Labkafe: One-stop Destination for Lab Equipments and Furniture

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Educational institutions have a crucial role to play in a country's development and growth. Schools, colleges, universities, and educational centers are places where the future workforce of the nation is nurtured . For building strong institutions, having the right infrastructure is a prerequisite. However, the process of accumulating, organizing, and setting up the necessary infrastructure can be tiresome. This is where Labkafe takes charge.

Labkafe is a Kolkata based startup that provides equipment and furniture for laboratories, helping build a wholesome learning zone for young minds.

Startup Name Labkafe
Headquarter Kolkata
Founders Aniket Thakur, Hitesh Kumar, Sunil Panda, and Amrit Raj
Sector Laboratory Infrastructure (Equipment/Furniture)
Founded 2015
Website Link https://www.labkafe.com
Parent Organization Orientallabs Retail Services Private Limited

Labkafe - About
Labkafe - Industry Details
Labkafe - Founders And Team
Labkafe - How It Began
Labkafe - Name And Logo
Labkafe - Business Model And Revenue Model
Labkafe - User Acquisition
Labkafe - Startup Challenges
Labkafe - Future Plans

Labkafe - About

Labkafe is a one stop destination for laboratory equipment and furniture. It offers numerous products comprising glassware, chemicals, labware, accessories required for labs, and much more.

Labkafe, laboratory equipment installed at Sido Kanhu Murmu University.
Labkafe: Laboratory equipment installed at Sido Kanhu Murmu University.

The team at Labkafe believes that quality labs and lab experts form the core for innovation and creativity. It envisions making laboratory equipment affordable and accessible, thereby rendering innovation feasible.

Labkafe - Industry Details

Lab equipment industry forms the backbone for research and innovation in diverse fields. Apart from healthcare/pharma companies, one of the major markets for lab equipment and furniture are educational institutes & research institutes. The factors contributing to high demand of lab products in education institutes are:

  1. Government's emphasis on strengthening educational infrastructure.
  2. Increasing prominence of technology and experiment driven education, especially in emerging private schools/institutes.
  3. Innovation learning through robotics, AI, language labs and other technology based environments in K-12 schools.

Relevant Read: A Case Study of Startups that were Promising yet Failed

Labkafe - Founders And Team

Aniket Thakur and Hitesh Kumar are the founders of  Labkafe. Sunil Panda and Amrit Raj later joined the duo as co-founders, giving a boost to the venture. The four worked together at Jindal Stainless Steel plant. At Labkafe, they now work in unison through shared executive responsibilities.

Aniket Thakur is the Chief Executive officer (CEO) of Labkafe. He has a Bachelor's degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from NIT Durgapur.

Hitesh Kumar is the Chief Operating officer (COO) and looks after operation and logistics. He is from NIT Durgapur as well.

Sunil Panda is the Chief Marketing officer (CMO) and heads the sales and Marketing department of Labkafe. Sunil is a mechanical engineer from NIT Rourkela.

Amrit Raj is the Chief Strategies Officer (CSO) and manages strategic tie-ups within Labkafe. He is a mechanical engineering graduate from NIT Jamshedpur.

Labkafe currently is a team of 22. The company generally hires through reference.

We maintain timelines for all the projects & don’t have any work hours - said Aniket, about Labkafe's work culture

Labkafe - How It Began

All four co-founders, given their academic and professional background, have been exposed to different laboratory equipment and materials. Their deliberation over the not so developed industry of laboratory equipment in spite of the consistent demand led them towards the ideation of Labkafe.

I was working in a steel plant quality department in Jajpur Odisha. For some basic material testing, I had to travel a lot from Bhubaneswar to Ahmedabad carrying material samples. This made me realize lack of proper laboratory infrastructure in our country. Also, while working in quality lab, we used to face lots of problems procuring exact specified lab equipment for testing. That inspired us to create a portal to address bottlenecks of procuring lab products.- Aniket Thakur

They discussed the idea with their colleagues to seek opinions and received mixed responses. Nevertheless, everybody gave an unanimous verdict with respect to the demand for laboratory equipment—it was, is, and will continue to stay.

Finally, Labkafe was realized and has created 12000+ lab equipment & 200+ lab furniture so far. Most of the products manufactured are under “Labkafe” label. Customer needs are prioritized and the design layout/material are tailored to meet user requirements.

Labkafe's turnkey solution has eliminated middle men and multiple vendors, resulting in the reduction of procurement costs and making it affordable. Labkafe provides wide ranging services—designing, furniture and lab equipment fabrication, allied services (LPG/Pipeline connections, interior decoration etc), instruments installation, training, manpower development, annual maintenance and financial support to institutes.

Labkafe Timeline
Labkafe Timeline

The Labkafe team was searching for names related to labs. But  was not getting good name with web domain. Then finally the problem got solved over a cup of coffee. The team was sipping Nescafe coffee in the canteen, and from Nescafe, the idea of the name “LabKafe” came.

The name 'Labkafe' was finalized as it eases the procurement work of educational institutions and lets them relax, like a cafe provides a soothing time to its customers.

Labkafe Logo
Labkafe Logo

Labkafe - Business Model And Revenue Model

With a technical background, the four co-founders have worked together in crafting a practical business and revenue model.

The laboratory equipment are highly specialized, needs field expertise, installation support and thorough understanding based on the customer's requirement. The Labkafe team provides the necessary technical support to the customer. This helped Labkafe minimize competition, avail high margin, maintain high entry barrier, procure high order basket values and improve its brand value.

Labkafe's average order basket value is around 1 lakh INR. It focuses on generating revenue by selling products directly to institutes. For the same, they have also designed specific lab packages for secondary and senior secondary schools pertaining to CBSE/ICSE/State board curriculum. This makes it convenient for schools and in turn reaps revenue for Labkafe.

Labkafe - User Acquisition

The Labkafe team acquires customers through:

  1. Marketing channels: Email campaigns, cold calling, Facebook marketing, Google ads, and word of mouth. GeM (Government E-Marketplace) is another great platform that has boosted Labkafe's sales.
  2. Labkafe maintains a sales team for high value potential leads.

Labkafe's notable clients include: DRDO, Air Force-Gwalior, State Forensic science lab, ONGC, Baidyanath Pharma, NIT Rourkela, NIT Allahabad, IBSD, St. Xavier group, GD Goenka group, and the DPS group.

Besides its on-going expansion in India, Labkafe is also exporting its catalog to three countries: Canada, Nigeria, and Bhutan.

Relevant Read: 10 Ways to Market on Pinterest

Labkafe - Startup Challenges

Initially, Labkafe sold industrial products and the team was extremely confident about the startup take off right from beginning, given the team's expertise in the domain. Gradually, it dawned upon the Labkafe team that the sector was fraught with stiff competition, low margins, and complex procurement routes of the industries. Moreover, the payment delay from clients resulted in unbalanced cashflow.

So, the team started to experiment and identify a niche for avoiding financial crunch. School labs were found to be a fit and finally in July 2016, Labkafe pivoted to selling lab equipment and furniture to schools. Since then, the margins have increased significantly and the procurement decision making process has been simplified.

Labkafe has used email campaigns and other media instruments to reach out to customers. With experience, Labkafe began to focus on big ticket orders wherein lab expertise was required. It then started to work with universities/ research institutes (from planning to execution). This includes:

  1. Designing labs as per the directions of HODs.
  2. Submitting DPR (Detail Project Report) for final approval.
  3. Executing the project as per DPR.
  4. Training the professors in respective products.
Labkafe Laboratory Equipment and Furniture
Labkafe Laboratory Equipment and Furniture

Labkafe - Future Plans

Labkafe has gained recognition and carved a niche for itself in the lab equipment industry. It is now a government recognized startup. At present Labkafe is spread across Kolkata, Ranchi, and Ambala. Its sales team is targetting West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha.

Labkafe's annual turnover for FY 2018-19 stood at 8.17 Crores and is expected to reach 23.4 crores for financial year 2019-20.

It is now looking to expand services and cover the pharmaceutical industry and diversify its global reach.

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About Chayanika Goswami

Chayanika is an MBA in Finance and a trained Digital Marketer. SEO and content writing are her hobbies turned profession. She is a rover. In her free time, she loves traveling and cracking jokes.