Urbanladder.com, was co-founded by Ashish Goel and Rajiv Srivatsa, who brought together their years of work experience that were honed from working in companies like Mckinsey & Co. and Yahoo respectively. In search of a good genre on the Internet to strike upon gold; their horrible experience of buying furniture after moving into apartments near each other impressed upon them that an online furniture store was the way to go. From sleeping on the floor for 14-15 months, Ashish Goel and Rajiv Srivatsa of Urbanladder.com have gone on to climb the ladder of success.
Both Ashish Goel and Rajiv Srivatsa are alumni of IITs; IIT-Bombay and IIT-Madras respectively. They both went on to do an MBA from IIM-Bangalore and were college friends; in fact they were hostel mates, staying in adjacent rooms. They always wanted to work together on a start-up as they both possessed skills that complemented each other and they used to work together on college fests and any organisational activities.
Before striking gold in the online furniture retailing business, they needed to obtain capital and investment in their idea. And most important of all, they needed to earn the trust of the consumers. Online furniture retail was a new idea, for the entrepreneurs as well as the customers and we can see how their gamble paid off.
After obtaining funds worth USD 1 million from Kalaari Capital in May 2012, Goel and Srivatsa launched Urbanladder.com in July, 2012. Aesthetically good furniture sets, dependable customer service and reasonable rates were their aim and what the market required. The funds obtained were majorly used in strengthening the team, building the customer service infrastructure, scaling the operations and investing in technology. In order to maintain good quality, they purchased almost 80% of the furniture shown on the website. They knew what they were doing and what they were getting into and thus started out by selling small set of products at lower rates and with time increased their stock and list. This strategy proved to be good to them as their first-month sales were five times the projected number.
There was no absolute fall per se but Urban Ladder faced a setback when the entrepreneurs tried to do more than they could and tried to deliver to an all-India customer base. Customers complained of damaged products, delayed delivery and poor customer service. The poor infrastructure meant that delivering and servicing items such as desks and sofas from their sourcing hub in Jodhpur, Rajasthan was a difficult task for a small team. Therefore, though competition in the online furniture business was lacking, lack of trust and the sheer innovativeness of this idea had them struggling.
This is when they decided that instead of trying to pander to an all-India audience, they would focus on three cities; Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. This proved to be one of the best decisions they made as their sales went right back up and they started clocking thousands of customers on a monthly basis and they passed the 100K visitor mark in February, 2013. Their growth rate was now at 10-15% MoM.
Advertising and Competition:
Marketing became their number one priority after they got back up on the ladder of success. They kept their angle interactive, stylish and highly visual. To follow this, they marketed themselves on Facebook and followed up with display ads with high-end publishers. With this they came in direct competition with the big players in the market like Home Town, Lifestyle Home Centre, Godrej Interio, Fab India, Style Spa, DLF Pure, Evok (Hindware), Pepper Fry, Fab Furnish and Zensaar.
Joint venture and other investments:
To get through this competition they required financial backing and this gave rise to a massive investment of USD 5 million from SAIF Partners and Kalaari Capital in November, 2013.
This enabled them to increase their reach to Chennai and Pune and their revenue increased to near USD 1 million mark. They were now on the verge to break-even and they realized that to sustain their growth they needed an equal amount of packaged strength. So in order to double their manpower they raised a capital of USD 21 million from Steadview Capital, along with the existing investors SAIF Partners and Kalaari Capital. TATA Group chairman Ratan Tata also invested an amount that has been undisclosed in Urban Ladder in November 2014.
Urban Ladder launched an app named Urban Storage on Android and iOS, along with a Web version for Mac and Windows users, which carried them to rungs much above their competitors on the ladder of success.
They were also awarded the “Best Digital Start-up” Award at the 4th India Digital Awards conducted by Internet and Mobile Association of India.
After this there was no looking back for them as they expanded to 14 cities and are known for their best quality and service. The motto of Honesty, Transparency and Customer Obsession have kept them going and prevented them from falling off their ladder which just keeps going up.