Out in the field

Out in the field

Sequoia-backed outdoor gear equipment brand, Wildcraft, became commercial after a decade of starting up. Today, it is focussing on building outdoor gear as a separate industry in India and foraying into regions such as the Middle-East and South-East Asia which have similar requirements as India

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

“One of the biggest lessons I learnt as an entrepreneur was that you need to build a business based on belief. You need to create a product that you, your family or your friend will want to buy. Commercial success will come eventually,” says Gaurav Dublish, a passionate adventurer and co-founder of Wildcraft, the outdoor gear equipment brand.

Unlike most entrepreneurs who take the commercial plunge within a few months of developing a workable idea, Dublish and his co-founder K.S. Dinesh decided to wait it out for close to a decade. While the company was established in 1998 (or garage years as they like to call it), it went commercial only in 2004 to 2005. “When we started we had an innate need to break out of our comfort zone and reconnect with nature. We ran it as a hobby for close to a decade and looked at the commercial aspect of the business only when the industry started taking shape in India,” he recalls. Dublish indicates that even now products that define the outdoor industry are heavily catered to by unorganised players. Though there is reasonable awareness around what construes outdoor gear, awareness about the right product and right brand is restricted to a core group of people, who contribute to 25 per cent of the outdoor gear market. “In terms of competition too, only a limited number of players have been able to make a mark because it is a performance-based product line,” adds Dublish. Domestic players are faced with high entry barriers because of three reasons. One, a good quality product requires significant research, technological and marketing investment. Two, it is faced with challenges in the IP (intellectual property) space. And three, international players often tend to replicate what’s served for global markets, and at a high price, thus leading to lesser demand. “They will take time to customise the product to local needs and sell at lower price points,” he adds.

Today, Wildcraft sells products in three categories; clothing, footwear and accessories (such as tents, sleeping bags and camera accessories). While demand is there for all products, clothing and accessories take the lead because they are usually multi-purpose (for example, the backpack can be used for trekking as well as everyday use). “Our differentiating factor lies in product quality and features. They are light and compact, designed for utilities and can withstand multiple weather conditions,” states Dublish. The company manufactures close to 3.5 million pieces annually through its three plants, two in Bengaluru and one in Himachal Pradesh.

Usually, in an activity-led or performance-led industry, it is imperative for players to shape the industry by creating the right brand properties and exposing its audience to various activities such as marathons and cycling.

Managing cash flow

In mid-2013, Wildcraft raised its first round of institutional funding to the tune of U.S $11 million from Sequoia Capital.  The funds were used to build its brand, increase its production footprint and improve distribution. “Since we are a capital intensive business we required funds to increase production and meet the current demand. In the coming months, we will need more funds to meet our growth targets so we will be looking at more fund raising options,” indicates Dublish.

In FY14, Wildcraft recorded an overall turnover of Rs. 250 crore. Without quoting a target number, Dublish shares that going forward, as it helps shape the industry, the company plans to grow at 45 per cent month-on-month. “Usually, in an activity-led or performance-led industry, it is imperative for players to shape the industry by creating the right brand properties and exposing its audience to various activities such as marathons and cycling. This is also a great marketing strategy for us,” notes Dublish.

At sale point

Wildcraft has adopted what can be called a forward thinking sales strategy.  When asked about the importance given to online versus offline retailing, Dublish explains that ever since the team took the products to the market, they agreed that they will adopt a channel agnostic sales and distribution strategy. “We did not want to be a retailer but a consumer goods company. We decided that we will invest our energy into building the right product, quality and brand and on the distribution front, we will be channel agnostic,” shares Dublish. Wildcraft currently has 120 exclusive stores (with 20 being franchisees) in 27 cities and its products sell across 2,500 multi-brand stores. “The former contributes to less than one-fourth of our presence and the latter contributes to 25 per cent. On the e-commerce front, we were among the first companies to partner with the likes of Flipkart and Snapdeal,” says Dublish. His reasoning behind being channel agnostic is, while retail creates the visual appeal and solves the touch and feel factor, e-commerce gives larger exposure to the spectrum of products offered by Wildcraft.

Overcoming challenges

On the supply side the primary challenge Wildcraft faces is in getting its customers to pay a premium to fund research and development. “You need to balance performance at a price point which solves this challenge in India. So, we keep on looking at various materials, designs and construction technologies to ensure that we price it right and at the same time add value to our customers,” says Dublish. On the demand side, given that only 20 per cent of the Indian outdoor equipments market is organised, the challenge for Wildcraft lies in laying out a clear direction for its customers. “For example, a customer seeking running shoes will know that they have to go to a sports shoe store. Such industries have been shaped up in the last two decades. Similarly, we need to place outdoor equipment into a category so that customers are aware about where to purchase them,” explains Dublish. And this will be the key focus area going forward.

Another growth route for Wildcraft is in taking its business to global markets. It is particularly targeting developing countries such as the Middle-East and South-East Asia. “One of the biggest lessons we have learnt is how to be a value engineer to our client. We believe we have much better value proposition than brands which cater to developed markets and we feel there is an opportunity for us to be able to address developing nations which have similar requirements,” says Dublish as he signs off.


Snapshot 

WILDCRAFT 

Founders: Gaurav Dublish, Dinesh K.S. and Siddharth Sood

Year: 1998

Concept: Manufacture and sell outdoor gear products such as clothing, footwear and accessories (such as tents, sleeping bags and camera accessories)

Investors: Sequoia Capital

Presence: 120 exclusive outlets (including 20 franchisees), 2,500 multi-brand outlets and ecommerce platforms

Adventure Sports Outdoor Gear Sequoia Capital Wildcraft