Unlike other consumer Internet businesses, furniture is a highly capital-intensive business. From sourcing to delivery, furniture requires a different set of skills to manage compared to other items such as mobile phones or apparels — especially in India where moving from one location to another in the same city, even on a two-wheeler, is harder than flying between two cities.
While furniture has been the forte of brick-and-mortar players till a few years ago, the space has seen the emergence of a few leading online marketplaces/retailers such as FabFurnish, Pepperfry and Urban Ladder over the past two-three years. Although each one of them has their own unique selling proposition, not one of them has managed to introduce a fully customisable solution yet.
Four Jaipur (Central India)-based entrepreneurs realised this pain-point and decided to come up with a platform that not only sells ready-to-order furniture but also offers customisation. They took their venture — Wooden Street — a step ahead by launching multi-utility furniture as well. For the same, the company has built a sampling division .
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“We are offering India’s first custom-made service to customers across the country,” says Lokendra Ranawat, Co-Founder of Wooden Street.
“We are also in the process of forging partnerships with numerous furniture makers across the country and enabling them to accept and deliver quality custom-made furniture to customers,” Dinesh Pratap, Co-founder adds.
Ranawat started Wooden Street in May this year, along with brother Virendra Ranawat, Dinesh Pratap and Vikas Baheti. Ranawat is an engineering graduate with over 10 years of experience, while his brother holds MBA and engineering degrees. Pratap is an alumnus of National Institute of Technology (Jaipur) and holds an MBA from IIM Kozhikode and Baheti is a finance graduate.
Prior to launching the venture, the foursome researched the market and realised that customers in metro cities are in search of compact and space-saving furniture. “This is what prompted us to come out with the concept of multi-utility furniture that could serve more than one purpose of (the) consumers. Our unique range of extendable dining tables are (the) perfect example for space saving furniture,” he adds.
In addition to custom-made products, Wooden Street also offers a wide range of ready-to-order choices for dining, bedroom, storage and outdoor solutions. Customisation is available for existing furniture. Clients can also customise new pieces as per taste and requirement.
How it works
The customer can interact with Wooden Street’s design experts and share his/her concept including dimension, style, wood and finishing preferences. Consultation is free. Customers can also see a 3D view of the customised product. The product will be delivered after completion at his/her doorstep and the support staff will then install it for free.
“We have a strong focus on developing 3D images and help(ing the) customer visualise products. As of now, the 3D service is available to customers opting for customised products. We are also working on a state-of-the art mobile app, which will enable customers to see the 3D drawing of his/her desired product on his mobile, with actual background of home,” Ranawat shares.
In comparison, Urban Ladder recently introduced this technology where customers can design and buy their own room looks on its app.
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Wooden Street claims that it has seen tremendous traction over the past four months. “We have successfully fulfilled over 100 custom orders till date, with an average order size of around INR 12,000 (US$180). We have also received 40,000 new visitors on our platform,” Ranawat says.
The firm operates from Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan (known as India’s furniture hub). It also has representatives in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. About 40 per cent of Wooden Street’s orders come from Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. It has also covered Assam, Ranchi (Northeast India) and Kerala (South India).
The firm has partnered with leading logistic companies such as Bluedart, Gati and Safexpress for delivery. It has employed dedicated people in various parts of the country to assist customers with installation. The e-tailer also plans to open an offline store in the near future to make additional revenue.
Bootstrapped so far, the startup is currently in talks to raise seed funding within the next two-three months.
“We are targetting to be India’s largest marketplace for customised furniture. Towards this goal, we will link unorganised vendors/carpenters across top Indian cities to our ecosystem. These vendors will be trained and made capable to accept customer orders and provide their services locally. Our ultimate goal is to empower and organise these scattered individuals under (the) aegis of Wooden Street,” adds Ranawat.
Can Wooden Street beat the competition?
The Indian furniture market is still dominated by offline players. However, online retailers such as FabFurnish, Pepperfry and Urban Ladder have already made a footprint in the market.
Rocket Internet-backed furniture e-tailer FabFurnish, with funding from Swedish VC firm Kinnevik, has already crossed a million orders across 35 cities since inception. On the other hand, Pepperfry — a managed marketplace started in 2012 that helps merchants and craftsmen sell to millions of customers across India and the world — has served over two million customers across more than 300 cities. Pepperfry recently secured US$100 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs and Zodius Technology Fund.
Urban Ladder, founded in July 2012, is another key player that aims to provide a curated destination for home solutions. The startup has over 4,000 products and 35 categories such as wardrobes, sofas, beds, dining tables, storage shelves, etc. At present, it delivers to 30 cities in India. Urban Ladder recently scooped US$50 million from Sequoia Capital and Hong Kong-based TR Capital.
A few weeks ago, India’s largest homegrown e-commerce company Flipkart also forayed into the furniture segment.
All these e-tailers have already captured a good market share in the country and are now looking to beat competition from offline players. With huge funds in reserve, they are now on their way to introduce multiple products that make it easy for customers to customise and buy products through their platforms. With the backing of large VC funds, they can also take calculated risks by introducing custom-made and multi-utility products.
As part of this goal, some of them have already launched partial-customisation offerings and 3D views. So it remains to be seen if Wooden Street, the latest entrant, can take on these players, most of whom have operations in almost all the smaller cities and towns in India.