Urban Ladder vision is to be the world’s best home décor destination and set global benchmarks for distinctive products, consumer experiences and honest business practices.
The furniture market in India is huge. The market size currently stands at $10 Billion. Out of which residential furniture is $7 billion and commercial is $3 billion. Total size of the organised market right now is 420 million (6% of the total market), the entire online segment is less than 1% of this industry.
Three years ago when Ashish and Rajiv moved to Bengaluru with their families, they realised the dearth of trusted furniture brands in the country. Their houses were devoid of high quality furniture. With a huge market opportunity at hand, they decided to start Urban Ladder in July 2012 with a mission of making a million Indian homes beautiful.
The lack of contemporary and aesthetically appealing quality furniture designs was and is another opportunity for them. Customers don’t want to go through a suspect quality experience. Customers are putting the furniture in their homes, which is a place of pride for them. Built around the twin tenets of design and trust, Urban Ladder helps curate good designs and makes them easily accessible to Indian home shoppers, with a hassle free shopping experience.
Ashish Goel – Co-founder and CEO
After his graduation from IIT- Mumbai and MBA from IIM- Bangalore, Ashish joined McKinsey & Company as Engagement Manager and led project teams across banking, healthcare and real estate clients for over 4 years. He then went on to serve as Managing Director of India Book House and Chief Operating Officer at Amar Chitra Katha Media where he worked on developing a portfolio of products that use innovative technology and India-centric content. He played a key role in expanding ACK’s reach by strengthening distribution in India and key foreign markets, launching online services, and partnering with TV, film and other mass media.
Rajiv Srivatsa – Co-founder and COO
After his graduation from IIT (Madras) and MBA from IIM (Bangalore), Rajiv joined Cognizant Technology Solutions where he worked in the Business Analysis and Consulting teams for over 4 years. He then went on to serve as Senior Product Manager with Yahoo Emerging Markets for over 4 years where he focused on consumer facing cutting-edge online and mobile products in the emerging markets including India, Latin America, South East Asia and Middle East.Today they are one of the leading furniture brands in the country, building a curated destination for home solutions, to help customers build well-furnished and beautiful homes.
Since inception, they have focused on innovation on the design front, while ensuring great product quality. This focus on design has helped them carve a niche for ourselves, providing our customers with a curated range of products. We currently have over 5000 products in 35 categories.
“The product, both in design and quality has been our key differentiator.” – Rajiv
Their second biggest differentiator is the way they approach customer experience. They have a Net Promoter Score of .75 which is much higher than global giants such as Amazon.
When it comes to logistics, furniture is a unique category, unlike any other because of the care required during transportation and the need to assemble and install products for a superior customer experience. They have built their own Logistics team ground up and believe it helps customer experience hugely. Holding the entire chain means they are able to quality check the products at multiple points and assemble and install the products seamlessly as well.
They have invested heavily in innovative technology solutions to solve problems such as product visualisation and to bridge the touch & feel gap. They have launched apps for complex products like sofas and wardrobes to help customers visualize the product and make the decision making simpler.
Urban Challenges And Learning In The Ladder
Logistics and infrastructure has been the biggest challenge for them. When they launched, they started pan India operations and worked with third party logistics teams to deliver furniture across the country. However, in Bangalore they set up their own delivery team. Soon they realized that customer complains about product damage were increasing in other cities but customers in Bangalore were very satisfied with the product quality and service. They realized that a category like furniture needs special care during transit and assembly and installation are critical post delivery services. They decided to take the tough call of rolling back from all other cities and re-launching only with their trained delivery and logistics teams due to unavailability of a reliable 3rd party logistics provider.
“Our mantra since inception has been about focusing on a few things and do them really well.” – Rajiv
They started with a focus on furniture instead of trying to do everything related to home decor. Also, they kept their focus online, did not give discounts and serviced only three cities. Immense focus helped set a very clear direction for them in the early days. It’s very easy to get distracted and try and do a lot of things — you will end up biting more than you can chew. This focus has helped them stay ahead in the market and establish a clear positioning for themselves.
Climbing Up The Ladder
It’s been an exciting journey so far. Having started off with furniture they now provide, décor, modular solutions (wardrobes and kitchens), mattresses and Interior décor services. They have grown 5X year on year since inception with over 60% of their workforce coming in the last year. They have a workforce of 1500 employees and are currently present in 19 cities across India. They enter each city with their own delivery and assembly team to ensure they have end-to-end control of the entire buying process for the customer. They have a commendable repeat customer percentage of 45% and their average ticket size is between Rs. 18000 – Rs. 20000.
Going forward their focus will be on:
- Product innovation: They will continue to strengthen the product portfolio with research backed thoughtful designs that are distinctively Urban Ladder. They will bring out some path breaking solutions that will change the way Indian homes are furnished dramatically. They will continue to work towards their vision of making a million homes beautiful.
- Innovative technology solutions: They believe superior technology solutions will help solve many problems of online shopping such as visualization and touch & feel. They have already launched innovative apps for complex products like sofas and wardrobes. Innovation on this front will continue ensuring customers have a seamless online furniture buying experience.
- Complete home solutions: They want to be an end-to-end home solutions provider for new home owners. They will provide complete home solutions to customers so they can build their entire home – including modular kitchens and wardrobes, and furniture to décor with them. All of this will be done with the ease of technology simplifying the entire process and complete handholding by their team of consultants and interior designers.
- Supply-chain innovation: They take pride in holding the entire supply chain being completely responsible for the complete shopping experience of each customer. Technology will play a key role in automating the process, reducing touch points to deliver a product enhancing efficiency and improving their quality of service.