There is no end to the Corona crisis, it seems. Just as the world, the economy and the startup ecosystem were steadily making their way back to wellness and growth, the shadow of a third wave looms large.
But every cloud has a silver lining, goes the saying. Over the past two years, the pandemic has given Indian businesses a rude push out of their comfort zone and enabled a step (several steps, actually) up the innovation ladder.
To begin with, both startups and MSMEs figured out how to get the best out of a compelling shift that nobody could have foreseen. This resilience, in itself, is heartening, but there is more.
Of all the shape-shifting we had seen, the rapid adoption of the digital-first approach and the quick disposal of middlemen from the ecosystem brought lasting value.
Today, India is a thriving hub of small and medium digital businesses, home to more than 50,000 digital-first brands and over 15 Mn active online sellers. The stage is now set for the next lift-off in the D2C space, and Inc42 has always championed the cause!
For our November edition, published close to The D2C Summit 2.0 on December 3 and 4, 2021, we wanted to bring interesting D2C brands and startups empowering the D2C wave to the mix. As we sat down to shortlist the startups, we were also keen to highlight how the internet made an impact on consumer preferences and business models.
There is no doubt that with new-age brands, innovative products and appealing private labels, the D2C ecosystem is offering more flexibility and scalability. In reality, it is disrupting traditional retail and ecommerce 1.0 even though a fast-evolving digital commerce ecosystem is expected to reach $100 Bn by 2025.
30 Startups To Watch: November 2021
With the focus on D2C startups and D2C enablers, we deep-dived into the sectors instead of unique business models and handpicked some excellent brands. With fashion & accessories and consumer electronics clubbed together, there are 14 lifestyle startups in this list. As snacking and daily food habits turn healthy, we have eight startups disrupting how India eats. Better still, we found two exciting companies doing commendable work in pet care, grooming, training and the pet food ecosystem.
Interestingly, all 30 startups listed here are less than three years old. In fact, most of them would not have been accepted by consumers or investors three years ago. Thanks to the internet, super-fast deliveries and product customisation, these startups are attracting a vast user base or solving fundamental pain points that continue to hurt many people in the country.
Check out the 22nd edition of Inc42 Plus’ 30 Startups To Watch list.
Editor’s Note: The list below is not meant to be a ranking of any kind. We have listed the startups in alphabetical order.
Why Ausum Made It To The List
India is the second-largest tea producer globally, and consuming the beverage has become a widespread custom at home and abroad. So, when Mayura Rao hit a bad patch healthwise, she wanted to ensure that accessing foods and drinks full of natural goodness should be as effortless as sipping one’s favourite cuppa.
Rao experimented with herbal beverages in her Bengaluru home and sourced tea samples from Darjeeling and fruit and spice mixes from Prayagraj for this purpose. New blends were created after extensive research on eastern medicines and their effect on lifestyle diseases, and Ausum was launched in 2019.
The brand now works with ethnobotany, ayurveda and medical experts and offers 20+ tea blends, two dairy-free lattes and two stress-relieving snack bars. All its products are handmade, and the company sells them pan-India through its dedicated website, BeatO and marketplaces like Amazon, BigBasket and Paytm Mall.
Ausum plans to add more beverages to the product mix, increase its SKUs from the existing 20 and grow its revenue 3x by the end of the current financial year. It also aims to be an F&B educator to help people make healthy lifestyle changes.
Why Awsum Made It To The List
Ayurvedic products are healthy and wholesome, but most users do not like the taste of natural substances, especially a predominantly bitter taste, in the absence of artificial sweeteners. But contrary to popular perception, Delhi-based Awsum has packaged the goodness of ayurveda in chocolate that never fails to wow our senses.
Launched in 2021, Awsum has moved beyond traditional nutraceuticals and developed a variety of premium milk and dark chocolate bars containing extracts of medicinal herbs like chamomile, passionflower, ashwagandha and more. Rich in antioxidants, minerals and therapeutic value, these supplements help cope with stress, anxiety, lethargy or sleep deprivation. As scientists have tracked a rapid rise in mental health issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these ayurvedic products can play a crucial role in reducing such health impacts.
Awsum currently focusses on four key areas — boosting energy and immunity and reducing stress and sleep-related problems.
The D2C startup claims it has already sold more than 5K chocolate bars across 15K+ pin codes via its website and ecommerce marketplaces. Its immediate goal is to launch a new range of supplements, including snack bars, beverages and more, to help control lifestyle diseases and chronic disorders. It will also sell its products across wellness-focussed marketplaces such as Netmeds, HealthKart and 1mg to reach out to more people.
Why Beco Made It To The List
In a world overwhelmed by pollution and struggling to cope with an imminent climate crisis, a startup fighting the plastic menace has a meaningful message for all.
During a beach clean-up drive in Mumbai in 2017, three friends — Akshay Varma, Anuj Ruia and Aditya Ruia — found a chocolate wrapper although the brand had shut shop in the 1990s. Appalled by how long unrecycled plastic waste can remain in the environment and harm it, the trio decided to bring down single-use plastic products and replace them with green ingredients. The outcome: Beco (Be Eco) was set up in 2018 to produce bamboo-based everyday essentials such as reusable kitchen towels, tissues, trash bags, and charcoal-infused toothbrushes and toothpicks, among others. It also uses recycled paper for packaging instead of plastic.
The startup procures its ingredients (primarily bamboo) from the plantations of North-east India and gets it processed at third-party units that make chips out of it. Later, water is added to it to make a pulp that forms the base of all products. Beco also ensures minimal factory waste as the residue is later used to make toothpicks. The manufacturing is outsourced to remain asset-light and focus more on sales through its website, ecommerce marketplaces and offline channels.
Currently, Beco has 17 SKUs but plans to increase them to 100+ by 2025, including the launch of straws and kitchen utilities. The company eyes an ARR of INR 1.5 Cr in FY22 and aims to grow into an INR 1,000 Cr revenue-making business in another four years by expanding to hyperlocal marketplaces and supermarkets.
Why Caresmith Made It To The List
The pandemic might have halted one’s regular trips to the dentist, beauty parlour and wellness centre. But way before the Corona crisis hit the world, Mumbai-based Caresmith realised these service gaps in the self-care space and raised the standards through DIY personal care solutions.
Set up in 2018, the D2C brand’s first and flagship product was an affordable range of water flossers that claimed to clean 3x better than an ordinary toothbrush. Next came a variety of pain relievers and personal care products such as rechargeable massage guns that use percussion therapy and electric toothbrushes producing up to 40K micro-brushes per minute. Caresmith has recently entered the men’s and women’s grooming market with trimmers and facial sculpting tools in its kitty. The brand boasts a strong R&D team and a well-equipped manufacturing unit in Mumbai.
In a market dominated by the likes of OralB, Colgate and even Philips, the startup claims 200% YoY growth since its inception and a customer base of more than 1 Mn.
Caresmith will soon go omnichannel and also launch the next set of wellness and daily-care products (travel pillow is one of them) to boost self-care with the help of hi-tech but affordable gadgets.
Why Cora Health Made It To The List
After the pandemic struck in early 2020, the unprecedented health crisis drove the boom in wellness foods, thanks to our newfound focus on clean and healthy eating for robust immunity. Now that a whole panoply of products is available from legacy and new-age D2C brands, people often find it difficult to decide what they want to buy. So, Bengaluru-based Cora Health has stepped in to solve this problem of plenty and simplify things for online shoppers.
The startup has set up an ecommerce marketplace for wellness products and nutritional supplements and uses its flagship recommendation engine and compatibility meter to match items with customers’ requirements. It also leverages experts’ support to help buyers choose the best possible products that suit their dietary preferences, lifestyle and health goals.
For the founder couple, Shrijit Venkatesh and Snigdha Kumar, it all started as a personal quest for healthy F&B alternatives when Snigdha was struggling to cope with PCOS. Now the company is keen to carve a niche in the wellness market, estimated to reach $8.3 Bn by 2023.
Cora charges a commission on every product sold on its platform. It also earns from ad revenue and the affiliate’s margin on value-added services such as converting loyalty points to coupons and their encashment. It has recently ventured into the corporate gifting and wellness programmes and eyes INR 100 Cr in ARR by the end of FY22.
Why F5 Refreshments Made It To The List
Every workplace has one thing in common — break times when most people go out for a quick meal, a favourite cuppa or a smoke. And many a time, it is the local chaiwala (tea seller) who is the sole supplier of these everyday goodies.
At least, that used to be the case before IIM-Lucknow alumni Raghav Arora and Lalit Kumar Aggarwal went on a student exchange programme to Europe, where office commerce has evolved into a semi-organised sector. Inspired by that makeover, the duo set up F5 Refreshments in 2018. The startup offers a wide range of refreshments, including tea and coffee, packaged water, snacks and meals. Users can order via its Android app, opt for a subscription model or walk into any F5 outlet.
Currently operational in Delhi and Lucknow, F5 has onboarded more than 50 local tea sellers/stores and rebranded them as F5 outlets for walk-in customers. Some of the refreshments are cooked in five of its dark kitchens (four in Delhi and one in Lucknow), each covering a radius of three-eight km. Dry snacks and packaged water procured from established FMCG brands are also stored in these dark units. The company uses Milkbasket’s dedicated fleet of 200 drivers for fast delivery.
It claims to serve more than 10K consumers every day and says that its gross margin from ‘in-house’ cooked food amounts to 55%. In addition, the company earns 8-10% profit from retail outlets and around 35% margin from corporate partnerships for third-party products.
F5 expects an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of INR 10 Cr in FY22 and plans to increase the same to INR 50 Cr by expanding to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad in the next three years.
Why Fitday Made It To The List
The many facets of preventive healthcare, from proper nutrients to wellness practices to immunity-boosting, have become a central theme during Covid times. But as more companies barge in with an overwhelming number of products, more people look for one-stop platforms that will cover all their needs, right from choosing healthy foods and drinks to accessing essential nutraceuticals to workout details and more. To help people meet their health and wellness goals, fitness enthusiast Suresh Raju launched Fitday in 2020.
Prior to that, Raju had ventured into the fitness category in 2016 with Genomelabs, a nutraceutical R&D and manufacturing startup. Hyderabad-based Fitday is a natural progression to e-retailing of lifestyle and wellness products as people now heavily depend on online shopping for convenience and safety.
Fitday offers 50+ SKUs under nine categories, all produced by Genomelabs. Its flagship products include nutrition supplements, plant-based meat alternatives, ayurvedic nutrients from Super Herb and packaged honey from Floney (both are sub-brands of Fitday). It also sells 1,300+ SKUs from global and local brands such as Nestlé, Isopure, OZiva, Country Side, Fast&Up and more.
The startup runs three brick-and-mortar stores in Hyderabad and offers a host of services such as free BMI analysis, personalised diet plans created by in-house dieticians and nutritionists’ advice to people during their product purchase.
The company clocked INR 7 Cr in revenue in FY21, but this is set to rise as Fitday plans to expand its offline footprint with 20+ pharmacies and wellness stores across the country. It will launch more nutraceutical products in a market expected to reach $18 Bn by 2025 and enter the underserved health insurance space where consumer penetration was as low as 4.2% in FY21.
Why Flo Mattress Made It To The List
Coming from a family business of bedding solutions called Hush, Gaurav Zatakia’s interest was piqued when ecommerce became all the rage. Earlier, offline players dominated the market and supplying mattresses and other sleep essentials to hotels meant high logistics charges and paying hefty commissions to intermediaries. So, Zatakia decided to tap into the $2.5 Bn online market and sell mattresses directly to retail (B2C) customers.
Mumbai-based Flo Mattress was launched in 2018 to do away with middlemen and stay close to consumer preferences. It also claims to be a pioneer brand that has built awareness around healthy sleeping habits and developed a variety of innovative products for a pan-India market.
Its current mattress variants include ergo (comes with gel-infused memory foam at the top for comfort) and ortho (designed for the aged for extra back support), along with cooling features, besides soft pillows, aloe-vera gel-infused mattress protectors, wooden beds and instant-beds, among others.
Besides its manufacturing facility in Mumbai, the company has three newly launched fulfilment centres in Hyderabad, Delhi and Bengaluru. It has clocked a revenue of INR 15 Cr in a little over a year of its launch and expects an ARR of INR 25 Cr in FY22, with more than 50K mattresses sold to date.
Flo is now planning to use IoT-enabled solutions to track consumers’ sleep patterns and customise its products accordingly.
Why FreshWoof Made It To The List
Although considered nutritious/wholesome, packaged dog food in India mainly contains dry biscuits or wet lumps. Aware that a diet monotony can impact a pet’s nutritional intake, Jaipur-based FreshWoof was set up in 2019 to pep up the market. It aims to bring the focus back on home-style, human-grade dog food made from plant-based ingredients that do not contain chemicals or preservatives.
The startup currently offers three ready-to-serve products for adult dogs — brown rice and beans, tofu and quinoa and oats and chickpeas. FreshWoof products are vet-approved and environment-friendly, with a shelf life of nine months. The company claims to use 60% less water, 75% less land and 90% less CO2 emissions compared to other brands.
The products are available on its website, ecommerce marketplaces and pet-specific aggregation platforms like Petsy and Supertails.
Why GIVA Jewellery Made It To The List
Fine jewellery in India is far from pocket-friendly, while costume jewellery is made from non-durable materials; the designs are often not up to the mark, and wearing a piece for a long stretch may cause allergic reactions. That is why Bengaluru-based GIVA Jewellery crafts affordable but avant-garde silver ornaments for young connoisseurs.
The startup offers a versatile range of silver, oxidised, pearl and rose gold jewellery, silver coins and fragrances based on ethnicity, minimalism and trending concepts. It has also forayed into men’s jewellery, a little-explored but highly potential segment in India. All GIVA products are made at its Bengaluru hub and sold pan-India via its website and ecommerce marketplaces. The company has also tied up with Shoppers Stop in Mumbai and Bengaluru to drive offline sales.
In FY21, GIVA posted 9x YoY growth and clocked a revenue of INR 27 Cr. And it is expecting an ARR of INR 100 Cr in FY22. The company’s long-term plan includes growing its offline sales and foraying into global markets, including the US, the Middle East and the EU. It will also target annual revenue of INR 1,500 Cr by 2025.
In spite of legacy brands and big-box retailers holding sway, homegrown D2C players have made an ambitious foray into consumer electronics and appliances, keeping in mind the critical price-quality-aesthetics balance. As more and more people worked from home and stayed indoors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, customers were always looking for new and affordable gadgets for enhanced productivity and entertainment. Sensing a newfound opportunity, Panipat-based Hammer came out with India’s first athleisure wireless earbuds in 2019, its maiden product.
Since then, the D2C brand has launched more wireless audio products, wearable devices (a smartwatch controlled by Hammer’s android app), wireless chargers and more. As it does not want to go beyond 15 SKUs at a time and rolls out new products every three months, its gadgets have a limited shelf life and consequently witnesses a sales hype.
Initially, the company had partnered with German-based Sennheiser for contract manufacturing but recently set up a manufacturing hub for its assembly-line operations. The company says it has a current production capacity of 10-12K units per month, scalable to 40K, and clocks monthly sales of 8K products on an average.
The bootstrapped brand earned INR 12 Cr in revenue in FY21, a 100% YoY growth, and targets INR 40 Cr by FY24. Hammer’s immediate goals include raising its first round of funding and making its second manufacturing hub in Badi operational for scaling up aggressively. It also plans to launch several lifestyle electronics products such as IoT-enabled smart plugs, power banks and more.
As ecommerce and D2C brands have witnessed hypergrowth since the pandemic, most of them have tied up with logistics brands to ensure fast deliveries at lower costs. But for brands/aggregators/on-demand service platforms that locally deliver items like food, groceries, medicines and more, traditional logistics do not work. Instead, they require hyperlocal logistics firms that cover shorter distances but specialise in lightning-fast mid-to-last-mile deliveries.
Realising the scope for exponential growth, Gurugram-based Hanchens was set up in 2021 to operate as a B2B2C player. It provides last-mile express delivery for perishable goods and mid-mile/same-day delivery for semi-perishable and non-perishables items across nine cities. The company runs a 150-strong EV delivery fleet (two-wheelers, trikes and four-wheeled vehicles), enables single-pick and multi-drop services and accepts COD orders. It also owns dark stores in those cities that work as micro warehouses/distribution centres.
Hanchens’ B2B clients include BigBasket, DealShare, FreshToHome, CityMall, JioMart and Modern Bazaar. Its revenue comes from payment per order and a fee-based dedicated fleet to help its clients. The company says that it has delivered more than 1 Lakh orders since its launch and generated INR 50 Lakh in revenue. Around 50% of its business came in the festive month of October.
The startup is looking to expand to more than 25 cities and broaden its mid-mile delivery service from intracity to intercity by 2022. It also plans to launch an API so that ecommerce players can seamlessly integrate its tech platform and enable smooth logistics management.
The overall furniture market in India was worth $17 Bn in 2020, but organised retail accounted for less than 3% at $400 Mn. The market share for kids’ furniture was more meagre as most of these items are made by local carpenters or procured from neighbourhood stores.
One of the reasons Indian parents prefer to buy multi-utility furniture even for kids is that children should not outgrow them too soon, thus leading to wastage of money. Aware of this price-sensitive mindset, Gurugram-based ikOOji has started an online, kid-focussed furniture mart where many simple yet modern items are manufactured in-house and boast long-lasting functionality.
Initially, the mart used to sell its furniture on ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart but later came up with a dedicated website for direct selling. It features 400+ products across 11 categories, from cradles, diaper-changing stations and nightstands to study and craft tables, nursery chairs, storages, bunk beds and more. The company also designs kids’ rooms, providing the latest and expert-approved designs and raw materials.
In June this year, ikOOji said it had crossed INR 1 Cr in revenue since its pan-India launch a year ago.
Why LetsDressUp Made It To The List
Product returns can kill ecommerce, which is especially true for apparel brands where RTOs are as high as 40%. This also underlines poor user experience as people struggle with size, styling, quality and delivery issues. The other alternative, getting an outfit tailored, can be equally tricky as finding a good local tailor is not easy. So, Gurugram-based LetsDressUp (LDU) has decided to use technology to create a personalised couture experience.
Here is how it works. A shopper can select an outfit from LDU’s ethnic and western wear portfolio or seek the help of an in-house designer to customise a design. The user can find her measurements using the LDU size chart, share the data with a designer on a video call and choose the fabric from the store. Alternatively, she can send a dress for measurements and the material for which LDU provides free pick-up.
The stitching is done by the company’s in-house tailoring team, thus ensuring more than 95% first-fits. LDU also ships tailor-made dresses pan-India minus any shipping cost.
True to a startup’s agile and asset-light approach, LDU has adopted a zero-inventory model and tied up with ready-to-wear brands for hoodies, sweatshirts and other products as a significant chunk of its revenue comes from direct sales.
It has not revealed its revenue but claims that the business has grown 100% MoM since its launch in 2019, and the company has created 10K+ unique designs. It plans to cater to the global market but has not decided on the geographies yet.
Why Liquii Beverages Made It To The List
Food and beverages account for 40% of India’s packaged food market, says Statista. But as F&B consumers become more aware of safe and healthy diets, new-age brands have started producing nutrition-rich and preservative-free products for best outcomes. Lately, quite a few cold-pressed, ready-to-drink juices have entered this crowded market. So, New Delhi-based Liquii (aka LQI) decided to launch a slightly different but equally healthy frozen fruit concentrate that can be an ideal replacement for freshly squashed fruits.
The startup produces eight variants of fruit concentrate at an Aligarh unit, and these can be mixed with water, soda, curd or milk, depending on one’s preferred smoothie. Liquii procures farm-fresh fruits and sterilises the same using the UVA to retain their microbial analogy without pasteurisation. Each portion pack contains dietary fibre and other nutrients, and no preservative or artificial flavour is added to any product.
The company initially started as a B2B venture and used to supply fruit-based beverages to restaurants. But it soon entered the retail market, and its smoothies are now sold on its website and major F&B ecommerce platforms. Liquii has recently signed a partnership with PVR Cinemas to offer a variety of smoothies besides pasta, hotdog, popcorn and soft drinks.
The Delhi firm currently serves a D2C consumer base of 5K+ and boasts 60+ HoReCa (hotels/restaurants/cafes) partnerships. It aims to reach 25K retail customers by 2023 and expand its distribution in more than 25 cities from the current 15. Liquii also plans to launch offline outlets in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru by next year and expects to reach INR 100 Cr in revenue by 2025.
Why Koparo Clean Made It To The List
Our cleaning chores have changed drastically in the wake of the pandemic. Be it veggies, fish and poultry, groceries or home cleaning, most people use chemical-laden sanitisers and cleaners that may harm kids, pets, plants and even adults.
Worried about this overuse, Simran Khara from Delhi launched a whole range of natural, toxin-free cleaning products under the brand name Koparo Clean (formerly Kopraan). These products are researched and developed by their in-house team and they are contract manufactured in Ahmedabad currently.
Koparo offers plant-based natural cleaners ranging from body washes to gadget disinfectants to fabric sanitisers/conditioners. It also discloses the ingredients used upfront and claims to be free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), synthetic dyes, ammonia, parabens and more so that they are safe for pregnant and nursing women, children and pets.
The PETA-certified brand’s packaging is recyclable, and 30% of its PET bottles are made from recycled plastic. It has nine SKUs across four categories and gets 100+ orders a day via Amazon, Flipkart, FirstCry, BigBasket and its dedicated website. The company also aims to reach a monthly recurring revenue of INR 2 Cr by the end of FY22. Other short-time goals include adding new categories to the home cleaning segment and launching a product refill programme to reduce plastic usage.
Why Mason Made It To The List
With D2C startups fast embracing the power of the internet, going digital is no longer as difficult as the next phase — managing the online storefront. As many companies struggled to cope with the technology of business in pandemic times, Bengaluru-based Mason.io decided to build a no-code ecommerce service suite for online retailers new to digital play. The startup has developed ModeMagic, a full-stack, no-code storefront toolkit, and Mason, a content toolkit.
ModeMagic offers a store merchandising toolkit, a freemium plug-in available on Shopify, WordPress and other platforms. It allows retailers to manage inventories, map consumer behaviour, display best reviews and create custom/automated badges like how many people purchased this item to convert visitors into shoppers. Plus, it enables sales task automation, including cart analysis, listing trending products and bestsellers on the top and highlighting best offers, new arrivals and how-tos to help customers make quick decisions.
Then there is Mason, a plug-in to make websites, site content and images look attractive and draw prospects. The startup provides a no-code content toolkit that can automate creating social media posts and website designs, aided by an in-built design store.
Mason has not disclosed its revenue, but it claims to serve 10K+ ecommerce brands across India, the US and Canada. The company is also planning to catapult this number to 50K by 2022.
Why MOPP Foods Made It To The List
The Covid-19 pandemic has widely impacted our food choices, and more people are now ordering home-cooked food and healthy meal kits. Noticing this trend, Gurugram-based cloud kitchen brand Mad Over Parathas & Pakodas (MOPP) has started serving fresh and healthy Indian meals through online food aggregators across Delhi-NCR.
MOPP cofounder Gaurav Gupta revealed that the idea came up when he and his wife returned from abroad and found it difficult to order non-oily snacks. So, a cloud kitchen specialising in pakoras and parathas was set up in 2019 that has grown in variety and scope. The company currently runs three outlets and operates as many brands, including the anchor brand MOPP, a wholesome, tiffin-style meal-offering called Mealy and a range of Indian curries under Mad Over Curry.
MOPP’s USP lies in its variety of stuffing (100+ filling, to be precise), fusion foods and user-friendly packaging that does not become oily or soggy for a long time. It also provides a hygiene kit containing wet and dry tissues and a hand sanitiser for health and safety in a post-pandemic environment.
Besides selling its food items on Zomato and Swiggy, Mealy by MOPP Foods also offers a subscription model so that a user can book a whole month’s order in advance for doorstep delivery. MOPP’s portal for direct ordering is under development and is slated to be launched by the end of this year.
The startup claims to clock more than 16.5K monthly orders, and its revenue run rate for FY22 stands at INR 5 Cr. In the short term, it plans to launch a fourth cloud kitchen in Delhi-NCR and a fourth brand called Biryani in a Bowl.
Going ahead, the food startup plans to scale to 250 cloud kitchens through a franchise model and aims to hit INR 400 Cr in revenue by 2025. It will also launch frozen versions of its signature snacks and build a portfolio of seven-eight food brands to carve a niche in the $1 Bn cloud kitchen market.
Why Nap Chief Made It To The List
Kidswear in India should see plenty of new fashion lines, given that 26% of the country’s total population is aged below 14. Plus, DISK and SISK parents rarely hesitate to spend on comfortable, sustainable and quality clothes for their little ones. To close the market gap in quality and trends, textile specialist siblings Raghav and Pooja Gupta from Coimbatore launched Nap Chief, a D2C brand making 100% cotton leisurewear for under-10 kids.
The startup procures organic cotton from trusted suppliers and uses environment-friendly processes to tailor its leisurewear range. It has 140+ SKUs for kids and makes sleepwear for the entire family, including matching outfits for parent(s)-kid(s) and siblings. Nap Chief has recently ventured into leisurewear for moms, a natural next step for its growing portfolio to deepen customer engagement. It also sells official merchandise of Harry Potter, SpongeBob, DC Comics, Peppa Pig and others.
Since its launch in 2019, the kidswear brand has added 25K+ customers — 50% via its website and the rest rolling in from ecommerce marketplaces. The company claims it has been profitable from the first year and has clocked INR 5 Cr in revenue by October 2021. It is now planning to go global, a key reason for heavily investing in ‘green’ products, design innovation and an omnichannel growth strategy.
Why Neemans Made It To The List
The Indian footwear market, poised to reach $15.5 Bn by 2022, is currently dominated by large corporate houses that produce huge inventories of mass-premium and premium products. But they can rarely satisfy minimalist users who prefer all-purpose footwear. Hyderabad-based Neemans has achieved all that and more as the brand has turned ‘green’ in its journey to pioneer natural and stylish footwear that fits all occasions.
The startup initially worked on R&D and supply chain but outsourced its manufacturing to overseas partners to speed up operations as most of its raw materials had to be procured globally. For instance, its key ingredient is merino wool that comes from Australia. Although some raw materials are still imported, shoes are now manufactured at a company-owned unit in Hyderabad.
Neemans offers a wide range of athleisure shoes made from cotton and recycled plastics, knit sneakers made from recycled PET bottles, merino wool loafers and joggers and flip-flops made of recycled tyres. From uppers to insoles to soles and packaging — most of the materials used are eco-friendly and sustainable.
Earlier, the company sold its products through its website, Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa and CRED. But now it has tied up with Centro Grande, Hyderabad, to spearhead offline sales and drive its omnichannel strategy. It posted INR 3.2 Cr in revenue in FY20 and plans to launch experiential zones and exclusive stores by 2022 to grow its business. Neemans is also exploring the international market to compete with the likes of Rens, Roscomar and Allbirds.
Why Nirmalaya Made It To The List
India is one of the top countries in the Global Spirituality Index, and many connect to their inner self through prayer, puja/worship and yoga. It is common to burn incense as part of these rites and rituals, but this may also lead to pollution and health hazards due to increased carbon footprint.
Sensing an environmental issue in such cases, Delhi-based Nirmalaya has started making incense sticks and havan materials by recycling the flowers offered to deities in places of worship. (Traditionally, used puja materials and flowers are thrown into water bodies to avoid trampling, but such practices trigger water pollution.) Unlike the items commonly available, these recycled materials are charcoal-free and emit less than 5% carbon.
Other products in its portfolio include gulal (Holi colour), rangoli colours for festive decorations, candles, essential oils, diffusers and backflow incense for long-lasting fragrance that helps cut down usage.
The startup has tied up with 180+ renowned temples and 2K+ residential and commercial units to collect discarded puja offerings. These are segregated and recycled to create a powdered mix that is used to make incense sticks and backflow incense cones.
A popular brand among Bollywood celebrities, Nirmalaya has served more than 7K consumers and recently entered the B2B space with corporate gift boxes, a meditation collection of incense sticks and a lifetime membership plan that offers free delivery and 10% discount sitewide. With sales spread across major ecommerce platforms and offline channels, the startup expects an ARR of $500K in FY22.
Why Open Secret Made It To The List
The Covid-19 pandemic might have made most Indians health-conscious, but their snacking habit, translating into a market size of $5.5 Bn in 2020, continued unimpaired, especially among children. Many FMCG players in the D2C space were aware of this ‘conflict’, but Mumbai-based Open Secret came forth with a lip-smacking solution.
Keen to strike a balance between taste and health, this startup rolled out a range of hot favourite Indian snacks that did not lack nutrition. It offers a budget-friendly and guilt-free snacking experience, and its range of 15+ packaged food products includes chips, cookies, spreads, shake mixes and chocolates.
Open Secret was set up in 2019 after cofounder Ahana Gautam struggled to find healthy and indigenous snacks for her kids. From sourcing to production, it claims to have gone local at every step, with the focus on nut-rich foods.
The company sells its products at the pan-India level through its website and ecommerce marketplaces and boasts a solid offline presence in 200+ kirana stores in Mumbai. After its revenue grew 10x YoY, the D2C player is planning to reach out to 1 Lakh+ kirana stores to accelerate growth.
Why Pilgrim Made It To The List
Top beauty brands across the globe usually offer curated/customised products based on a user’s skin and hair types and other characteristics. But Mumbai-based Pilgrim has taken a different route. It has decoded the world’s exotic beauty secrets and beauty regimes and brought them to Indian consumers who may not be able to access these rare items.
Pilgrim was launched in 2020 and unveiled its first beauty range that contained volcanic lava ash from Jeju Island, South Korea. After its successful pilot with K-beauty secrets, the company unveiled a French range with red vine extract, a popular anti-ageing ingredient.
The PETA-certified and plastic-neutral vegan brand produces toxin-free products in partnership with Jammu & Kashmir-based cosmetics manufacturer Naturis. Overall, Pilgrim has 28 SKUs under two categories — K-Beauty and French Beauty — and offers bundled solutions, gift sets and curated products based on individual concerns. It clocked INR 18 Cr in revenue in FY21.
The D2C brand plans to launch three more ranges by FY22 and establish an omnichannel presence by setting up flagship stores across the country.
Why Sanfe Made It To The List
Women’s menstrual health and personal hygiene are crucial, but India is yet to focus on this public health issue. To put things in context, nearly 65% of Indian women do not have access to affordable sanitary napkins, and very few talk about these due to prevalent social stigma. Seeing a friend suffering from menstrual cramps but unable to seek help, college friends Archit Aggarwal and Harry Sehrawat decided it was high time to break the taboo and secure women’s health. That was how Delhi-based Sanfe (the parent company is Redroom Technologies) came into being in 2018.
A deep dive into this space further revealed how the domestic market lacked menstrual hygiene products and other related items in spite of the presence of global behemoths like Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. To address this gap, Sanfe started manufacturing a host of products under three major categories: Period care that includes reusable sanitary pads, panty liners, menstrual cups and tampons; personal hygiene tools like stand-and-pee kits, toilet seat covers and face razors and intimate care, including scrubs, washes, wipes and products under privy matters such as hair remover, stretch mark remover and breast care products.
Sanfe manufactures its product range in-house and sells more than 45+ SKUs via its website and ecommerce marketplaces. Earlier, It had projected annual recurring revenue of INR 40 Cr in FY21. It also aims to enter the at-home grooming space within a year to grab a piece of the global market for women’s hygiene, estimated to reach $27 Bn by 2027.
Why Svante Made It To The List
Many D2C wellness brands function on the cusp of traditional skincare and therapeutic solutions to fix common concerns that often throw a spanner in everyday activities. Take, for example, fabric allergies when clothes make people feel itchy or give them a full-blown rash.
Isha Aggarwal, a fashion student at NIFT-Delhi, had suffered from these discomforts all along. So, when she met Kavya Bhupal researching sustainable fabrics, the duo decided to launch Svante to provide holistic skincare solutions.
Set up in 2020, its first and flagship product is NaturoSpray, a plant-based solution used on all kinds of fabrics to prevent allergies and heal the affected skin. All one has to do is spray it on the clothes and let it air-dry for 10 minutes. The organic compounds of the spray will release the nanotech-based formulations into the skin. It can also help with eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis. The spray is affordable as its effect stays on even after 25 washes. The product has received medical approval in India and now seeks medical certifications from the EU and the US for an international launch.
Other products from Svante include athleisure socks and bands made from cotton and bamboo threads to prevent/heal skin irritations. It is also working on anti-stain and antimicrobial beddings, linens, carpet and rug protectors.
The startup has done a soft launch and plans to adopt the B2B2C model in the next six months to reach out to people in Delhi-NCR via dermatologists. Currently, the product range is only available on its website, but it will be launched across ecommerce marketplaces and hypermarkets by FY22.
Why Swift Made It To The List
D2C enablers play a major role in digitalising MSMEs and pushing their reach across geographies. But the democratisation of internet commerce is less effective even now due to the friction between D2C brands and last-mile platforms, a market worth $6-7 Bn by 2024, a RedSeer report says.
A visit to the local artisans based in Rajasthan made cofounder Shyam Kalita realise how the gap in last-mile fulfilment could hinder business growth. That is why Kalita and his team built an ML-powered SaaS platform called Swift (aka Go Sprint) in 2018 that offers a comprehensive suite of fulfilment services, including cart and order management (similar to Amazon’s checkout page), payment processing, channel integration for shipping orders collected from any source, warehouse management and non-delivery/RTO report generation.
Swift can be integrated with any website through an API, making it easy for D2C brands and other companies to sell online and manage customer relationships.
The Bengaluru firm operates pan-India and has three pricing systems: A weight-based freight charge, a fixed percentage over the invoice amount and a custom pricing for sellers shipping more than 5K orders per month. For now, merchants need to recharge their Swift wallets and make advance payments for every delivery. However, payments can be made post-delivery if a seller has high volumes of shipments.
With more than 4 Mn end-consumers and 1K+ brands in its kitty, Swift claims 35% MoM growth and eyes an ARR of INR 20 Cr in FY22. It aims to increase the customer base to more than 5K in the next 12 months and process orders worth $800 Mn+ GMV.
Why TagZFood Made It To The List
A study by Mondelez International surveying 6K+ consumers says nearly nine out of 10 Indians were snacking more during the pandemic. What’s more, millennials and Gen Z often preferred snacks over full-course meals. To cater to people’s love for snacks without giving up on nutrition, Bengaluru-based TagZFood provides a range of ‘never fried, never baked’ popped potato chips with 50% less fat.
During his extensive international travel, TagZ cofounder Anish Basu Roy realised that India woefully lagged in packaged food. The domestic market had few healthy options for snackers or fitness enthusiasts. So, TagZFood, which claims to be a Gen Z snacks brand, has come up with a variety of bars and gourmet dips on a par with global standards. These are currently produced in the startup’s Bengaluru unit.
The company has not disclosed its revenue but says it has catered to 30 Mn+ consumers and sold 350 Mn+ potato chips packets since its launch in 2019. It further claims a net-zero plastic footprint, recycling the same amount of plastic it uses.
TagZFood plans to launch handmade chocolate and cookies by 2022 and expand to the GCC countries to drive its revenue.
Why Troo Good Made It To The List
Opting for pocket-friendly food high in nutrition value and taste always benefits people. But it does not happen all the time due to a lack of awareness. To help people eat, or rather snack, healthy without spending a lot on exotic items, Hyderabad-based Troo Good provides chapattis and parathas (types of flatbreads) made of millet to schools, offices and cloud kitchens.
The company initially provided 800+ varieties of flatbread but later expanded to snack bars and namkeen made of millet, peanut and dried fruits. It has adopted a B2B model for catering to schools and corporate houses and sells bundled products on its website.
Troo says it has sold 250 Mn+ products through its partnership with 10K+ schools across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and claims to be EBITDA positive since its launch in 2018. It expects an ARR of INR 70 Cr in FY22 and hopes to reach INR 300 Cr in revenue by FY25. The startup plans to expand to Haryana and Chhattisgarh in the current financial year and increase its retail footprint through kirana stores in Andhra and Telangana.
It also claims to empower women as micro-entrepreneurs by helping them operate as its chikki distributors in Tier 3 cities and beyond.
Why Wakao Foods Made It To The List
Inspired by the rising trend of veganism in India and worldwide, Goa-based Wakao Foods has launched a disruptive product line and sells plant-based meat alternatives made of jackfruits.
The idea took shape in early 2019 when Sairaj Dhond, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, explored a cruelty-free non-meat solution to entice the most uncompromising non-vegetarians. He worked with some of India’s best chefs to develop the product, but commercial production was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wakao was launched in August 2020, and within a year, the company claims to have sold more than 11K of its products. Wakao currently offers five categories, and the ‘vegan’ meat is produced in a technology exchange contract with Kerala-based Artocarpus Foods (AFPL).
The company sources farm-fresh products and offers raw jackfruit and burger patties under the ready-to-cook category. The ready-to-eat menu features butter jack, barbecue jack and teriyaki jack. Products are sold pan-India and also in Dubai, the Netherlands, Norway and the US. It also counts Hilton, The Oberoi Group, Ibis Hotels and Ola Foods among 60 of its HoReCa clients that serve mock meats to vegan diners.
Apart from selling through its website, Wakao is present on Wellversed, Hoi Pure, Amazon and Flipkart. Its products are also available in retail outlets such as Carrefour in the UAE and through distributors across Chennai, Mumbai and Pune.
The mock meat startup aims to earn INR 200 Cr in revenue by 2025 through offline QSR outlets in India and overseas business expansion. Wakao will enter more than 15 countries, starting with Mexico and Canada, and add 10+ distributors by FY22.
Why Wiggles.in Made It To The List
The pet care market in India is mainly unorganised and dominated by local vets, grooming salons, individual trainers and other related businesses. On the other hand, organised players in this segment include a handful of global brands in the B2B space that transact with local vendors and often struggle to connect with pet parents for better customer engagement. To ensure seamless operations and ease of access across the industry, Pune-based Wiggles.in is aggregating every petcare service on offer, from food and nutrition to medicines, from pet training to grooming to pet boarding services and more.
The startup has tied up with ecommerce companies to offer all sorts of dog and cat products all over India. It also provides vet-on-call services in Mumbai, Pune & Hyderabad for various pets, including cats, dogs, and other small animals. There is a SmartVet service as well for video consultation. Although surgeries are not done at home, Wiggles provides at-home grooming services (cats and dogs) as well as boarding, daycare and training for dogs (only in Pune). It has recently ventured into building a blood bank for pets, and the initiative is called Bonded By Blood.
Wiggles has 42+ SKUs across 17 categories, sold on its website and third-party ecommerce platforms. Additionally, it has tied up with local stores to boost offline sales. The company eyes an ARR of INR 17 Cr in FY22, and its short-term plans include venturing into small pet grooming. It will also enter the wearable diagnostics market, genetic testing and stem cell therapy besides finding a cure for epilepsy in dogs.
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