On a latest trip to Gujarat, I made a tick list of the electronic objects to carry. Mobile. Check. Charger. Check. MP3 participant. Check. Power financial institution. Check. Unfortunately, I did now not upload an Apple USB cable with which to charge the iPod and, as a result, needed to shell out INR 350 to a neighborhood ‘cellular restore’ outlet for an unbranded model of the equal. The cheaper one worked out to INR 150 and turned into reportedly no longer well suited with a pc’s USB port.
This ache factor – of reliable, first-class add-ons for cellular devices – is one which plagues the average Indian on a every day foundation. It surely did Komal Agarwal.
“I become always running out of battery on my telephone, it wished charging multiple instances an afternoon. And, of direction, I had a nasty dependancy of not sporting the charger anywhere with me,” she starts with a chuckle. “Power banks, inevitably, have been the want of the hour.”
This become as a ways back as 2013 – while telephone penetration within the country become just catching hearth and Flipkart had just been topped a unicorn. Komal, armed with an MBA degree in Marketing from IIM Calcutta, did not need to enter the installed own family business of making electricity inverters. “I desired to start some thing of my personal. And when I did a bit digging around in the area of power banks and cellular add-ons, I discovered that tons of the present Indian marketplace consists of unbranded items – it changed into frequently ‘use and throw,’ got here with none QA checks, became unreliable and had no clean brand as a pacesetter.”
She placed her private pain (and that of countless friends) to good use and approached her father with the concept of launching a brand new vertical – one that could cater to the desires of the newly minted Indian cell telephone user – Pebble.
“I Wanted A Happy, Friendly Name”
As she places it, when she came up with the idea and did her due diligence she observed that there had been no Indian brands inside the strength bank segment. “In truth, while we requested round, no one even knew what the time period supposed, despite the fact that Sony had brought a model, lately lower back then,” she said.
Her schooling and marketing history stood her in excellent stead as she narrowed down at the components of the energy financial institution. Existing troubles inside the product blanketed bulkiness (the extra the wattage, the heavier the financial institution), portability, in addition to a pleasing aesthetic. And the most critical one, “Without high-quality testing and verifiability, those merchandise were no longer verifiable – a 10,000 mAH bank would frequently not have the desired ability.”
“A cell is something that all of us convey now. After conducting a extra formal research into the problems regarding electricity banks, we narrowed down our attention to those 3 troubles – aesthetics, bulkiness and in-built USB cables,” she says, of the revel in.
Komal then leveraged her father’s information within the production domain – the parent agency, SRK Powertech Pvt. Ltd had a manufacturing crew in China’s Shenzhen and Foshan provinces for UPS converters. All the product development and layout have been accomplished with the help of these specialists before the organization and its first variety of strength banks became released in 2013.
The production process is explained via Komal as: “Our technical crew in China develops and designs the goods primarily based on the necessities despatched from the advertising and marketing team in India. These products are then synthetic in decided on agreement manufacturing facilities as in line with specifications given with the aid of the tech team. Once the products are manufactured, they go through QC via the factory in addition to our in-house tech crew and necessary certifications are received like BIS, CE, etc. The final products are then packaged and sealed and shipped to India.”
Coming from a advertising and marketing made her privy to the importance of branding – all-eating for you to attraction to the common Indian millennial. “We desired the call of the emblem to stand for some thing satisfied, friendly, and easily recalled. I turned into certain I did no longer want a ‘techy’ name.”
In Komal’s motive, a pebble stands for small, transportable, and some thing that could climate the elements – traits that had been innately related to the goods that the vertical became seeking to launch. “Even lower back then, I changed into certain we weren’t only a power bank employer.”
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And so it changed into, that Pebble came to market with a number of low-cost, transportable, aesthetically-alluring strength banks with capacities starting from as little as 2,600 mAH to ten,000 mAH within the price variety of INR 600-INR four,000 – based out of Noida with a 6-7 member crew.
“Old School Partners Had Difficulties Dealing With A Woman”
Any entrepreneur really worth their salt knows the demanding situations of starting off – elevating investment, organising product-market suit, the issues are severa. Add within the truth, that you’re a female and the troubles start to tackle a special dimension.
“I’ll be sincere and say that at the product the front, we never faced any main challenges while launching. Firstly, the range of products that we released on the outset and at the price point that we did, allowed us to cater to a much wider variety of clients,” says Komal. “We were additionally capable of leverage the contacts and connections of the figure logo in order to establish facetime with nearby vendors and networks too.”
But there was a flip side to this specific benefit – dealing with the channel partners in North India, which changed into the first area in which Pebble stepped in. A lot of the nearby channel partners have been from the old school of idea.
“They had been experienced and knew the business interior out, however they'd an concept: ‘Oh, she is a young lady with a flowery degree. Can we without a doubt talk enterprise with her?’ They were a piece patriarchal and needed to be delivered around to seeing me as a businesswoman first, and a female 2nd,” she adds.
Komal had a bonus when it got here to managing this thorny issue of range and illustration in enterprise – having received paid up capital and unsecured loans from her father Ajay Agarwal to the track of eighty%, while the ultimate 20% has running capital from banks – she had sufficient cash. “We employed older salespersons who could communicate their language and deal with those partners,” she exhibits.
Omnichannel Retailing Is The Go-to Model
Pebble operates on a B2B version and is to be had throughout channels including – mother and dad stores, on-line platforms, and retail chains. The SKUs are bought on a in step with unit foundation, after being fastidiously nice tested with an ISO 9001 stamp. The products get manufactured in China via subcontractors and are warehoused in Delhi, from in which they are shipped to the various channels.
“We discovered early on that with the appearance of smartphones, energy banks were a huge market. The best market we wanted for the primary two years.” In fact, in keeping with Komal, in 2014 – the product had penetrated into 12 states across India and the sales group needed to make bigger to preserve up with growing demand. As disclosed by using Komal, the enterprise generated a turnover of INR 3 Cr in FY 2013-2014.
The B2B model also underwent a bit of a selection in 2014, with Pebble taking pictures a reasonably new and no longer-thought-of vertical, which has given that changed into their biggest market, in phrases of sales.
“Travellers frequently overlook their mobile chargers and power banks whilst they come to the airport and look for one desperately. It is any such primary want and a constant one, at that. At the coronary heart of it, electricity banks are basically a journey-associated product,” she says.
It is to this end that the employer then decided to tie up with AVA, the shopping arm of Jet Airways India which had stores in 33 airports. As in keeping with Komal, the power banks become a bestseller with 10,000 SKUs being offered in a month thru the inflight catalogue in 2014, itself.
One of the primary methods Pebble sought to differentiate itself from the herd was with the aid of making the product proper. “Existing players had been quite smart – they noted 10,000 mAH potential at the packaging when the battery supplied most effective 4,000 mAH charge – the real potential was manner lesser than became paid for.”
These products allowed Pebble to establish product-market fit by the cease of 2014. One of the key motives Komal attributes to this incidence is the shops, wholesalers, and contractors, the B2B dealers had additionally started out to trust the logo and circulate the SKUs, on a regular foundation. An preliminary challenge that needed to be conquer.
A standardised consumer care service with widespread alternative guarantees, pickup-and-drop association additionally contributed to the brand gaining favour with the target audience. When requested about the sustainability of carrying out such an intensive workout for a product that costs less than $25 (INR 2,000) she says, “The cause why this programme is viable is due to the fact our rate of grievance became 1% and, we've tried to preserve the equal.”
Diversifying Into Higher End Accessories
Pebble is an Indian electricity bank – a concept that, after a little little bit of digging on-line, I found is atypical and unusual, because of the complete lack of acknowledged Indian manufacturers in the cellular accessories area. The business enterprise’s decision to only attention on its middle strength – electricity banks – proved a legitimate one with the 4 channels supplying PMF in addition to setting up the logo as trustworthy. In reality, in keeping with her, the Sleek electricity banks within the 2,six hundred mAH-10,000 mAH are nevertheless one of the bestselling merchandise for the company.
From there, it become an clean jump to increase the product line and diversify into different classes consisting of Bluetooth speakers, headphones, USB cables, health bands, cell chargers, selfie sticks, OTG (on-the-move) pendrives and chargers (which might be mainly for iPhones and reportedly some other bestseller) and, ultimate however no longer least, even cheap VR headsets.
With Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, Samsung Headgear, and the Snap! Glasses already making great inroads globally on the virtual fact headset the front, and Pebble is eager to set up a homegrown brand for the same.
“Pebble Matrix Headsets convert your telephone into a actual 3-d theatre with a special in-built 43mm long focal length army excellent lens that can be adjusted for student-distance and sight-distance. Unlike Samsung Head Gear, and are like minded with all cellular telephones (Android and iOs) which can be inside the size range three.Five inches – 6 inches,” says Komal.
The concept is to truly load a 3-D film or game onto the smartphone, slip at the headset and enjoy 360-diploma viewing. The headset is also comfortable to use for longer periods with adjustable straps of PU leather and reminiscence foam.
“When we entered into an all-new product play, we never realised another channel of revenue and distribution might open up for us – corporate gifting,” shares Komal. In 2015, once the new strains have been launched and accepted enthusiastically via channel partners and customers alike, Pebble stepped up its recreation and ventured into company gifting – through tying up with close to 500 corporate gifting companies. “In truth, we are the favored providers for 2 hundred of these organizations. And we've Mahindra, Hindustan Unilever, AVG and primary pharma groups on our purchaser roster,” she provides.
Komal attests to the fact that at any given factor, at least 2,000 of their SKUs are to be had for delivery everywhere ensuring bulk quantity availability, a core requirement when it comes to corporate gifting.
Levelling The Playing Field With Global Competitors
In the middle product – energy banks – agencies along with Mi, CNY, Lenovo, Amgrain, Portronics who may be counted as competitors. “But the distinction is that those men had been promoting on line, and only online. And their rate factors were a bit high at the higher-quit energy banks. When we maintained lower price points and provided exceptional products, it changed into clean to seize extra of the net market proportion.”
When it involves dissecting the sales percentage generated via each of the markets, Komal discloses that 30% of the percentage comes from general exchange and modern-day exchange (which includes travel retail) and from company gifting each.
Online bills for the remaining 10%.In the opposite product categories which includes audio system and headphones, set up gamers along with Sony, Phillips, SkullCandy, JBL and so forth. Are dominating the net-offline area. “We do no longer really bear in mind them our direct competition due to the fact again, it all comes returned to charge,” says Komal.
“Our target market is a person who can manage to pay for best up to INR 1,000 for a couple of extremely good headphones, or maybe less than that, who wants to make an impulsive purchase. The charge variety we play in is among INR one thousand-INR 3000, something the bigger manufacturers cannot find the money for to do, in the intervening time.”
Komal reveals that in terms of percentage of sales shares: energy banks and audio speakers account for fifty% and 30% of the percentage, respectively, at the same time as the rest of the product lineup make up the remaining 20%.
When it involves USB chargers and cables, the issue becomes thornier. “Most of this market is gray, due to unbranded products making their way into the hands of clients, whether on line or offline. Ninety% of this marketplace is unbranded. And humans purchase the first component they see on-line, as they recognize nothing comes with quality or protection assurances.” She does affirm that these accessories sell anywhere, within the smallest retail shops within the regions that Pebble is lively in.
Perhaps, this is why, the organization is now seeking to penetrate deeper into niche markets inside the accessories lineup – with innovations in OTG, even wireless accessories, finding out battery troubles/garage issues in smartphones. One of its cooler plays in the coming year is supplying digital camera lens for smartphones as an attachment characteristic. It is also looking beyond India to make bigger to Southeast Asia as well as the Middle East in FY 2018-19, along side awaiting a yearly turnover of $3.Sixty two Mn (INR 24 Cr).
But, with extra than 15 states yet to be captured in India and one thousand million human beings to serve, the forty-member robust Pebble’s bypass across the movement is yet to make it to shore.
The contemporary market size of the Indian cellular accessories market is round INR 8,000 Cr. According to an Allied Market observe, the global marketplace for cell smartphone accessories is expected to garner $107.Three Bn by using 2022. But the hassle that exists in India is the grey market – wherein 80% of the add-ons come from unbranded companies, resources. It is that this primary problem that Pebble, as a brand, is trying to hassle resolve for.
While the marketplace might be huge, and Pebble would possibly discover fulfillment in the new enterprise channels it is getting into in, set up gamers exist in each of its product lineups – be it audio system, headphones or VR headsets. These gamers have coins reserves, worldwide distribution networks, in addition to emblem loyalty from having existed for decades. How Pebble could be capable of appeal to clients beyond sure strata is the subsequent task for the enterprise, as well as attaining scale in the areas it hopes to enlarge in.