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Mebelkart - IITians Selling Furniture, Bean Bags Online

Furniture shopping has just become easier with - an online portal dealing in Furniture and Home Decor items. Started by industry experts from the IITs and BITS-Pilani in 2012, it intends to organize the entire Furnishings and Home Decor space in India by providing customers with a transparent pricing model, better designs and more options at one place.

Proud to have become the “biggest online dealer in the bean bags segment”, the co-founder of Mebelkart, Ranjeet Vimal, shares his story and aspirations with us.

So, what was the impetus behind this venture?
Ranjeet: I was looking to buy an agronomic computer chair for my personal use. But, to my utter dismay, I found that the local shops were selling them at very high costs. Moreover, I had very few options to choose from with no warranty either. Reluctantly, I settled for a revolving chair of Rs. 8000 with an added delivery charge of Rs. 500.

I discussed the situation with my friends who said that they’d had similar experiences with Bean Bags, Almirahs, Mattresses, etc. We also concurred that vision accompanied by will technology was all it needed to organize the furniture space in India and enhance user’s buying experience. And, consequently in July 2012 was born. Understanding buyer’s grievances and aspirations was crucial to building a portal where people can buy furniture suiting their varied tastes easily from the comfort of their homes. Our hard-work has paid off – we are already operational in Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune and are soon expanding to Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Considering your ambitious expansion plans, what market size are you tapping?
Ranjeet: The size of this market is US$ 12 billion which includes home/office furniture and home decor. Of this, 85% of the market is unorganized and fragmented. Even the corporate deliveries are handled by local players.  With the increase in online penetration from 10% to 28% by 2015, this sector will definitely witness a huge boom.

What types of customers are you catering to presently?
Ranjeet: We have a lot of customers browsing our products, spending time on the portal and purchasing items. They mostly comprise of working professionals and youth who order online. We also deal with startups and small medium enterprises that prefer bulk purchases.

But, is the response competitive enough? Wouldn’t people still prefer a physical store over an online portal?
Ranjeet:  The response has been good so far, the sales are rising every week and we have been receiving a fair amount of enquiries. To a certain extent potential customers prefer visiting a physical store as they are apprehensive about the design, prices and quality. The latest trends might be unknown to them. These are the very issues that we attempt to override via Mebelkart by providing a large selection and conducting regular quality checks. We are confident that this will go a long way in building customer trust and interest in online shopping. And in terms of reach, we can reach over 1000's of zip codes in India which is practically impossible for any showroom chain.

Market – how do you go about this?
Ranjeet: Mebelkart is using the preferred ways of promotion as other startup companies which include social media, adwords, blogs, newsletters & most importantly customer referrals. We are very rigid on providing utmost satisfaction to the customer.

How do you distinguish yourself from the competition in this segment?
Ranjeet: The competition in this market is immense. Etailing in India is growing at a good pace. Although, this is still an untapped market for etailers, the competition among etailers in this segment is also on the rise. The advantage we have over traditional showrooms range from availability of designs, better & uniform costs. Approximately 70% of the customers still get items made by choosing the design from the catalogs of these showrooms. So, there is definitely a huge room for etailers in this segment. We improvise continuously – be it virtualization of user experience, including more categories, etc., brainstorming and delivering is our forte.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future?
Ranjeet: We are building web & mobile technologies for making a customer's selection procedure & purchase easier. We are expanding our operations in other cities Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai and also adding more categories to our portfolio alongside.

Have you raised any funding yet? If no, would you want investors to reach out to you?
Ranjeet: We are bootstrapping the business from our own funds.  Yes, we are looking for Angels.

Any closing message for budding entrepreneurs?
Ranjeet: I'm sure you have heard this before - but succeeding in starting a company is all about great execution and quick execution. The quality and speed of execution are most important. You can't compromise either one! Apart from this, holding your nerve at the right times is important too. Every startup goes through a phase where things will took mighty tough - you just have to walk through it and do your best.  There is a very popular line about start-up “start-up -> the Valley of Death -> to take risks and experiment”.

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