For many across the country, the length and breadth of their family business begins from a small part of the town and concludes within it. Such MSMEs have been running the entrepreneurship culture for decades now. But, every once in a while, a successor taps on these businesses' true potential and gives them a stage to shine.
Things weren’t so different when Raghunandan Saraf, an MBA graduate from Shree Ram College of Commerce Delhi, joined his family’s furniture retail space in 2009. Although the company was exporting to the global markets of England and Germany, the sales within India showed a dire state of affairs.
A technology enthusiast at heart, he saw an opportunity to bank on the e-commerce boom. In 2014, Raghunandan ventured out of the conventional model to introduce Insaraf.com as a seller of sheesham wood furniture. Capturing his vision to beautify the living spaces in India, Saraf Furniture brought forward a customised outlook to cater to individualistic choices.
In a matter of six gritty years, Raghunandan was able to revamp the brand imagery, export operations and production capacities. Today, the company creates exquisite furniture in an array of categories that can serve as a centrepiece, no matter how you look at it. As a direct manufacturer, all the wood is handpicked and transformed by an in-house team of 1500 experienced artisans, workers and craftsmen.
Saraf Furniture was one of the first few furniture retailers to enter the organised sector through mobile applications. To keep up with the market, Raghunandan didn’t stop at the quality aspect but, provided incentives like lifetime termite resistant warranty, PAN India delivery and easy financing options to lure in his audience. As a step to disrupt the apprehensions that come with an online marketplace's intangibility, he forayed into brick and mortar stores, opening outlets in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Surat along with the original one in Sardarshahar, Rajasthan.
Currently, the brand witnesses over 5 million website visitors annually. A multi-channel approach has lent them a sale of around 2.5 million products over the years. At any point in time, the product list expands to over 5000 SKUs, apart from the volume buying and personalisation offerings.
The company’s e-commerce-first stance also helped them stay on course during the pandemic. When March 2020 saw the most significant drop in sales, Raghunandan took an aggressive stance towards marketing and accentuated their online presence. With limited advertisers and an internet-dependent population, the brand saw a 200% growth in sales and a proactive customer base.
An evolution in the landscape also called for changes like video calling and video customer service. Saraf Furniture readily adapted to the shift, helping users with expert advice on buying decisions, product display, and packaging processes. The deliveries were also overhauled by taking control from the third-party providers and deploying a team for personal installation.
In a market defined mainly by uneven pricing and quality issues, Raghunandan standardised the trust factor with Saraf Furniture and its online presence. The brand stands tall on its affordability in all segments, thanks to the end-to-end system from production to delivery. Furthermore, it has also taken on the task to increase awareness around solid wood and its overall appeal to create an increasing demand.
Raghunandan sees a tech-oriented future for the brand and its products. The 18-member team of Insaraf.com is working towards the creation of a 3D structure that harnesses VR capabilities. The experience shall give the customers a taste of the décor while understanding the dimensions that suit their space. Starting with a pilot product, it shall extend to the highest-selling categories across the board.
On the offline level, Saraf Furniture is planning to strike first in Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Guwahati. Experience centres are also being designed for all the major Tier-I and Tier-II cities, focusing on the metros.
The brand still finds itself as a home-based traditional business injected with a startup culture with its CEO Raghunandan Saraf's efforts. He has an eye set for global dominance that shall take shape from an uncompromised quality and modern-day affinities.
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