We talked to Ratnesh Jaiswal of Kautage about good quality home furnishing, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: Thanks for your concern. We are doing well despite the restrictions imposed by the Covid 19 pandemic. It was certainly a new experience, especially being stuck at home in the lockdown and practicing social distancing. The fear of the virus is still there, and people would do well to follow the rules of wearing masks, sanitizing hands, and maintaining distance in public places.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kautage.
Ratnesh Jaiswal: Well, I graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, and I have over 17 years of experience in the fashion industry. I have worked with several top apparels and home furnishing companies here and abroad. So, I have a fair idea about textiles, right from yarn to retail of finished merchandise. That’s how I decided to venture out on my own. My co-founder Ranjeet comes from a NIFT background as well, with an XLRI diploma to boot. We felt there was a demand for good quality home furnishing in India that could be sourced locally. Our culture is rich in art and design, and this area of home decor is a good avenue to showcase the variety. It started with an idea, but I guess we got the customer pulse right. I am happy to say that we were profitable from the first month itself.
How does Kautage innovate?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: I always love to say,” The desi heart craves a little nostalgia every now and then.” We played on this theme when we decided to marry off our eCommerce venture with a cart to home experience. Indian customers are still a bit old fashioned in the sense that they love to feel the product before making a purchase. To help them in their decision making, we have devised a unique method whereby the customer can make his selections, put them in a cart, and actually have that cart delivered at home before making the final selection. This gives them the best of both, the convenience of checking out the entire range online and the satisfaction of feeling the product before finalization. This experiment has been a big hit with customers. Of course, right now, the cart facility is available only at Gurugram, but we have expansion plans too.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: The Coronavirus pandemic was unprecedented. The world had never seen anything like this before, and it did not feature in anyone’s contingency plan. So, all businesses had to cope with the challenges thrown by the pandemic, the ensuing lockdown, and the change in customer priorities. However, after an initial couple of months, we have seen a re-emergence of online shopping in a big way.
On our part, we added cotton masks to our product range, and they are doing well along with the sheets, quilts, towels, etc. Our eCommerce business is doing well, but we are creating an offline presence too. We have one store in Ghaziabad at present, but we hope to expand to other states soon.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: Quitting a high paying job with a top brand and going solo, bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, itself wasn’t an easy choice to make. When you realize that the salary won’t be credited on the 1st of every month and your products will have to sell for the enterprise to make money, it is a lesson. When we started off in 2017, we had only an idea to work on, and we had to make it work. Luckily for us, we are in a sector where there are willing customers. Home furnishings is a repeat purchase where the only differentiator is quality. As long as quality standards are maintained, and the prices are reasonable, customers are bound to come. I am proud to share that we have been profitable from the first month itself, and we are growing at 25% on a month to month basis.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: A fast-paced life is always fraught with stress and anxiety. We all find our own ways to deal with it. I practice meditation and yoga for my mental well being. I love being with nature. So. sometimes, I get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and go to the countryside for some peace and quiet.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: All players in the eCommerce space like Amazon, Flipkart, Shopclues are our competitors. We also face competition from offline retailers of all sizes. Our USP is our knowledge of textiles, which helps us source the best quality yarn at competitive prices and create our products in the best manufacturing facilities. One thing we believe in is that quality speaks louder than anything else. If you can produce competitively, you will always have the edge over the competition because you can offer quality at a fairer price, which becomes a win-win, especially in discretionary purchases.
Your final thoughts?
Ratnesh Jaiswal: Customer preferences and shopping style has changed dramatically over time. Keeping in mind the unique mindset of Indian customers, we have devised our hybrid online, offline format.” We are revolutionising the experience of shopping through a unique process – which we have colloquially named ‘vetail’. It’s like the whole shop coming to the customer’s home for selection. We believe this unique selling point gives Kautage an edge over our competitors.”
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