Iluminar Media, which owns and operates Little Black Book (LBB), raised $5 million in a Series A funding round led by venture capital firm Inventus India and Indian Angel Network (IAN) Fund.
The discovery and e-commerce platform plans to use the investment to strengthen its presence in its existing markets. It will expand its technology and product team with a focus on machine learning for discovery, and integration of content with commerce, LBB said in a statement.
“We now have the ability to scale up our product team particularly those working on very good personalisation and discovery, and very good recommendations,” co-founder Dhruv Mathur said in a conversation with Fortune India, adding that LBB also aims to add more local merchants to the platform.
“Small to medium businesses find it very difficult to get discovered on social media and large marketplaces—LBB seeks to solve that and give today’s young consumer access to new brands and businesses,” he says.
Started by Suchita Salwan in 2011 as a Tumblr blog, LBB would recommend new places to eat, shop, or visit. Today, the company, present in eight cities including Delhi NCR, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, also allows users to shop on their web and app-based platform. LBB has also transformed from a Time Out-like discovery platform to a more technology-focussed company and started integrating discovery and commerce after co-founder Dhruv Mathur came on board in 2014 as the product and technology head.
Mathur says the company now wants to deepen the relationship that they have built between consumers and merchants, get more users to transact on the platform, and scale the number of users. He says users on their app use it almost three to five times a week, which the company wants to increase.
Over the years, the company has also built a community of people who share content and make recommendations on LBB. The company posts more than 300 featured recommendations on its platform every week, which are mostly user generated.
LBB launched commerce on the site about four months ago. Its shopping platform – LBB Shop, sells close to a 1,000 brands. Interestingly, Salwan says 95% of the brands are not listed on big e-commerce players such as Amazon and Flipkart.
“Our cart size has actually tripled in the past four months, the same consumer who used to come to us to read content is now getting comfortable in spending money through our platform as well,” Salwan says. She says the company’s focus is on small, local business or what she calls “unbranded brands”. LBB, Salwan says, gives them “brand cred (credibility)”.
A year ago, the company was also looking at international expansion. However that has been pushed by a year or two as it wants to focus on the Indian market.
“We are extremely bullish on the opportunity in India and we don’t own as much market share just yet... I think step one would be that whatever market we are in now, let’s just consolidate that and own that as much as possible before relentlessly expanding and then trying to cut out markets,” says Salwan.
The company, which reaches out to over 3 million users every month, connecting them to over 60,000 local brands and businesses, says it will expand its network to one or two more cities this year.
“What attracted us most to LBB is how they’ve made community a continued narrative in their promise to make local brands and businesses more accessible,” Rutvik Doshi, managing director, Inventus India, said in a statement.
LBB has raised a total of $7.5 million till date with this round. Japanese investors Dream Incubator and Akatsuki Entertainment Technology (AET) Fund, and existing investors Blume Ventures, and Chiratae Ventures also participated in the new funding round. Apart from institutional investors, they also have angel investors like Google India chief Rajan Anandan, who is set to join venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India as managing director after an eight-year stint with the search engine giant.