BrainBees Solutions Pvt Ltd, the startup that runs FirstCry.com (offers baby and kids’ products) and GoodLife.com (focuses on home, health and personal care items), has quietly expanded its offline footprint to 21 cities, taking the total number of its stores to 26 across 11 states. Yes, you have read that right. Although it is not the first such hybrid online-offline retailer, it may well be that one e-tailer who is most aggressively expanding its offline network.
Before you jump to conclusions regarding the cash burn, let us tell you the firm has been expanding through a franchisee network. It means investments are done by the local partners and the firm just shares its brand and vendor sourcing.
For the franchises, the company acts as a wholesaler and sells products to the franchise owners, who in turn, sell those to end-consumers. The company is also planning to increase the number of franchises to around 50 in the next 6-8 months.
Commenting on the offline development, co-founder and CEO Supam Maheshwari said, “We have realised that a number of potential consumers (in tier III cities) will either never transact online or it will take them a long time to do so. The availability of products also remains a challenge in these untapped markets. Plus, many of the customers want to touch and feel the products before they make the purchase and physical shops make sense.”
The company now has stores in 11 states including Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad), Bihar (Patna), Chhattisgarh (Bhilai), Gujarat (three cities), Haryana (Karnal), Karnataka (three cities), Maharashtra (Malegaon), Rajasthan (three cities), UP (three cities), Uttarakhand (two cities) and Tamil Nadu (two cities). It is also planning to launch four new stores in Nadiad (Gujarat), Patiala (Punjab), Baramulla (Kashmir) and Tirupur (Tamil Nadu).
It has been scaling up pretty fast, considering only six stores were operational in January this year.
Note that the company already has four warehouses in Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai, and is looking to open one each in Kolkata and Chennai. However, the warehouses are owned and operated by the company itself while the stores are franchises.
The Pune-based startup was co-founded by Maheshwari and Amitava Saha (director) in late 2010. Maheshwari exited his previous entrepreneurial venture Brainvisa Technologies, an e-learning company, and joined hands with Saha, previously the head of sales and business operations at Brainvisa, to launch the e-commerce startup. In February this year, the company raised $14 million in Series B from IDG Ventures India and SAIF Partners. Prior to that, it had raised $4 million from SAIF in April 2011.
Maheshwari recently told Techcircle.in about the company’s target to become profitable by November 2013. According to him, the company has been growing 20 per cent month on month since its inception and is aiming to become a $250 million company in terms of gross merchandise value by 2015.
The current team size is 300 and together, FirstCry and GoodLife feature 1 lakh-plus products. The sites combined receive more than two million visitors per month and the average ticket size of a transaction is Rs 1,000.
The company competes with the likes of Hushbabies.com, Babyoye.com, Kidsoye.com and Hoopos.com, besides horizontal e-tailers like Flipkart who has recently added baby care products to its site. To know whether other players in the space will also follow suit and open their own physical stores, stay glued to this space.
Also, what do you think of this hybrid business model?
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)