I love a good story, be it through advertisements, movies or an entrepreneur who dared to think differently. I believe in bringing in fresh perspectives -- to a corporate profile or a Facebook post -- like new wine in an even newer bottle. I graduated with a journalism degree from the Xavier Institute of Communications. My weekend rituals involve watching Bollywood movies and reading up on style trends.
One thing a new mother is short on is time, and one thing she values is trust. These were the primary insights Naiyya Saggi decided to work with when she turned entrepreneur. Saggi, 32, had worked in the healthcare space at management consulting firm McKinsey & Company from 2007 to 2009 in Mumbai. Around the same time, she saw her friends struggle to find services and guidance during their pregnancy and post-delivery. And though she went on to graduate from Harvard Business School in 2010 (on two scholarships—the JN Tata Endowment and the Fulbright Scholar Program), the germ of an idea had already been sown.
It all finally came together in BabyChakra, a website she and her childhood friend Mitesh Karia launched in 2014. The website is a one-stop communication and ‘discovery platform’ for new mothers. “Fathers are also welcome, but we are currently focussed on pregnant women and mothers with children up to the age of five, as this is a period of maximum obsession and information asymmetry,” Saggi says with a smile as she sits back with a cup of coffee in a café in Mumbai’s Lower Parel. While 70 percent of Indians live in nuclear families and 85 percent of decisions are taken by mothers in these families, they have no one to turn to for advice, she adds.
While some startups—like mycity4kids, ZenParent, Parentune and IndiaParenting—do exist in the baby and child care industry, offering services ranging from reminders for vaccination to information about kids’ entertainment, BabyChakra’s basic premise is to create a community of mothers who can offer each other advice, recommendations and support. “Unlike other platforms, we are building an ecosystem of care for mothers,” Saggi says explaining that once a mother is on BabyChakra, she is plugged into a personal platform where she can connect with other mothers, experts and care providers best suited for her.
“The size of the baby care industry in India as of 2015, both online and offline put together, is $15-17 billion [around Rs 1 lakh crore]. This is expected to exceed $20-22 billion by the end of 2017,” says Aditya Pathak, business analyst at Bengaluru-based research and advisory firm RedSeer Consulting.
And Saggi believes there is a massive opportunity to disrupt this market, which, although fragmented and disaggregated, is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 15-20 percent. BabyChakra itself has been growing steadily. Since its launch, the website has seen nearly 3 million mothers use its services and it has built a community of over 3,000 mothers, which is growing 10 percent month-on-month. The user base is also growing at 40 percent month-on-month.
BabyChakra has a 35-member team that works out of an office in Kala Ghoda in Mumbai and plans to increase staff strength to 55-60 by the end of this year when it shifts to its new office in the Kurla suburb.
The startup raised funds from Mumbai Angels, Singapore Angel Network and the Patni Family Office in 2015. (While Saggi declined to disclose the funding amount, media reports peg it at $600,000. The startup did not share revenue numbers).
“It was 30 percent the space and 70 percent Naiyya [Saggi] the entrepreneur that brought the Patni Family Office to the investment,” says Arihant Patni, managing director of Patni Financial Advisors. “I met her at the Wharton India Economic Forum in Philadelphia where she was presenting.”
“The market wasn’t crowded, but it was occupied when Naiyya entered,” adds Karan Maheshwari, managing director of Maheshwari Investors Private Limited and had previously worked with Saggi at McKinsey. “But we are a country of 1.2 billion people and even today you have people starting companies in power and fashion. One just needs to focus on one’s offering, product and business.” Maheshwari, who was the deal lead for Mumbai Angels when it invested in BabyChakra, adds, “I invested in BabyChakra because it is a wide open space and has a clear target market and need.”
Prior to the launch, Saggi and Karia spoke to over 1,200 mothers to understand the missing gaps in the maternity and child care space and what services they could recommend to make child care easier—like advice in choosing the right maternity hospital or finding a good daycare. “We launched the alpha and early beta [versions of the website] in January 2015 with the services that came in being only mom-recommended. For us, it’s about solving a real problem and making an impact,” Saggi says.