This Jaipur-Based Startup Delivers Customized Furniture At Doorsteps The online-custom furniture startup WoodenStreet has raised $3 million in series A round amidst the pandemic
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Indians love to flaunt their home decors. And what's more to exhibit than a custom-made sofa or one-of-a-kind solid-wood made showcase present in your dining room? Banking on this WoodenStreet, a Jaipur-based online custom furniture platform, has delivered furniture to more than 50,000 customers in India.
However, things didn't fall in place for WoodenStreet co-founders Dinesh Pratap Singh, Lokendra Ranawat, Vikas Baheti and Virendra Ranawat.
In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, Lokendra Ranawat, co-founder of WoodenStreet, talks about becoming the first-generation entrepreneur in his family and COVID-19's positive impact on their business.
From Engineers To Furniture Sellers
Siblings and cousins Lokendra Singh Ranawat, Virendra Singh Ranawat and Dinesh Pratap Singh, along with their friend Vikas Baheti were all well-established in their lives with their well-paid jobs before launching WoodenStreet.
Lokendra, an electrical engineer who ideated WoodenStreet, was earlier working for Birlasoft in London. Back then, he was managing sales and marketing. It was then when he realized the booming e-commerce in India. In 2012, he quit his well-paid job and returned near his roots—Udaipur.
The initial idea behind WoodenStreet was to provide a platform for Rajasthan's famous handicrafts. According to Lokendra, the platform was built to motivate these traditional artists to continue carving such rich handicraft. Lokendra and his other founders decided to launch their business online as they noted Flipkart was the sole player enjoying the market.
However, before launching the website, to get a better insight into the handicraft market, four co-founders went to various markets. It was then when the founders realized there was an untapped market for custom-made furniture across the country.
Keeping both handicraft and furniture under its hood, WoodenStreet was launched in 2015. The startup has to date sold more than 10,000 varieties of furniture across 100 cities.
Building A Sustainable Supply Chain
After launching the startup, the main hurdle the co-founders faced was to establish a sustainable supply chain. "We never felt there would be a shortage of demand, but fulfilling them was tedious work," he added.
According to him in the initial days after partnering with various logistics partners, the company noted a significant number of return products. "It gets quite difficult to deliver and install a table on 22nd floor in Mumbai," he added. However, over the years, WoodenStreet has preserved and now has set up a dedicated furniture installation team along with in-house logistics support.
Currently, WoodenStreet has a mother warehouse in Rajasthan and has warehouses in 15 major cities across the country. It now has two research and development (R&D) centres for customization and has partnered with multiple vendors to produce furniture in bulk.
The startup has come up with experience stores wherein a customer can step in to experience furniture. WoodenStreet currently has 25 experience stores.
WoodenStreet now also provides virtual reality (VR) visualization to help customers experience and visualize furniture without stepping outside of their homes.
"Custom-furniture Is Our Forte'
When asked Lokendra about his rival players, he said their forte is customized furniture which is not available in any other platform. He said before starting the WoodenStreet they had conducted a survey where 90 per cent of the homeowners opted for customized furniture. "People don't want the same furniture which they might have seen at someone else's place. In India, every house is different, so the furniture also has to be different," Lokendra added.
He also added the furniture requirement for Mumbai's small apartment will differ from any other city in the country.
Explaining the customization method, Lokendra said, "Once we receive an order for a customized product, we send it to our R&D centre, where designers work on the customer's suggestion. After the design is set, our carpenters accordingly shape the wood," he added.
The startup has delivered its products to some respectable personalities including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
COVID-19 and Anti-China Sentiment
The virus outbreak, followed by stringent lockdowns has disrupted most of the businesses across sectors. Similarly, WoodenStreet noted a massive drop in terms of sales during March and April. However, with the unlock phase, the number of sales gradually started climbing up.
According to Lokendra, as people continued to spend more time at home, they started investing more on furniture to be more comfortable.
Giving an example, he said, "We saw a massive surge in demand for study tables and chairs as work from home became the new normal." He also mentioned balcony furniture such as chairs and tea tables were in high demand.
The anti-China sentiment after the tense standoff between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) further diverted customers to an Indian origin company such as WoodenStreet.
The company has surpassed its pre-covid sales and is witnessing doubles revenue transactions compared with January or February this year.
The startup in June this year raised $3 million in Series A funding led by IAN Fund. Rajasthan Venture Capital Funds (RVCF) also participated in the round.
Global Expansion Plan
Lokendra believes that by the end of this year, WoodenStreet will witness a two-times growth in terms of revenue compared with last year. He, along with his team plans to add more than 50 offline stores across the country. The startup recently opened its offline stores in Kolkata and Kochi.
The furniture reseller also aims to mark its presence globally as it is all set to launch its store in London and later expand in other parts of Europe. Currently, they have well-equipped warehouses in Europe, where a customer can walk in to examine the furniture before purchasing.
The firm has new products lineup in the pipeline, including lamps and lighting. The startup has also forayed into interior designing to provide a complete package to a customer planning to renovate or step in a new house.