D2C Unlocked Chapter 9 : AAPNU GUJARAT


In eCommerce, it’s important to standardise two major factors:

  • Customer journeys
  • Trust


Yes, in e-commerce it is important to standardize the customer journey to ensure a consistent and positive experience for all customers. On the other hand, customers also need to feel confident and secure about purchasing from a brand which further enhances their shopping experience and boosts loyalty.


We set foot in Ahmedabad for Chapter 9 of the D2C Unlocked after 8 Successful chapters in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and and Bangalore on the 4th of May, 2023.


In our first Ahmedabad chapter, we had a huge turnout of founders who had the opportunity to connect with their fellow founders, meet industry experts and gain valuable insights from an exciting panel discussion.


This chapter, our panel discussion featured great founders including Sulay Lavsi (Bummer), Siddhartha Nangia (Smytten) and Shaili Shah (Mortantra) who shared their experiences on customer acquisition and market research strategies.


The AHA Moments


Every founder has their own unique story and of course and ‘aha moment’ or moment of realisation on their journey towards building a successful business.


Bummer is a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand that started with a mission to make underwear fun. The founders noticed that there wasn’t much innovation or excitement in the underwear category, so they decided to shake things up. They used the advantages of D2C to bring their vision to life, connecting directly with consumers to get feedback and improve their offerings. Their success really highlights how important it is to differentiate and innovate in the D2C space, and how even navigating through a stagnant category can lead to breakthroughs and success.


Shaili’s inspiration for Mortantra came from her own experience as a bride. She didn’t want to spend a lot of money on jewellery, and realized there was a gap in the market for affordable gold pieces. She traveled around and made a few sets of jewellery, which quickly gained popularity among the masses. However, the unique nature of the business made e-commerce a challenge, as jewellery requires a personal touch. Even after 6 years, the Mortantra team is still working on finding ways to overcome this challenge. Despite the niche nature of the business, Shaili’s AHA moment highlights the potential for success in identifying unmet needs and catering to them.


Siddhartha, the founder of Smytten, had a personal goal to start his own business before turning 40. Although he began planning in 2009, Smytten officially launched in 2015. The company’s AHA moment came from the realization that there were other channels that could help brands acquire customers beyond traditional performance marketing. Smytten provided a platform for brands to showcase their products and reach new audiences. This innovative approach has paid off, as the company has raised over 200 crores in funding over the years.


On Creating a Category and Customer Acquisition


  • Strong brand recall is crucial for success in the market.
  • Building a memorable and aspirational brand can be a challenging task.
  • Customers can be divided into two categories: impulse buyers and those who save products for later.
  • The first group tends to make more direct purchases while the second group, mainly from tier 2 and tier 3 markets, requires a more customized approach.
  • A strong brand, coupled with excellent product offerings, is a winning combination.
  • To achieve growth, focus on retaining existing customers, not just acquiring new ones.


On Retention


  • Establish an emotional connection between customers and the brand to capture the market.
  • This connection is built on the emotional idea behind the brand, which is the story that attracts customers.
  • Don’t rely solely on advertising and platforms to acquire customers.
  • Storytelling is a powerful tool that can be used to establish an emotional connection with customers and capture the market more meaningfully.
  • Providing a great experience is crucial for customer retention.
  • This is especially important for products that aren’t easily announced.
  • Effective strategies include minimizing the rate of return-to-origin (RTO), highlighting the packaging, and creating a memorable first impression.
  • Customers tend to associate the brand with the initial experience.
  • A great experience doesn’t have to be expensive.


The Smytten Numbers


Smytten is a platform that serves 15 million consumers, with 5 million monthly active users. The initial one million users were the hardest to acquire, with a strong focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. The next 6 million users were obtained through increased spending, while the last 8 million were acquired through referrals and partnerships, including roadshows and offline marketing. 


Only 30% of users were acquired through traditional means. During tough market conditions, the focus was on acquiring more users, despite a high cost of customer acquisition. The platform uses data from multiple sources, including demographics and algorithms, to provide the best possible user experience and succeed in the market.


Key Takeaways


  • Standardizing the customer journey and building trust are key factors in the success of an e-commerce business. Customers expect a seamless experience from the moment they discover a product to the point of purchase and beyond. Standardizing the customer journey involves mapping out the different touchpoints and ensuring that the customer experience is consistent across all channels. Building trust is also important as it helps to establish credibility and encourages customers to return for future purchases.
  • Differentiating and innovating in the D2C space can lead to breakthroughs and success. With the rise of D2C brands, it’s important to differentiate oneself from competitors by offering unique products or experiences. Innovation can also help to set a brand apart and attract customers who are looking for something new and exciting.
  • Identifying unmet needs and catering to them can create potential for success. By understanding the needs of customers, businesses can create products and services that meet those needs. This can lead to a competitive advantage and help to establish a loyal customer base.
  • Building a memorable and aspirational brand, coupled with excellent product offerings, is crucial for success in the market. A strong brand identity can help to differentiate a business and create an emotional connection with customers. Excellent product offerings are also important, as customers expect high-quality products that meet their needs.
  • Establishing an emotional connection with customers and providing a great experience are important for customer retention. By providing a great experience, businesses can establish a loyal customer base that will return for future purchases. Establishing an emotional connection with customers can also help to create brand advocates who will recommend the business to others.



D2C Unlocked Chapter 7 : AAMAR Kolkata


India has technologically evolved over the years with more people using the internet and smartphones, the country is now witnessing a rise in online buying despite previously being skeptical about eCommerce – even in non-metro cities.


We were in Kolkata for Chapter 7 of D2C Unlocked, following six successful previous events. 


In our first Kolkata Chapter, D2C founders had the opportunity to connect with their peers and other industry leaders, as well as gain valuable insights from experienced professionals in the industry.


This time around, our speaker panel featured industry leaders, including Sunil Saha, the founder of Blue Tea, Udayan Bubna, the co-founder of Miss Chase, Aishwarya Biswas, the founder of AULI, Sujata Chatterjee, the founder of Twirl.Store and Anurag Agrawal and Aditi Murarka, the founders of Nestasia – moderated by Megha Mathur of Simpl. 


They shared their experiences and knowledge on building a successful D2C brand. They discussed the strategies and insights that helped them stand out among other brands and attract customers.



The AHA Moments


These are different stories of how successful businesses were founded, and each of them had their “aha moment” or realization that led them to start their business.


Blue Tea is a company that initially struggled to find its unique selling point. They believed that their product wasn’t very distinct, but they still wanted to launch it as it was the most affordable option. After launching in India, the USA, and Europe, they eventually achieved a valuation of 100 crore. It’s possible that their “aha moment” was realizing that they could succeed even without a completely unique product, as long as they found a way to market and sell it effectively.


Aishwarya, the founder of AULI, wasn’t enjoying her previous job but was passionate about skincare. People often asked her about her glowing skin, so she decided to turn that passion into a business. Her “aha moment” was likely when she realized that she could combine her love of skincare with her desire to start her own business.


Sujata had too many things piled up at home and wanted to put them to better use. She realized that upcycling products done by rural women could be a viable business idea, and it’s now embraced by consumers and organizations in bulk. Her “aha moment” could have been when she realized that she could solve a common problem in a way that was sustainable and socially responsible.


The founders of Miss Chase initially wanted to launch a lingerie brand but never got to selling that. Their “aha moment” came when they transformed from one brand to a house of brands. This allowed them to leverage resources, partnerships, and strategies to build more than one brand. Their realization was likely that diversifying their offerings could lead to more success than focusing on just one product.


Finally, the founders of Nestasia had a love for home decor, which eventually led them to start their own business after setting up three homes from scratch. Their “aha moment” could have been when they realized that they could turn their passion into a profitable business idea.



The challenges of building a brand in Kolkata 


Building a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand in Kolkata, like in any other city, comes with its own set of challenges. One of the major hurdles is changing the traditional mindset of consumers who are more accustomed to buying from brick-and-mortar stores. This requires investing heavily in marketing and creating brand awareness to generate demand and establish trust among consumers.


Another challenge is the increasing competition in the D2C space. With the rise of e-commerce platforms, more brands are entering the market, making it harder to stand out and attract customers. This means that companies need to be innovative in their marketing strategies and find ways to differentiate their products from the competition.


However, Kolkata also presents many opportunities for D2C brands. It is a large and growing market, and the city has a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem with support from government agencies, accelerators, and incubators. This support can help new brands overcome the challenges they face and scale their operations quickly.


A significant challenge for D2C brands in Kolkata is finding and retaining skilled manpower. Many brands struggle to find and afford skilled talent that can help them scale their operations efficiently. This can result in delays in production, fulfillment, and customer service, which can harm the brand’s reputation and bottom line.


In summary, while building a D2C brand in Kolkata has its challenges, there are also opportunities to grow and succeed. To overcome these challenges, brands need to focus on building a strong brand identity, differentiating themselves from the competition, and finding innovative solutions to production and manpower challenges.



On Being Successful in Marketplaces


If you want to crack the marketplace game and become a successful seller, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Find your superstar product: In most cases, 99% of your sales will come from less than 1% of your products. That’s why it’s important to identify your superstar product, the one that drives most of your sales. Focus on promoting and improving that product to maximize your revenue.
  2. One or two products can make a major difference: Sometimes, a single product can make a huge difference in your sales. Keep an eye on the performance of each product and identify the ones that have the potential to become bestsellers.
  3. Listen to customer feedback: Customer reviews can provide valuable insights into what your customers like and dislike about your products. Use this feedback to improve your products and tailor them to your customers’ needs. Also, make sure to showcase your products in the best light possible through high-quality images and descriptions.
  4. Be patient: Building a successful marketplace business takes time and effort. Don’t expect overnight success, and be willing to put in the work required to grow your business. Stay persistent, continue to analyze your performance, and adjust your strategy as needed.



Solving for cold starts and building trust


When you’re starting a new business, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is building trust with your potential customers. Here are a few tips to help you solve for cold starts and get people to trust your product when you’re starting out:

  • Content is a key driver of traffic: Creating high-quality content, such as blog posts, social media updates, and videos, can help you attract new customers and build trust with them. By providing valuable information and showcasing your expertise, you can demonstrate the value of your products and services and establish yourself as a trusted authority in your industry.
  • Trust takes time to build: Building trust is not something that happens overnight. It takes time, effort, and consistency to establish a good reputation and earn the trust of your customers. Focus on building a strong brand identity, providing excellent customer service, and delivering on your promises to create a positive customer experience.
  • Initially, a lot of COD orders: When you’re starting out, many customers may prefer to pay cash on delivery (COD) instead of paying upfront. This is because they are not yet familiar with your brand and may be hesitant to trust you with their money. Offering COD as a payment option can help you win over these customers and build trust over time.



Leveraging content


Using content as a mover is an effective way to drive traffic to your online store, build credibility, and establish a strong brand identity. Here are a few ways that content can help you achieve these goals:

  • Builds credibility: Creating high-quality content, such as blog posts, videos, and social media updates, can help you establish your expertise and build trust with your audience. By sharing valuable information and insights, you can demonstrate your knowledge and establish your brand as a credible authority in your industry.
  • Listening to your customers: Paying attention to customer feedback and using it to inform your content strategy can help you create content that resonates with your target audience. By understanding what your customers want and addressing their pain points, you can create content that is both informative and engaging.
  • Making people love themselves more: Ultimately, people don’t love brands – they love themselves. To succeed in the marketplace, your product or service must make people feel good about themselves and enhance their lives in some way. By creating content that focuses on the benefits of your product or service and how it can improve people’s lives, you can create a strong emotional connection with your audience and build a loyal customer base.



Key takeaways:

  • Building a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand in Kolkata comes with challenges, including changing traditional consumer mindsets, increasing competition, and finding skilled manpower.
  • To be successful in a marketplace, focus on identifying and promoting your superstar product, listening to customer feedback, and being patient.
  • To build trust with customers when starting a new business, focus on creating high-quality content, building a strong brand identity, and offering cash on delivery as a payment option.
  • Using content as a mover is an effective way to build credibility, listen to customers, and make people love themselves more.