Supam Maheshwari Curated

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at First...

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Supam Maheshwari have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Supam Maheshwari's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming entrepreneurs. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What's the future of baby and mom products in India?

    The Indian baby and mom industry is emerging as one of the most lucrative markets and has been witnessing phenomenal growth in comparison to the other emerging markets. With few organised brands in the sector, there are manifold opportunities in the industry. With increasing disposable incomes of the families, parents have become more willing to fulfill the demands of their kids according to the latest trends. The other important change that is taking place in this area is the emergence of kids as an independent buyer group. Influenced by mass media and peer pressure, today's kids are more informed and self-conscious. Consumers want brands to engage with them on the platform of their choice; the explosive growth in smart-phone adoption in India means that this (eCommerce) trend will only grow stronger over the next five years. Also, rapid urbanisation and growing awareness about buying quality products are among the factors driving the baby care market in India.

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  • After securing a series-D funding, what is the vision for the future?

    FirstCry has rapidly expanded its online dominance to achieve the leadership position in the multi-channel baby and kids market. The Company is delighted to have Valiant, NEA and our existing investors as investment partners in this round. We plan to use the funds to focus on expanding our leadership across all channels (online, mobile and offline), as well investing in the growth of our private label business.

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  • Tell us more about worldofmoms.com

    www.worldofmoms.com is an initiative from the house of FirstCry.com, Asia’s largest online store for baby and kids. It is an online social platform for moms to connect, share and help each other through the journey that is motherhood. www.worldofmoms.com is a space where moms can build and grow a community that’s By Moms and For Moms. We aim to become India’s most loved mommy community, helping moms to find peer moms to resolve their queries, make parenting fun, grow their businesses, and create a one-stop-shop for all their needs. Most importantly, we understand that Moms need a space of their own, where they can browse, share and connect with other moms, in a closed, safe and protected environment. We take pains to ensure to the best of our ability that all our registered users are women, by allowing access only through Social Media channels, where we can run a gender check. Moreover, each mom is special and we recognise and celebrate that, through our effort to personalise to your stage, and localise to your city.

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  • FirstCry has kiosks at their offline stores, tell us something more on that front. How do you think the offline model is faring as against the online one?

    In efforts to further enhance the consumer experience, FirstCry stores are equipped with ‘Kiosk Innovation’. It is a novel concept that allows customers to browse through 1,200 brands and 90,000 (and above) products on a 32-inch screen in stores, order online on spot, and find the product available at the store in 2-3 days. The kiosk not only saves on time and effort in selection, but also provides a quick glimpse of the massive stock and variety which might not be possible to surf through physically. The processes are turning simpler creating a user-friendly ecosystem for the customers and making them feel special and comfortable when shopping. On the same lines, FirstCry.com continually strives to create an easy world for the moms!

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  • The same day delivery option is what most e-tailers are talking of today, what would you say to that?

    Yes, most e-tailers are looking at strengthening their delivery systems, but are also charging for this service. We recently announced the same day and next day delivery for our customers, which is absolutely free of cost. We aim to provide our customers with unparalleled shopping experience with wide range of products and fastest delivery mechanism through innovative supply chain solutions. It’s been our endeavour to make shopping for kids an easy and effortless job for parents. With this new service, parents can easily order for essentials that they may require anytime in a day without any extra cost. Such a service also will help us build higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) and build more loyalty with our customers. There is no platform in the country today which promises same day or next day across 75 cities at no extra cost. It is a very big milestone for us and our customers and we will continue to expand the number of cities under this service.

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  • What do you have to say about the changing trends in the mom n baby products industry?

    Urban India today is characterised by a nuclear family with double-income parents, who are willing to shell out the additional money on their children. Consequently, the spending on children’s apparel, with better brand image and quality, has received a significant boost. When it comes to buying clothes for the little ones, parents, especially mothers are the decision makers and are always looking for trendy, basic and casual wear with little party or occasional wear. At the same time, Indian kids in both urban and semi-urban parts of the country are increasingly exposed to various media and are thus aware of brands which cater to them. They have also started participating actively in purchase decisions related to their apparel.

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  • Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.

    We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.

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  • Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.

    We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.

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  • Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.

    We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.

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  • Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.

    We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.

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  • Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.

    We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.

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  • Talk to us about your business rivals and whether you think the category is getting crowded after having enjoyed a niche status for a while.

    We see competition as healthy since it means there are more players building the market. Our focus is on leveraging our strengths and continuing to build new innovations that completes our view of the baby and kids eco-system. Currently, we are one of the largest niche players with an O2O model in India. The large variety of brands and products and our close partnership with brands ensure that we have the best offerings in the market. Add to that the delight of easy access whether at our local store or through timely home delivery and you have a customer-focused recipe for success. The fully integrated and synergistic click-and-brick model, with a focus on Tier-II and-III towns makes our model strong. Apart from this, our continuous large-scale awareness created by the FirstCry Box programme ensures that we reach parents early. We run a unique programme called FirstCry Gift Box wherein we deliver a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country. Through this programme, we can reach 1 million parents per year. We have been always the one-stop solution for our customers. The category is still niche as not everyone can easily cater to the demands of the customers. We have become specialists and will continue to build the already established relation with parents.

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  • Is there a particular product that has a huge demand?

    Apparels are the most popular products followed by diapers and other baby essential products. We do have a wide variety of gift sets and combo offers available, which are appreciated by our customers.

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  • Why only kids and baby products business, do you have plans to venture into other categories as well? If not, tell us why.

    FirstCry has grown to become Asia’s largest baby and kids’ products store. We do not plan to venture into other categories. At present, we cater to products for moms-to-be, new mothers, baby and kids. We have built an ecosystem for parents and we would want to focus on creating shopping a delighting experience for parents by consistently innovating.

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  • Although large, the kids’ products business is extremely sensitive, how do you make sure of the quality of the products?

    Concern of quality products for babies is one of the major aspects we promise to cater for. At FirstCry, we have a wide array of well-known national and international brands. We not only provide great variety, but also monitor and assess the quality aspect for all brands on our portal. Parents in India do not have many options when it comes to high quality products for their kids. We, as a baby care multi-brand leader, aim at bridging this gap and fulfilling their demands and needs through our online and offline stores. We adhere to very strict quality checks before we list or accept goods in our warehouses.

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  • Talk to us about the opportunities and challenges being in your kind of business.

    The baby and kids industry in India is massive with an estimated turnover of nearly Rs.50,000 crores. As of today, in India, even though 95 per cent people still prefer buying offline, the online market is 5 per cent of the retail market and is likely to outpace organised retail especially in the baby and kids segment. Thus, there exists a tremendous scope of growth as the demand for quality baby products in India is growing steadily creating huge opportunity for us to thrive in this sector.

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  • A lot of e-tailers are opening only-mobile shops; do you think eCommerce will give way to mobile commerce? How do you see the buying behaviour changing in the near future?

    Smartphone penetration has effectively empowered consumers in India to make purchases through mobile, saving on time and energy. Mobile commerce has brought in a new wave that most brands are looking at optimising. With the considerable increase in the smart-phone users, the mobile apps are trending. We at FirstCry have also built the mobile technology space wherein we have a lot of parents shopping through mobile phones. This gives us an idea as to how the buying behaviour is effectively shifting towards more and more convenience, hence the mobile revolution.

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  • How is FirstCry different from other baby and kids’ products e-tailers?

    The idea was very clear when we started off with FirstCry.com. Our focus was to bring easy access for baby and kids products for the parents. When we began, the market was unorganised, where customers did not have easy access to world-class brands or even enough variety and good quality products. We observed that the Indian parents largely preferred buying offline that gave us great inspiration to adopt the hybrid model. We were determined to create an ecosystem in the niche by providing a well-integrated offline as well as online option for parents to avail whatever product or brand they needed for their kids. We are glad that we have been able to create a strong omni-channel presence with our online store, over 100 offline stores and mobile store.

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  • Did you have a problem in rooting FirstCry in the market in 2010?

    We did not face any hiccups launching FirstCry in the market as during that time the environment had tremendous hype around the eCommerce market. And by the end of 2010, India’s consumer facing eCommerce market was growing at a whopping 49.1 per cent and reached a market size of $9.9 billion the next year. Thus, it was a good time for us to launch a niche e-retail company then.

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  • Can you share one piece of advice that Supam Maheshwari shared with you for Booming Brands’ readers?

    One of them is, test your concepts first as pilots, get convinced, and then scale up.

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  • Can you please share a few traits that have helped FirstCry to become a winner?

    In my view, the leadership team’s focus on speed in all areas of business such as ideation, decision making, experimentation, execution, and creating new competitive advantages has helped the company to scale up fast. Also, the team’s focus on low cash burn without compromising on quality has helped the company in removing unwanted expenses. To emphasize on my point, I would like to share about the evolution of FirstCry's logistics business. In e-commerce businesses, the big part of customer loyalty is dependent on order fulfilment. Initially, the company partnered with third-party logistics companies to manage its customers' expectations of on-time and safe delivery of products. But with time, the team realized that this model of outsourcing deliveries to third party logistics service providers was expensive and even uncontrollable. FirstCry was not able to commit delivery timelines to its customers, and it had no control over last mile customer experience. To overcome the above-mentioned challenges, in the year 2012, FirstCry started an in-house logistics division. In parallel with external courier companies, this internal division started handling deliveries of both online and franchisee business. Soon, this division grew from handling deliveries to a few cities to whole regions to multiple regions all over the country. With time, this division started delivering orders of a few other eCommerce companies. Over time, this division grew up to become a separate business entity called - Xpressbees. Xpressbees is considered as one of the leaders in e-commerce logistics space. As per media reports, around the start of 2018, Alibaba, one of the biggest and most valuable companies in the world, invested in Xpressbees.

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  • Can you tell me about one of the marketing strategies that contributed to the growth of FirstCry?

    I have covered many interesting strategies in my book. Let me share with you about one of them – the FirstCry Box program. To set the context of this program, I would like to talk about Google’s two-sided network business model. In this model, one side is users, who get free access to search and another side is advertisers, who pay to Google to reach out to their targeted users. Similarly, FirstCry box program also has 2 sides – parents and baby products’ brands. FirstCry has partnered with baby products’ brands that want to reach parents at the earliest stage of their customer lifecycle. Brands give their gift products and share a program cost with FirstCry. To reach out to young parents, FirstCry has partnered with maternity hospitals. FirstCry packs products from various partner brands into gift boxes along with its high-value gift coupon. These gift boxes are delivered to hospitals on the basis of the number of monthly baby births at these hospitals. Nurses gift these boxes to mothers within 2 days of the baby's birth. When parents get these gift boxes with the samples of necessary items required during early days of birth, they feel good, get connected with the brands present in the box, and willingly fill feedback forms with their information such as their contact details and baby's birth date. Through this data, FirstCry tracks and analyzes the buying patterns of these parents on its website. FirstCry also remains in touch with these parents by sending weekly mailers covering relevant stories and up-to-date information on products they are likely to need in the immediate future. Moreover, these boxes create recall value in the long run also as mothers use these boxes to keep various baby items. This 100% targeted program has a lower customer acquisition cost and a higher conversion rate as compared to other marketing models. At a very basic level, the program has a customer acquisition cost that is almost one-tenth of an average TV campaign. In terms of conversion, around 25 to 30% of the parents who've been gifted the box have become FirstCry's regular customers. In terms of benefits for partner brands, a few of the brands have seen a fourfold increase in customers from amongst the parents compared to when they were not gifting. Many of the brands have been able to increase retail penetration of their newly launched products due to the demand generated in areas around the hospitals where the gifting happens. Because of impressive results, FirstCry Box has become a preferred sampling channel for many established and emerging baby brands in India.

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  • Tell me a little about how FirstCry got started?

    In the year 2001, Supam Maheshwari, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, was blessed with a baby girl. During this period, he used to run Brainvisa Technologies, an eLearning company, and his work required him to travel a lot to the U.S. and Europe. He used to bring back a lot of products for his daughter because many of them were not available locally. As he began researching further, he figured that the baby and kids' products industry in India is a multibillion-dollar industry, but it is highly unorganized and extremely fragmented. Even though many customers had the spending capacity, they didn't have easy access to world-class brands and good quality products. After exiting his previous venture in 2009, Supam decided to create a platform that could give parents easy access to quality baby and kids products. In 2010, he co-founded FirstCry along with his friend Amitava Saha.

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  • Tell me why you covered FirstCry in your book?

    FirstCry was founded in late 2010 in a Pune based row house. By the time, FirstCry planned to enter into the baby and kids category, this category had already attracted online players such as Babyoye.com and Hushbabies.com, and offline players such as Mahindra & Mahindra group’s Mom & Me. Over a period of time, horizontal e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart also entered into this category, and the market became hyper-competitive. Many of the niche players in this space have either shut shops, got acquired or are struggling to survive. Once Mom & Me and BabyOye used to be the strongest and largest niche competitors of FirstCry, but both merged and later on, this combined entity got acquired by FirstCry. Today, FirstCry is India’s largest omnichannel (web, mobile, and offline) retailer focused on the needs of babies, kids, and mothers. I was curious to know how FirstCry became a market leader in such a competitive market.

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  • How important is an omni-channel model for e-tailers in the country in the current scenario?

    Going forward, especially in India, pure play ecommerce model will take a long time to become profitable. It should reach a scale. Until then we should be patient. The only model which can become sustainable and profitable is the omni-channel model because 90% of the market still remains offline. You have to provide solutions to the offline world as well.

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  • What lies ahead for FirstCry?

    We will start our integration process which will take a couple of months. That is our first priority. Once we align our technology platform and supply chain, we will continue to grow. We will do that organically with a bigger base of revenues and stores. We have less competition and we have far more dominant power in terms of the overall merchandise and customer experience in this vertical. Within three years, we will have at least 700 stores in the country. We will be investing a fair bit of energy in building our private label. We will be going after some global brands too, to bring them to India. We will be focusing on a few inorganic opportunities also, which will be brands that create value, have great franchise and have stickiness with the customers. There are certain digital properties from a customer engagement perspective that can eventually become fairly significant. Those will also be on our radar in terms of inorganic expansion. After a year or so, we will also expand to Southeast Asia.

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  • How will this consolidation help both the parties?

    First of all, it's about building a customer base under one brand, so that the cost of building a brand reduces. Secondly, we will be able to leverage the network effect of a single brand leading to more traffic and more footfalls. Third, through the power of the omni-channel mode, there are more than 300 stores, which are closer to the customer than before. Later on, from the supply window, both Mahindra Retail and FirstCry will bring in a lot of unique merchandise, exclusive global brands. With the economies of scale, it reduces costs and increases growth margin.

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  • How do you see this merger?

    It is a coming together of two large players in the market with formidable presence on both sides, and being able to massively increase the network effect of the two large partners from demand and supply aggregation perspectives and thereby, taking the benefit of this aggregation of demand and supply into faster profitability.

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  • What are the terms of the FirstCry-BabyOye deal?

    Before the deal, FirstCry had 180 stores and Mahindra Retail had around 81 which are company owned and close to 39 stores as franchises. Now, all the 300 stores will be run under the singular brand FirstCry.com, a FirstCry Mahindra venture. The company owned stores of Mahindra will operate via a master franchise agreement—MRPL (Mahindra Retail Pvt. Ltd) and us. These (81) stores will be run by MRPL as a master franchisee to FirstCry. From a consumer point of view, it is a single brand and will offer great customer experience through an omni-channel window.

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  • Everything about Firstcry.com! How was it formed?

    Now during his days with Brainvisa, Supam had become a father and his work required him to travel a lot to the U.S. and Europe. So he used to bring back a lot of products for his newly born daughter as the quality of products available abroad could be trusted and also because many of them were not available locally. Now when he moved out of Brainvisa, he began searching for products for his daughter and couldn’t find the ones that he looked for. That is when he realised that, there was a huge demand-supply gap in the domestic market for children-focused brands, including many international brands as well. As he began researching further, he figured that, the baby and kids industry in India had an approximate turnover of about Rs.50,000 Cr and 95% of these sales were offline. And even though, the standard of living & the spending capacity on children’s apparel, with better brand image and quality, had significantly increased over the period of time, the market still remained highly unorganized, and customers didn’t even have easy access to world class brands or for that matter variety and good quality products. So the idea had now become very clear to him. He wanted to create a platform which could bring easy access for quality baby and kids products for the parents. He wanted to provide great variety but with top-of the-notch quality. He wanted to bridge the gap for the Indian parents with his model. Once all that was sorted out, Supam along with his friend Amitava Saha and with seed capital of Rs. 2.5 Cr., raised from personal resources and friends, started BrainBees Solutions. And then under the wings of BrainBees, they launched Firstcry.com in 2010.

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  • How it all began?

    Unlike most of the entrepreneurs who first opt for employment, Supam directly jumped in the entrepreneurship wagon. Soon after he completed his Post graduation from IIM, he began working on a project and launched the same in 2000. The project was none other than Brainvisa Technologies. The main strength’s of the company lied in its instructional design and end-to-end learning solutions that it provided. Brainvisa was nothing but an E-learning company which focused on helping businesses around the globe to increase the learning & training effectiveness, by designing tailored learning solutions which again focused on set & defined business objectives. In a period of less than 8 years, Supam grew Brainvisa to make it one of the largest e-learning solutions providers globally and also went on to expand his first baby to offices in the US, Europe, and Australia along with two development centers in India as well. They now also had a strong development team of 450 employees and a core team of experts in logistics, aviation, pharmaceutical, telecom, technology verticals, etc domains. As much as the growth was unbelievable, this stint of his came to an end in 2007, when he decided to sell off the company to a US-based group Indecomm Global services for $25 million. But it was very different from what it looked like! Although, he had exited the company, but he was still a part of the organisational activities till almost the end of 2009! And during the same time, he was also preparing for a grand venture which would take him to different heights.

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