Innovation is at the core of every successful startup. Very often, these innovators find a niche market and build a product for it that is profitable and viable to manufacture at scale. If you are such an innovator, who already has that next big product idea, then you come upon the next big hurdle – how difficult it can be to find your audience for your product. There are many ways to gain visibility for your product – set up a store, tie up with distributors, build a fully functional website to purchase from – but most bootstrapped start-ups would find them too expensive.
Some start-ups have found a more cost-effective way to make a direct connection with their audience – selling online on marketplaces. Here are a few examples of how some entrepreneurs took unique, cool product ideas and then leveraged online selling to build a sustainable business.
Giving Umbrellas A Makeover
24-year old Pratik Doshi from Mumbai didn’t want a ‘normal job’. He saw a business opportunity by turning conventional black umbrellas into a funky fashion statement. More than just a utility item, he wanted to create an emotional connect with the rains. He started making umbrellas with illustrations of vada pav, chai, music, Bollywood and everything else that connects a person to the rains. He gave it an equally quirky name – Cheeky Chunk and began listing his products online when retail didn’t work out.
Initially, he was disappointed due to lack of response. But instead of giving up, he did more research about selling on Amazon, the importance of keywords, quality images and catalogues and went about optimising his listings. His efforts soon paid off – he sold 250 umbrellas in a day through and his umbrellas became a bestseller online. Since then, Prateek’s business has found sustainability and growth – currently selling around 100-150 umbrellas per day with an annual turnover of lakhs.
Weaving Handmade Dreams
When his friend Navyashree made and gifted him a dreamcatcher, Akshay Yalmuri was mesmerised by its simple yet attractive design. He began to realize that there could be a market for this unique decorative product. Deciding to take the plunge, in 2015 Akshay launched his startup ‘Daedal Crafters’ to sell handmade dreamcatchers. His mother had been marking synthetic handmade garlands for decades and he took her help to hire women from the locality to make dreamcatchers by hand.
Being located in the small district of Tumkur, he needed to make his distinctive product accessible to more people and easy to purchase, which is when he came across the idea of selling online. He listed 11 products online and within the first two weeks, all of them were sold out on Amazon. He doubled his products and saw a similar response, so he began selling his mother’s handmade garlands too. Two years on, Daedal Crafters is booming, selling not only handmade dreamcatchers but also wall clocks and lightweight wooden lanterns.
Making Science Fun To Learn
Dr Dharma Prasad, an entrepreneur and part-time professor from Mysore, had observed that students in India learn science through rote methodology. He wanted to make science fun and interactive to learn and that’s how his company, ‘Fun+Learn’ was born. He creates and sells science kits containing prisms, ammeters, copper wires and other material, with a written manual on how to conduct various experiments – giving children an interactive learning experience.
He listed 10 such products online and began to see an immediate response on Amazon. Doubling down on their initial success, Fun+Learn has expanded their catalogue to 150 products. They are now an established seller and recently saw a growth of 75%. This success also fuels a very noble cause – 50% of the profits from this venture are used to fund Dr Dharma Prasad’s charitable ‘Samvidya Trust’, which helps underprivileged children by sponsoring fees and providing them with these kits, meaning his successful educational product helps educate the children who need it most.
These three entrepreneurs go on to prove that, if you are willing to take the risk and put in a bit of effort, online selling can help your unique product find its customer base.