into the segment, certain things need to be kept in mind. The rapidly booming space in India has received mixed results globally. Despite being an attractive space with the freedom to control one’s entire distribution, the model is not without perils.
Notable global brands, on one hand, like Warby Parker, Fenty Beauty, Perfect Diary, Dollar Shave Club have seen phenomenal results, while many brands like Eleven James, Cocodune, Raden, etc. though had done fairly good initially ultimately missed the mark. Consumer demands, costs, awareness are some of the common challenges. Let’s look at how Indian D2C brands are tackling these challenges and what the future holds for the D2C sector.
As per data shared by KPMG India, currently, over 800 D2C brands are operating in India. D2C players have raised an excess of $2.5 billion since 2014, making the D2C sector worth $44.6 billion in India as of 2021. It is expected to reach $100 billion by 2025. In the last couple of years, several D2C brands such as Boat, Wow Skin Science, Lenskart, Licious, MamaEarth, etc. are occupying unique niches and building a strong brand experience for the consumers.
Several factors are enabling a rise in the D2C segment. The larger factor in play is the 700 million-strong internet population which is growing at 24 percent. Secondly, the Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated online reliance willingly or unwillingly. Online spending in India, which expected to grow at a CAGR of over 35 percent from $39 billion today to $200 billion over the next five years (supported by internet and payment infrastructure developments) is another crucial reason.
Since D2C is still pretty much in the nascent stage, the above scenarios will prove to be just right for the D2C companies to explore and experiment with the market to find the right formula. However, even though the macroscopic factors may be in favor, obviously, D2C firms individually have to go through various challenges to succeed in the segment.
Riding on the D2C boom, In FY21, a Bengaluru-based D2C company Wakefit recorded 2X growth, clocking Rs 410 crore of revenue. Continuous and extensive focus on research and innovation, customer consciousness, personalization based on feedback are some of the reasons that the company cited for the growth. Wakefit pointed out that customer acquisition and retention along with a need for strengthening logistics infrastructure especially in remote parts are some of the major challenges it is facing.
Ankit Garg, CEO and Co-Founder, Wakefit stated, “We have invested in Capex regularly to strengthen our operational capabilities and have also set up a sleep laboratory at the factory to ensure our products are extensively tested in a simulated environment. Despite the challenges, we believe there are a plethora of growth opportunities within this segment.”
Another, a plant-based nutrition D2C brand Oziva has claimed to have grown 4x in the last 12 months. Currently, their annualized turnover is between Rs 150-200 crore and the company is looking at growing 2-2.5X YoY. The company has also said to have raised $12 million this year, $17 million to date.
The Mumbai-based company is allocating the funds in five areas: scaling the team, category expansion by investing in R&D, brand building, expanding offline presence, and scaling technology platform to provide more value-added services.
“2021-22 so far has been very promising as well. We have always focused on providing value and holistic solutions to the consumers which have helped us grow over the past year,” says Aarti Gill, Co-Founder and CEO, OZiva.
Another home appliance D2C brand Candes has clocked revenue worth Rs 60 crore in FY21 and aims to achieve Rs 200 crore revenue this year. The products manufactured by the company are low-priced as compared to larger companies like Crompton, Luminous, Usha, Bajaj and more. For instance, the fans by Candes start from Rs 1,200 whereas those sold by others start from somewhere around Rs 1,500. The company attributed 'sincere pricing' and 'well-planned strategy as reasons behind such cost structure from the company’s side.
The one major impact of the D2C model of business is on the brand-retailer relationship. If a customer visits one of the retail outlets for a brand, there are hardly any data available for the company to customize. However, if the customer goes to the website – there are over a dozen touch-points for the brands to connect with the customer: email, Whatsapp, SMS, Instagram, etc. (omnichannel). However, brands would rather want to look at their retailers as channel partners as D2C customers can be redirected to the nearby localized retailer stores for order fulfilment.
Harsha Razdan, Partner and Head, Consumer Markets and Internet Business, KPMG in India said, “D2C model helps in providing personalized products and services to the consumers and improving customer satisfaction. An omnichannel presence further enhances customer experience, leading to increased customer stickiness. Beauty and personal care along with food and beverage are segments that have witnessed a tremendous rise in D2C brands.”
In fact, ‘omnichannel’ has been one of the trending words in retail circles. For the Uber consumers living in Tier-1, Tier-2 cities, customer experience may be a greater priority than the price. Moreover, with the rise in influencer marketing, customer experience is becoming paramount for almost everyone. Likewise, we see almost every retail brand onboarding itself into the omnichannel front.
D2C brand Pee Safe, which has a strong pan-India footprint in more than 10,000 stores in over 100 cities, has been growing its omnichannel presence as well. The idea behind the omnichannel is to build touch-points with the customers anywhere and everywhere possible.
“It is important for us to reach customers wherever they are,” said Vikas Bagaria, Founder and CEO, Pee Safe. He added, “Hence, this (omnichannel) strategy works well for us and we have been seeing great traction across both online as well as offline retail channels.”
Future Of D2C
Pandemic has reminded that nothing, including in business, is certain. And, as we saw, the brands have been trying out different strategies in costs, retail experience, doing the needed research to provide the specific personalized service, etc. to sustain and excel in the D2C segment.
Razdan stated, “Going forward, as customer experience is building up to be an important lever for brands and retailers, technological dependence is also expected to be a game-changer for D2C brands. In order to boost sales, D2C companies could play more in the personalization and customization area.”
“With consumers now moving to more ‘safe and hygienic buying’ with D2C models, we expect order management and fulfilment to be key for long-term customer stickiness,” Razdan added.
Famous skincare brand Super Smelly is targeting a turnover of Rs 80-100 crore (currently bootstrapped) in the coming few years and aims to roll out products pan India and expand to the Middle East, the UK, and the US. Pee Safe is planning to diversify its product portfolio and increase its retail presence. Similar growth plans are in the process for other D2C brands as well.