Urban Ladder started as an e-commerce venture selling furniture in 2012. Last year, the company reported a near 70% increase in its consolidated revenue, whilst paring losses by 14%. The company has since launched physical stores to cater to a wider customer base. In an interview with Fortune India, Rajiv Srivatsa, its co-founder and chief operating officer, talks about plans to scale up business, and explains how the company is going to use technology to improve customer experience.
Q: What are your plans to scale up?
A: One of our priorities is to expand omnichannel retail. How do we best give the customer experience? What we do at the store to ensure customer experience, using technology and even the way we market it to people and get them into the store… is what we call reinventing the omnichannel retail. For us, it’s about having millions of beautiful homes and the only way to do this is to make sure there are products which serve a particular purpose, products which bring the modern Indian design and ethos closer to the Indian home.
Q: What is next for Urban Ladder?
A: Next step is to get to self sustenance. It will continue to be our priority in near future—to be a public company in the next three years. And making sure we are financially prudent. We're looking at opening about 20 stores by March 2019 across the country. We will experiment with different formats and category specific stores in different cities. We will continue to build on the virtual reality/augmented reality technology as this becomes more consumer-friendly and mainstream. Because we're now a single brand in retail, we will also be able to experiment with other categories and strengthen our product strategy.
Q: What is your approach to achieving profitability?
A: We are largely doing it in a self-sustainable way. We are also doing a lot of efficiency-based stuff. In terms of profitability, we have taken a bunch of initiatives in the last 18 months. One is getting the single brand license which has helped us plan all our products better and go with specific inventories that we know will work. Second is that we have done a huge amount of changes in our supply chain. The way we fulfill orders, the way our warehouse is set up, the way our delivery sector functions, etc… We cut down our marketing spends a lot to get the revenues steady.
Q: Who do you see as your competition?
A: In the first 10 years of any industry competition has a different meaning. Take, for, instance, the apparel industry; when it was largely unorganized, most people would go to tailors. We can say the furniture industry is at a point where the apparel industry was 10 years back. There are now quite a few brands, and the market is being taken away from the unorganised setup. So perhaps that’s our competition—the unorganised market. Maybe 10 years hence, when there will be at least four-five furniture brands; that’s when there will actually be competition among players. [There are, however, large furniture retailers such as Home Centre and Furniturewalla operating in India.]
Q: How do you plan to enhance customer experience at offline stores?
A: One of the big differentiators for us because we started as an online seller has been using technology to drive customers into the store and to improve experience of the customers online and offline. For example, in furniture, you need to see how furniture looks in your house. We have experimented with virtual reality. Can we give a sense of how a certain model of sofa will look with a particular kind of floor, ceiling, wall color, etc? Augmented reality will help us visualize if that particular product fits the house in life size. Creating a room to make it look similar to their house is a big need for the customer while buying furniture, and for us, it is all about making it more customer-friendly.
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