‘Create a bond between your brand and the customer’, says Furlenco CEO
What does it feel to be a top startup that is addressing millions of people and is literally the talk of the town?
Founder and CEO, Furlenco, Ajith Karimpana, gets candid about his entrepreneurial journey in an email interaction with Gairika Mitra.
What do you think is the estimated market size of your industry like?
Furlenco was established at a time when the concept of furniture on subscription was non-existent. Thus, we can say we have been instrumental in creating a market in this area. The trends indicate that the furniture rental industry will be a $10 billion market within next five years.
What kind of disruption do you think Furlenco is doing to the Indian market?
Furlenco is a furniture company with a difference. We understand the needs and lifestyle aspirations of the urban millennial Indians, and are catering to those needs in an unmatched way. We give them the convenience of access over ownership which means they do not need to carry furniture around every time they move between cities. Furlenco is an exclusively online-only subscription-based platform that is renowned for award-winning designs created in-house by our experts.
Tell us a bit about your plunge into the ocean of entrepreneurship.
I founded Furlenco in the year 2012 when the ecommerce industry was evolving in India. There was hardly any market penetration and the idea of ‘renting furniture for home’ was practically non-existent. However, I knew that things were changing and understood the experiential aspirations of Indian urban millennials. At the onset of the 21st century, jobs started becoming increasingly dynamic and numerous non-conventional fields of employment with a very high degree of mobility came up. It became quite normal for the modern workforce to switch from one metro city to another with a change of job. However, each such move necessitated investment in furniture. This was my eureka moment and I decided to cater to this target audience by offering affordable furniture on subscription with delivery within 72 hours of order placement in select metro cities.
Things turned out the way I had envisioned, and Furlenco has been posting year-on-year growth of 130%, which proves how consistent and customer-friendly our services have been. We are the first company in furniture subscription space to have been venture capital funded. Furlenco has so far furnished more than 80,000 homes in the last four years.
Were there any specific hacks to scaling your business. Please spill the beans.
We have spent a number of years and put in a lot of effort in understanding what our target group needs. The one major thing that worked for us is the tendency of urban millennials to be practical. They believe in living the moment, and are not really bothered about owning expensive things. For them, it is important to be smart and living a life that gives them the best of comfort. Furlenco’s furniture subscription services thus suit them perfectly. Infact, millennials account for 85% of Furlenco’s overall transactions today and over 1 million millennials checked out Furlenco’s offerings online over the past year. Furlenco offers them several practical benefits such as pocket-friendly subscription charges, free relocation, free maintenance, option to switch furniture, free 72 hours delivery and so on. We give them greater flexibility to spend their time and money on experiential lifestyle.
Tell us about your funding scenario at present. Are you looking forward to raising more in the near future?
We started out as a bootstrapped venture. I put in INR 50 lakh from my own pocket and managed to pool in another INR 2 crore from my friends and family. Until now, we have raised $40 million in equity and further $30 million in debt. Yes we are in the process of raising additional funds.
How would you say that are unique from other existing players in the market?
We have entirely different and novel offerings in our segment. We haven’t aimed to get a slice of an existing market, but, have successfully created a new pie of our own by pioneering the concept of offering furniture and home décor on a subscription basis. We are working towards encouraging young Indians to subscribe to a holistic experiential lifestyle which is highly affordable and enables them to do away with the need of buying bulky furniture, costly home appliances or invest in other décor elements.
What sets us truly apart from the rest is our premium and innovative designs which are created internally by our experts. We are not just offering the usual bed, sofa or table, but, innovative, stylish and high utility products which cater to the aspirations of urban Indian millennials. Further, our value additions like delivery within 72 hours, option to swap the furniture at will, free annual deep cleaning service, and the facility to get the subscribed furniture moved around within our network of cities without any cost, are some of the features which have endeared us to our TG and given us a unique market positioning.
What are your immediate and long-term milestones like?
Our near-term plans are to expand our coverage from the present 8 to 15 cities in India and serve to a million customers all over the country. We are targeting to generate net subscription revenue of INR 2000 crore by 2023.
In the longer term, we envision making furniture subscription a norm, and we have already started making progress towards that goal. Within the next 4 to 5 years, our aim is to further expand Furlenco’s customer base and offer a wider range of furniture and home décor products. We aim to be renowned as one of the most customer-centric brands in India. At present, our average tenure length is close to 2 years, and it is our endeavour to take that up to 3 or 4 years. There are customers who have stayed on with Furlenco for more than 5 years, and it is our effort to ensure that they never leave us and continue a lifelong relationship with Furlenco.
Lastly, any piece of advice for wannabe entrepreneurs?
I would just say follow your passion and believe in your ideas. It does not matter how soon you achieve your goal or not, it is important to ensure that you create an understanding and bond between your brand and the customers. Passion, perseverance, faith, and hard work are what can work wonders for an entrepreneur.