This article is part of the Behind the Scene series by StartupTalky where we bring you insights into how a company operates at ground level. Source ~ from the horse's mouth that is as told by the founders, core management.
Lifelong Online is a digital-first consumer durable brand. Started in 2015, it has an exclusive range of products across a wide spectrum of categories like Home, Kitchen, Grooming, and Lifestyle. Lifelong, one of the fastest-growing Indian consumer durables startups has been able to disrupt the category, largely occupied by big brands, a traditional distribution model, and barely any innovation. It was the inertia of the eco-system that Bharat Kalia, Co-Founder of Lifelong, saw as a massive opportunity – with increasing internet penetration, pan-India distribution led largely by e-commerce giants, a younger, discerning customer that participated much more in purchase decisions via content, product ratings, and reviews, Bharat knew the customer was ready for a new age durables brand.
It serves over 500 cities in India through both online (Amazon, Flipkart, Tata Cliq, Nykaa, PayTM, Snapdeal, 1Mg) and offline presence. In 2019, Lifelong raised funds (40 crores INR) from Tanglin Venture partners, which was the series A round of funding for the company. At present home and kitchen appliances contribute approximately 33% to the overall sales, 33% by lifestyle and health category followed by 33% contribution from grooming and sports together.
StartupTalky interviewed Bharat Kalia (Co-founder & CEO, Lifelong India) to know How Exactly Lifelong leverages Data & technology to become the digital-first consumer durable brand. Get insights on the Behind the scene operations of Lifelong, Its marketing strategy, pricing strategy, business model, future plans & more.
Lifelong India - Company Highlights
|Company Name||Lifelong India Online|
|Founders||Bharat Kalia (CEO), Varun Grover (COO)|
And here's what Mr. Bharat Kalia has got to say -
How Lifelong India operates via both online and offline channels across 500 cities? From partnering & onboarding to final customer service, what does the value chain process look like?
Established in 2018, Lifelong has been built through data-driven insights with a strong focus on its online presence. To extend our offline outreach, we have partnered with several modern trade retail stores and institutional buyers.
Our value chain is based on a meticulously developed data bank, which was gathered through our mass markets in Tier 2, Tier 3 cities, and beyond. We focus on the current search and conversion trends to identify buyer needs, the available products in the market, and the gap between the two. Once we pinpointed the lacunae, we move towards our R&D, working towards improvements, adjustments, fixes, or modifications to improve value. The resultant product is subjected to a beta test where it goes through market analysis to further verify its value and functionality.
If everything goes well and there is positive feedback, the product is launched. We follow the market protocols in generating awareness, targeting consumers, and establishing the product in the market. Today, we have over 15-20% repeat buyers, and we pride ourselves on providing effective nationwide customer service within 24-72 hours.
What strategies does Lifelong India adopt while catering to Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities? According to you, what are Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities? Are there any challenges you face while catering to these cities?
When addressing Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities, it is crucial to understand that the demand in these markets can vary significantly from what we see in bigger cities. The consumers here are price sensitive and may lack access to mega brands. From a marketing perspective, they refer to certain specific media for information, which may be different from the Tier 1 audience. Even when it comes to the product, they look for a separate set of features. For any brand to succeed, it is critical that it grasps these differences when devising strategies. For instance, we are working on a washing machine that is unaffected by any fluctuations in the water pressure. This is a critical feature in cities prone to power plant malfunctions or pressure inconsistencies.
Consumers often belong to close-knit communities and are often well-acquainted with their sellers. In such a scenario, it is a challenge to establish a personal connection for a brand that doesn’t have a physical presence in the market. At Lifelong, we have focused on building these bonds through efficient service and creating value for our customers. Offering a swift turnaround time of 48 hours or less, we have ensured efficient and timely delivery. As a result, we have been able to garner customer loyalty as more and more customers show strong association and appreciation with the brand.
As a Made in India brand started in 2015, what did Lifelong India’s business model look like in the initial days? Would love to know the gradual growth of the company since then.
From our beginning with a mixer-grinder in the kitchen appliances segment, today we have established a strong foothold in the categories of Home, Health, and Fitness appliances. We embarked on this journey with the sole purpose of creating a better product for the mass market based on the available insights. In this endeavor, we learned that India loves the idea of a great product sold at an honest price. Since then, we have been using data to drive product development across sub-categories. Unlike mammoth brands representing vertical categories, we are independent of distributors and retail counters. Our direct dealings with the consumer have worked wonderfully in establishing us as an organization that feels homely and is indigenous.
How did it feel like to get the first institutional funding in 2019 by Tanglin Venture Partners? What are your plans post getting the funds? A hint on the strategies used by the company to attract investors is much appreciated.
For me, funding provides capital that is essential if you want your company to continue on its growth trajectory. It can be expensive, as it means one has to sell a part of their enterprise. However, the right funding at an apt hour is critical in positioning the brand to scale great heights. For us, Tanglin Venture Partners were extremely supportive investors, and they believed in the depth of our operations as well as ideologies. With this success, we are gearing up for our next round of funding. Our aim is to maintain our profitability while directing additional funds towards product development and expanding our service networks.
We don’t have a specific strategy to attract investments. The investors of today are savvy and highly discerning. Only ventures that have the potential to succeed can hope to garner interest and funding. Hence, as long as one has a fundamentally strong business that creates value, attracting suitable investments will never be worrisome.
We were wondering how you provide functionally crafted products priced at least 30% lower than traditional brands? What are the strategies you employ?
As a company, data is part of our DNA. Any development from our end begins with an extensive analysis of factors like clickstreams, consumer preferences, product availability in the market, desirable and undesirable features. Once we identify what the consumer wants, we focus on giving them products that not only meet their expectations but also surpass them.
By directly dealing with consumers, we have been successful in gaining at least a 30% price edge over conventional brands. Instead of relying on retailers to sell our products, we engage directly with the buyers. In the process, we save on overheads such as sales staff’s salary, distribution margins, and other related expenses. These cost benefits are enjoyed by our customers who receive quality products at pocket-friendly rates.
In the era of dynamic technology, what role does data/AI/ML/Insights play in the company? How do you keep up with the rapid technology advancements around the globe and pace the race with your competitors?
Technological advancements are the core of all our business activities. We use Big Data, analytics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive product development. Further, Machine Learning and AI are also used to further improve our customer service. These disruptive solutions resolve up to 30% of the queries based on what we have collected over time. They even help us conduct multi-lingual buyer surveys, simultaneously helping us gather authentic information.
Technology is dynamic, and keeping pace with it is the only way to succeed. We regularly track all the domestic and international trends. However, when it comes to successfully handling all these frequent changes, the credit goes to our dedicated team. Handling challenges becomes easy once you have the right people for the right job.
How do you plan to strengthen lean distribution channels in India with a major focus on product design & innovation? How are you planning to manage the first multi-line facility that is set to go live in the next 3 months? What effect will it have on the company & economy?
We have no intention to create multi-distribution channels in India. We wish to continue operating in a direct-to-consumer format. Online merchants such as Flipkart, Amazon, Tata Cliq, Meesho, and Bulbul that allow us the opportunity to directly sell to our customers are our preferred options.
When it comes to a multi-line facility, we are in the process of testing different strategies by distributing our manufacturing across the subcontinent. This will even help us combat the difficulties posed by the state-wise lockdown and serve our consumers better. We aim to establish robust data supply channels for the next couple of years so that we can overcome any uncertainties that the future holds.
What does the future look like for a Tech-enabled D2C Model? Are you planning for any strategic/business expansion plans?
The silver lining for tech-enabled D2C models was the growing acceptance of online platforms, enabling organizations like ours to create a deeper penetration in the market. As a consumer-oriented brand, our aim is to continue growing at a rapid pace. We are set to launch multiple yoga activities by year-end or the by early next year
As a passionate entrepreneur yourself, how can one connect to you for fruitful advice and guidance?
I am a very approachable person. If anyone, be it a customer or otherwise, is looking for advice, guidance, or support, my email is the best way to connect with me. My contact details are present on our website, and I am eager to help in whatever capacity I can.
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