AMA with Rajiv of UrbanLadder: Too early to look at competition

NextBigWhat
4 min readOct 6, 2017

We had a wonderful conversation with Rajiv Srivatsa, Co-founder of UrbanLadder with discussions ranging from his entrepreneurial journey to UrbanLadder’s decision to launch offline stores to product managmement process.

Here are the key excerpts from the AMA (join the #ProdGeeks Community here).

As an entrepreneur, what are some of your low moments? How have you handled ? The market has generally been brutal for all.

I can write a book on that :)

I guess it’s always ups and downs. For me customer complaints (and a lot sometimes when we badly screw up), smart people leaving, some of our initiatives where we put a lot of effort not making the outcomes, etc. — all these are low moments. Of course, a part of the excitement of being an entrepreneur, is for you to go through these :)

You don’t design life to go through these, but inevitably, it’s part of the entrepreneurial journey.

How is the offline launch shaping up?

Offline is shaping up really well. We probably have the most crowded furniture store in India. And one of the most beautiful. All our original capacity planning on staffing has gone for a toss — since traffic has been 3x of what we estimated. So that’s good.

The ticket size is approx 2.5x of online.

Marketplace vs. Inventory model : At scale, what do you think works in furniture space?

Ikea — the largest furniture company in the world — doing some $30bn or so annually — is a full inventory model. In our experience too, the full inventory model seems to make sense given better planning, better control of quality, better vendor relations, stronger brand recall etc.

How has your definition of competition changed over the last few years?

The real learning is that — it’s too early to look at competition. In the first one or two years, you worry so much about who is first to launch something. But it’s your own mistakes, specially when you don’t do customer first thinking, that can come and hit you. Amazon / Bezos breath this philosophy well. Thankfully, we learnt that lesson early enough and have always been a lot more customer focused at this stage of our life than being competition focused.

How does a new age company like yours compete against such a strong brand?

The real learning is that — it’s too early to look at competition. In the first one or two years, you worry so much about who is first to launch something. But it’s your own mistakes, specially when you don’t do customer first thinking, that can come and hit you. Amazon / Bezos breath this philosophy well. Thankfully, we learnt that lesson early enough and have always been a lot more customer focused at this stage of our life than being competition focused.

Actually, now we do more business than them largely (w.r.t. the B2C part of the business), and we have not even yet started doing anything offline. We are catering to 1% of the market (online — offline is probably lesser than 1–99 currently), and this is our current status. So I do believe, we would rather solve it our way in a slow and steady manner (can’t make mistakes offline as easily as you can online and wind back), and take a strong part of the 99% of the market as well!

What are 2–3 biggest pain points of your customer today ?

Some of the pain points continue –

(a) Getting a true sense of the product online given the high nature of touch and feel (it’s going to take time for us to expand on offline across all the cities we are in), specially bigger categories like sofas, mattresses, beds, etc.

(b) Tracking the product end to end — specially categories that we manufacture against orders — like wardrobes, kitchens etc. — these are not well integrated systems yet with our vendors and the customer wants to know the status of these orders since they are also longer lead times, and we don’t really do a good job there

© Basic knowledge and explanation on what to buy — while we have tried a bunch of things, I still think this is under-solved in our category, on helping you choose the right product for your need / budget / visual senses etc.

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You can read the entire AMA excerpt here.

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