covid: Covid outliers: Smaller e-commerce manufacturers that thrived through the pandemic

The story of Suryaflame is certainly one of grit and perseverance. Since its starting within the early Eighties, this Delhi-based kitchenware firm has needed to battle with retailers and wholesalers to wangle some shelf house alongside greater and extra well-liked manufacturers resembling and Status. However all that modified when the corporate opened digital channels.

Now Suryaflame sells over 5,000 fuel stoves and 1,000-odd mixer-grinders day-after-day. It additionally manufactures and sells irons, copper bottles, utensils and kitchen chimneys in massive numbers. Larger on-line orders have helped the corporate e book a ten% gross sales progress each month for the previous two years. These have been pandemic years when the concern was that solely bigger manufacturing manufacturers with sizable stability sheets would survive. The prognosis for smaller, native producers was dire.

Suryaflame is likely one of the corporations that bucked the prediction and thrived throughout Covid-19, because of ecommerce platforms. A few of them booked four-six instances progress in turnover, albeit on decrease bases. ET seems to be at 9 such outliers throughout client areas.

It took practically 40 years for Suryaflame to go pan-India, with its merchandise obtainable in lots of pin codes throughout the nation. Says Vaibhav Malhotra, MD, Suryaflame: “The kitchenware business is very decentralised and aggressive. It’s nonetheless on the mercy of huge wholesalers and retailers. However with ecommerce developing in an enormous approach over the previous two years, the bottom is altering quick. At the very least the digital house is a level-playing discipline. The competitors is comparatively honest there.”

deep dive (graphic)ET Bureau

Ecommerce platforms resembling Amazon, Flipkart, Udaan and Meesho have helped many shoppers uncover quite a few small manufacturers. The frenzy so as to add extra sellers on the platforms and the race to the hinterland to attach with extra patrons have helped these producers develop at a sooner clip. Excessive smartphone penetration, low-cost knowledge and shoppers’ eagerness to buy on-line throughout Covid have helped these native companies. “Scaling up is essential for any product producer. However to scale up, they want entry to an enormous market, a community and credit score assist. Properly-established ecommerce gamers have managed to supply all of the three crucial parts to small producers,” says

Bidasaria, enterprise head (common merchandise), Udaan, a outstanding B2B shopping for platform for retailers and merchants.

Parth BidasariaET Bureau

“Ecommerce platforms might take away a number of provide chain-related bottlenecks. Covid-19 hastened digital adoption in India — each on patrons’ and sellers’ sides. Producers might leverage the success of those platforms. They benefited from market entry and well timed funds,” he provides.

Can this maintain as we transfer to a post-pandemic or living-with-Covid age? Whereas figuring out markets and getting new clients have been comparatively simple for digital-savvy enterprise homeowners, excessive enter value, energy scarcity, slackening demand and extreme debt might derail the expansion path of smaller producers.

Earlier than the pandemic, Tweakymod, a Hyderabad-based firm that manufactures cell phone covers, fulfilled barely 80-100 orders per day. However as soon as it began promoting on ecommerce platforms in 2020, orders went by the roof. In 2022, it achieved 10x progress in gross sales over 2020. The corporate fulfils over 2,000 orders day-after-day.

Throughout competition season, Tweakymod books over 5,000 orders a day. “We’re pondering of including newer product strains. We’re in a position so as to add a number of worth to our merchandise as a result of we manufacture them in-house,” says Raghavendar Gupta, founding father of Tweakymod. “We function on first rate margins; our merchandise are bought all around the nation now. Solely logistics should be streamlined. Fairly often we have now to attend for different bulk consignments to collect at hub areas to have our items dispatched too,” he provides.

Equally, Delhi-based Pexpo, which manufactures and sells vacuum flasks by on-line and offline modes, has been posting a month-on-month gross sales progress of 20% over the previous one 12 months. The corporate sells near 18 lakh vacuum flasks a 12 months. “We have now a number of aggressive benefits as a result of we manufacture domestically. We’re in a position to promote our merchandise at MRPs which are 30- 35% decrease than these of established manufacturers,” says Vedant Padia, founder-director of Pexpo.

Vedant PadiaET Bureau

However enterprise has develop into powerful for Pexpo with metal costs going up. Commodity value inflation is hurting many corporations. Metallic costs have gone up 70-90% over the previous two years, prompting many to redraw their manufacturing plans.

“We work in a really price-sensitive market, so we can not go on added value to our clients,” says Akash Suresh, founder CEO of Bengaluru-based Ahar, which makes a variety of strain cookers and different kitchenware. “To retain our market share, we are actually manufacturing lighter kitchenware however with prime quality and security requirements. We have now additionally lowered metallic scrap to an amazing extent,” he provides.

When it comes to on-line gross sales, Ahar has completed appreciably properly, with its merchandise reaching many corners of the nation. The corporate has launched 25 new merchandise over the previous 12 months, however its best-selling product stays the 3-litre cooker, which logs gross sales to the tune of fifty,000 items a 12 months. Ahar’s gross sales have been rising 15-20% yo-y since 2020.

Akash SureshET Bureau

Regardless that persons are purchasing on-line, the quantum of their purchases has come down sharply over the previous few months, says Sagar Kohli, MD of Foxglove, a Ludhiana-based bicycle manufacturing firm. “Demand has tapered fairly a bit since January. Prospects are ready for costs to chill down. Even resellers have trimmed their inventories. Additionally, for cycle producers, the previous few months haven’t been nice because of the torrid summer time,” he says.

Sagar KohliET Bureau

The corporate sells over 8,000 cycles a month now, up from 4,000 earlier than the pandemic. Foxglove sees higher gross sales conversion charges on-line. The rising variety of biking lovers, particularly throughout Covid, has helped the corporate.

Most producers who promote on-line should do a little bit of digital and social media advertising and marketing to extend their visibility. Priyanka Jaiswal, founding father of Ghaziabad-based Samridhi Design Creations, sells over 1.5 lakh items of oxidised jewelry each month. She has managed to double her enterprise over the previous two years on the again of on-line advertising and marketing and social media presence. “Visibility is essential if you wish to promote on-line so we focus so much on advertising and marketing our merchandise,” says Jaiswal. “The most effective factor about ecommerce platforms is that their funds are common. Higher money move helps us make investments extra in our enterprise. The broader attain we get on these platforms assist us get clients from smaller cities and cities as properly,” she provides.

Priyanka JaiswalET Bureau

Most producers favor a hybrid gross sales mannequin – the place they promote by on-line platforms in addition to by offline networks resembling conventional stockists, wholesalers and retailers. Cell phone equipment producers depend on each channels to drive up gross sales. However comparatively lower-value merchandise resembling energy banks, chargers and earphones promote in massive numbers on-line.

“Cellphone equipment is a fast-moving class so we have now to be each on-line and offline to put up greater gross sales,” says Sahil Kandhari, founder-CEO of Dvaio, a Delhi primarily based equipment producer. The corporate sells over 2 lakh audio merchandise (earphones, audio system) each month. Its gross sales have grown by 20% over the past two years. “Digital channels may give you a wider attain that offline fashions can’t. Additionally, you possibly can create your individual house within the market with very low funding.”

The usage of each offline and on-line gross sales channels is fascinating, however in some product classes, offline markets have come to a grinding halt. Take the case of garment producers who’re pressured to push-sell their wares on-line. Many offline garment sellers in South India aren’t stocking up as they don’t count on many patrons at elevated value factors. “Cotton costs have gone up considerably; tee shirts that bought for `80 a couple of months in the past now value `120. Offline merchants have stopped ordering recent inventory from producers,” says Rajat Jain, proprietor of Smartees, a tee-shirt model primarily based out of Tirupur and Coimbatore. Smartees will get over 7,000 on-line orders day-after-day, up from 2,000 orders in 2019-20. Throughout festivals, it sells 14,000 items a day. Final fiscal, the corporate booked gross sales value `32 crore. “Offline enterprise is troublesome as a result of there are many intermediaries within the worth chain,” says Jain.

Most of those MSME homeowners have plans to develop their companies and product strains over the following few months. Many are establishing manufacturing crops. Platforms resembling Meesho and Udaan provide loans to SME homeowners both by their very own books or through NBFCs and financial institution tie-ups. Says Lakshminarayan Swaminathan, CXO (provide progress), Meesho: “The thought is to promote high quality merchandise at reasonably priced costs. Value turns into much more essential in instances of inflation. We’re nonetheless seeing moderately good demand on our platform; 70% of our patrons are from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. They’re nonetheless shopping for,” he provides.


A number of small producers have taken a number of debt on their books. There’s a drawback of overleveraging in sure pockets. Solely sustained demand and money flows will assist these corporations scale back debt over time. Inflation is the sword hanging over their heads. “MSME turnover is pretty secure even now; however overleveraging is a matter,” says Mukesh Mohan Gupta, president, Chamber of Indian MSMEs. “The federal government must management inflation to maintain up demand.”

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