The headphones and earphones market is a fairly customized section, given that there may be hardly any plain vanilla hardware. Most manufacturers build with a design differentiation in thoughts, be it casual/home listening or song exercising, genre-specific features or immersive gaming necessities, hoping to enthral their target audience.
As new trends come up, existing manufacturers cross all out to high-quality-track their products. But in a fiercely aggressive marketplace with deep-pocketed gamers, new brands on the block frequently find it difficult to innovate or appeal to the right target audience.
A few years in the past, Delhi-primarily based headphones startup Leaf Studios confronted this conundrum. Not trying to enter the marketplace with out a audience in mind, or a USP, for that be counted, cofounders Ayush Banka (COO) and Paras Batra (CMO) commenced exploring customers’ pain points in this area.
Eventually, they'd their eureka second and determined to create a brand new area of interest that no person had attempted before. Leaf Studios determined to expand headphones for folks that love to binge-watch content on the telephone, PC, TV or another cool device for entertainment.
When we are saying gadgets, it's miles a for the reason that the section requires a whole lot of experimentation and innovation to thrive. But not anything a good deal befell in the earphone-headphone market in India, at least no longer earlier than 2014. From then on, a bunch of homegrown startups like Delhi-based totally boAt, Gurugram-based Noise and Mivi from Hyderabad have streamed in with modern desi merchandise that featured long lasting builds, wireless tech, lively-noise-cancellation and plenty more. Better nonetheless, they're low priced by using Indian requirements.
The marketplace growth has not disillusioned, either. In FY20, the sector clocked a sales of $805 Mn. It is expected to develop at a CAGR of four.7% at some point of 2021-2027 and hit $1.Eleven Bn, according to Research and Markets.
Building For Binge-Watchers Amid Challenges
According to Hamburg-based totally market analysis firm Statista, the total variety of net customers in India quadrupled among 2010 and 2017 to attain 422 Mn.
Further, the 12 months 2017 also witnessed a 5X increase in online video consumption in India, with 96% of the usage focussed on lengthy-form video.
This become the time whilst Batra, an IIT-Delhi alumnus and Banka, a Delhi Technological University alumnus started running with some producers in China, gave them a product blueprint and element necessities and asked the producing unit to build the primary set of Leaf earphones. The product development exercise grew to become out to achieve success and the producing value turned into proper enough to launch value for money products.
Therefore, the duo determined to release Leaf Studios and sell earphones to its target demographic, specifically Leaf Move, Leaf Rush, Leaf Dash 2, Leaf Dots and Leaf Pods. The enterprise has additionally released a series of headphones namely Leaf Bass, Leaf Bass 2 and Leaf Hush.
The startup took the ecommerce route and started out selling on Amazon in the same year. Its first product was a couple of wireless earphones called Leaf Ear, priced at INR 2,500. The emblem’s stock of 1000 merchandise become an immediate sellout. Given the beneficial reception, the founders decided to scale up and take the direct-to-customer (D2C) course for value-powerful income, distribution and marketing.
Amid the pandemic, the consumption of virtual content material increased which led to Leaf Studios witnessing a 4x jump in revenues during the last twelve months
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Although coming from an electronics engineering historical past, they understood the core era, the operations aspect frequently tripped them up. One of the key demanding situations become tracking and controlling output nice, specially while there was large-scale manufacturing. The founders took advice from enterprise veterans to clear up this quick and construct a stable supply chain. The next massive undertaking for Leaf Studios became emblem constructing.
“A lot of people assume that an excellent product will contend with the whole lot else. But that couldn’t be similarly from the reality. A proper product can create accept as true with and set off word of mouth, however it can't evoke feelings to be able to cause brand loyalty. That can most effective come from brand building and right storytelling,” says Batra.
To grasp the artwork of logo-constructing, the cofounders set on a adventure and talked to different D2C founders for insights. And during those interactions, a key point emerged: The emphasis must be on building a community around the use case of a product in preference to just talking about product functions as the latter can frequently be regular at the same time as the former helps create an identification for the logo.
Developing A Differentiated Strategy
That realisation become a turning point because the cofounders went all out to develop a valid USP by way of addressing film buffs and people who binge-watch TV shows (or OTT content, put up-pandemic).
“Through our emblem-constructing activities, we attempt to hook up with this specific persona trait (binge-watching). When human beings come across someone with Leaf headphones, they need to recognize he/she is a film buff,” says Batra.
The startup’s social media and content techniques in addition focus on community building, engagement and value advent. Its posts on social media have fun binge-watchers and provide film/TV display tips and critiques instead of ordinary product promoting. This allows clients get a sense of belonging and interact extra, ensuing in advanced conversions due to higher logo familiarity.
The next step was to clear up for the binge-watchers and identify demanding situations they face with present merchandise in the market. These protected uncomfortable hardware (many suffered wonderful bodily discomforts after using headphones for a long length), short battery life than what’s required for binge-looking and a lack of balanced sound instead of boosted bass and treble.
The first two problems have been tremendously less complicated to clear up, however the third one proved to be complex. The agency began to get contradictory comments as a few customers found the bass too loud while others felt it turned into too low. After analysing the feedback, Leaf had another revelation. The product changed into now not the problem; it was all approximately how people perceived sound.
Such findings may appear biased before everything, they have got a base. In 2018, an audio illusion puzzled people as they have been not certain whether a pc-generated audio clip from vocabulary.Com said ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’.
There became furious disagreement (much like the 2015 gold/blue get dressed controversy or the traditional face/vase phantasm) as anyone heard one aspect or the other. Resolving the confusion, Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories, defined that one-of-a-kind people understand sound in a different way on a physiological level due to age, gender, genetics and different non-public demographics.
To resolve the sound hassle, Leaf Studios advanced and patented a era in December 2020 referred to as personalized sound, in which each pair of headphones would paintings in sync with its user. The agency allows people to down load an app and use the headphones to take listening to tests in order that the hardware can apprehend their perception of sound and alter its sound as a consequence.
A Growth-Enabling Logistics Solution
Finally, it came to logistics operations and the exceptional practices required for max increase. Leaf Studios faced a prime mission in phrases of RTO (go back to foundation) that continues to plague all D2C brands. Delivery failures mean brands must pay double the freight price with out promoting anything. Besides, with ecommerce behemoths like Amazon and Flipkart offering identical-day and subsequent-day delivery functions, customers count on the same from all D2C brands.
The issues do not prevent there. No count which 3PL associate is in rate of the final-mile transport, it's far constantly the brand that receives represented. So, a logistics accomplice ought to ensure an super publish-purchase enjoy or the brand worried has a tendency to lose clients. Put collectively, those factors ultimately hurt a agency’s income and revenue, and hanging a gainful partnership in this area becomes increasingly more difficult.
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Leaf Studios labored with various courier partners and 3PL businesses before collaborating with Delhi-based Shiprocket, an end-to-give up logistics company that has helped lessen the startup’s RTOs by using 20% and progressed its sales extent by way of 25% in the ultimate three hundred and sixty five days.
Currently, Leaf Studios is increasing its product line and looking to mission into soundbars, a large fashion in this section. It is also experimenting with energetic noise cancellation (ANC) and plans to convey this top rate function to its value for cash phase. The enterprise has already launched ANC headphones called Leaf Hush.
The startup also intends to shift its production from China to India and domestically construct its merchandise to generate employment in India and improve its profit margins.
“The destiny belongs to professional manufacturers with energetic communities and no longer generalists. Brands that build themselves round particular use instances and function themselves as experts are going to do well within the destiny,” concludes Batra.