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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

Today's spark is a doting father who turned his pain point to Asia's largest online portal for baby and kids product – Supam Maheshwari, the CEO and co-founder of FirstCry.com. He is a great leader and executioner.

The inspiring story of Supam Maheshwari is another example that tell the world that doing what you enjoy gives you the strength to fight all odds and be successful. Life is so short to do things that you don't enjoy. So listen to your heart and do what you want to do.

Early career...

After graduating from IIM, he landed in a cushy, well paid, high profile job with PepsiCo – some may call it a dream job. But Supam didn't find it appealing enough when his heart was pointing in an altogether different direction. He finally decided to surrender to his inner voice. He jumped off the Pepsi truck and boarded the entrepreneurship wagon to create something new.

The baby step into entrepreneurship...

In March 2000, this IIM-A grad started his first company, Brainvisa Technologies, which was an e-learning start up. Brainvisa stood strong through the dotcom bubble. The instructional design and end-to-end learning solutions that it provided made Brainvisa standout from its competitors. It turned out to be one of the largest eLearning companies in India. He was one of the youngest pioneers of eLearning solutions from the Indian sub-continent.

Brainvisa soon had global presence with offices in the US, Europe, and Australia with two development centres in India and a strong development team of 450 employees and a core team of experts in various domains like logistics, aviation, pharmaceutical, telecom and technology.

In 2007, it was acquired by Indecomm Global in 2007 for $25 million. Supam continued to be a part of the organisational activity till the end of 2009 before chasing his next venture.

The cry behind FirstCry...

Supam had just become a father then. He had to travel abroad frequently for his business. He found that there are many options in baby products abroad compared to India. There was a huge difference in the quality of the products that are available in India as well. So every trip back home of this new dad had suitcases full of baby products for his new born daughter. He couldn't find similar products in Indian market. His own difficulty in finding good quality products for his child in India which he could easily find abroad got him thinking. He immediately found an opportunity here and conceived the idea of having a platform which would provide Indian parents the access to world class brands for their babies and kids. With a little research, he was clear on what he wanted to do.

The birth of FirstCry.com...

Supam and Amitava Saha, his colleague from Brainvisa, with seed capital of Rs. 2.5 crores raised from personal resources and friends, started a company called BrainBees Solutions and launched FirstCry.com under it in August 2010. FirstCry.com was launched as an online venture. He chose Pune as the base for his new brainchild as against the start up hotspots like Bangalore or Delhi. This idea of an online child-focussed store was novel to Indian market. It was a huge hit amongst the parents and parents to be.

In 2011, BrainBees launched a new business named Goodlife.com for home and personal care products. It was shut down in 2013 though.

The growth...

Supam observed that people from tier III cities do not shop baby products online and thought of ways to tap this sector. In 2012, he introduced a new trend to the e-retailers by adding offline stores, thus making it a hybrid model. He chose Tier II and III cities like Bhilai, Dehradun, Haridwar, Kanpur, Bharuch initially. FirstCry.com in parallel also welcomed enterprising individuals to open franchise stores.

2012 also saw the launch of XpressBees, a logistics business to fulfil its orders. It started taking third-party orders in 2015 and raised Rs 85 crore in funding after spinning off from FirstCry. In 2014, FirstCry.com launched its own private label called BabyHug and CuteWalk. BrainBees also acquired Mahindra Retail’s baby care business BabyOye for Rs 362.1 crore.

Marketing strategies...

FirstCry.com became the pioneer in their field in just four years. It is the most preferred platform for baby and kids product, not just in India, but of the whole of Asia. It is quite interesting to note that FirstCry.com didn't spend much on marketing except some online advertisement. It also reached out to new mothers by gifting them a FirstCry Box with sample products and discount coupons to celebrate the arrival of their little ones.

The TV ads did not go a long way. It was discontinued finding it not worth the investments made. The prices were kept the same at online and offline stores. Also a large touch screen was provided at offline stores to shop online if they couldn't find something at the physical store.

It grew mostly through word of month, from one happy customer to another and so on, spreading smile all along. He believes that customer service is an important feature that helps company to beat its competitors.

FirstCry.com today...

Today, FirstCry.com carries more than two lakhs baby and kids' items from Indian and international brands like Mattel, Ben10, Pigeon, Funskool, Hotwheels, Nuby, Farlin, Medela, Pampers, Disney, Barbie, Gerber, Fisher Price, Mee Mee and so on. With everything mummy or baby related, ranging from maternity wear to diapers, baby clothes, toys, kids clothes, footwear, school gear, feeding accessories, skincare products, prams, car seats, child safety locks, FirstCry.com is a one stop solution for all parents.

FirstCry.com is backed by some of the most prominent investors which include SAIF Partners, IDG Ventures and Vertex Ventures.

Supam hopes to change the way Indian parents shop so that they can be at home to spend more quality time with their little ones and family and strive to provide them the physical stores shopping experience online, without the hassles of driving around the town locating a shop and then a place to park the vehicle. Also he dreams of making FirstCry.com a holistic family shopping destination.

Personally...

Supam is a first generation entrepreneur. He is known for his ability to think macro as well as to go deep micro. He is a very detailed oriented person and leads by example. He is excellent at managing relations.

An avid reader and excellent mentor, Supam loves spending time with his family, watching movies, running and playing squash. He lives in Pune with his wife and daughter.

Education...

He graduated from Delhi College of Engineering in mechanical engineering in 1995 and pursued post graduation from IIM Ahmedabad.

Quotes

You become richer by experience, there is no shortcut to it.
Our focus is on constant innovation, improvement & value addition.
I love thinking about new opportunities, frontiers, ways of expansion and identifying challenges and pain points in the business so as to build significant value. I love doing this every day—thinking hard around these pointers.
My confidence as an entrepreneur of taking more risks is one thing that has over time evolved and increased. As entrepreneur, I think it’s important to take gut calls and that has become more and more strengthened over time.
The ability to create a large vision and creating goals around it has become very natural to me now. Ultimately take people along with you, as an individual you can do very little.
Whether we become unicorns or not, it does not matter in life. Being called a unicorn is not a driver of any sort, rather building the right business model, principles and values is what that really drives you!

Hope viewers caught up the spark …

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