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We’re 20-25% better than our nearest competition: Gaurav Khatri of Noise

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Commercial pilot turned entrepreneur Gaurav Khatri of Noise, on what helped the business take off and create enough noise to give competition to established players in the segment

New Delhi: Founded in 2014 by Amit Khatri and Gaurav Khatri, smart wearables and hearables company Noise is creating waves with its catalogue of smart watches, wireless earphones and earbuds, fitness mobile app and accessories.

The brand clocked an operating revenue of Rs 800 crore in financial year (FY) 2022, up from Rs 155 crore in FY 2020. And in FY23, the brand announced achieving revenue over Rs 2,000 crore, with a year-on-year growth rate of more than 100%.

Noise’s founder and chief executive officer Khatri (GK) spoke to Vishesh Khurana (VK), the co-founder and head of growth at Shiprocket about the brand’s growth journey along with its hardships and accomplishments till date at Shiprocket SHIVIR 2023, held at Pullman Aerocity New Delhi on 4 August 2023. Edited excerpts…

VK: How big is the brand at present?
GK: We’re probably world’s third largest smart watch brand in units; but there is still a lot to achieve.

Noise is now not only in India but it’s touching the global charts and hitting those charts as well. So, it’s very difficult to comment on what is small or big but it depends on who is reading it from which perspective.

However, this year, we’re expecting to touch 2 million or 20 lakh smartwatches from India a month, so those many orders we want to track. And revenue was Rs2,000 crore last year. So that’s the scale and size we’ve reached.

VK: How did you start Noise?
GK: 
I am a commercial pilot by profession and the journey started because I failed there… I couldn’t get a job at the right time. But I always had an urge for technology. Coming from a tier 2 city, I was deprived of the luxurious or aspirational brands as they weren’t available in our city. This urged me to think… why can’t we have an Indian brand, which everyone can use and feel proud of?

So, that’s how the idea was generated… Also, I was intrigued by the new technologies that were being introduced. So was my co-founder Amit, who was into health and fitness.

VK: Why did you enter a segment that is complicated and so competitive?
GK: In my mind, all categories that are listed as D2C are competitive, from cosmetics to electronics, there are 500 companies running behind consumers.

In India, the positive part is that each brand can create enough volumes because of our size and there is a different set of audiences for different brands, so you can cater to everyone, so there is scope for all brands.

VK: Why did you decide to remain bootstrapped?
GK:  
It wasn’t a conscious call. I am not an MBA, I came from a tier 2 city. I had limited knowledge when I started. For me, starting a business meant that it must be self-sufficient. It must be something that I could do on my own.

In 2014-15, we started the company using personal capital raised from friends and family. However, it wasn’t like we had to spend Rs 30-40 crore, we started very small as a phone case and covers business because I wanted to understand how the young e-commerce consumer behaves and whether she is loving what I am thinking about.

We created a brand that started doing millions of units in a span of just two years.

You have to figure out the right gaps in the market and execute the right thing. And if your input matrix is clear, then you can reach the point you want to reach.

We kept it simple with the belief that we want to build a brand that is experiential and build it around consumers so consumers are proud to own our product without any regrets.

VK: How do you stay ahead of the competition?
GK: 
What worked for us was R&D (research and development) and technology… we started implementing it from day one. In 2015-16, we started building on tech for our smart wearables. However, people recognise us because of 2020-21, when we started growing. It has been a seven-year journey that has kept us ahead of other start-ups and global brands.

VK: What is the tech play?
GK: Our idea was to create an experiential journey for the Indian consumer. Hence, we started building what an Indian consumer demanded unlike, global giants who are just creating something and selling it in India.

So, when we talk about tech that is going behind it, it includes UI, UX, algorithms, quality of sensors, technology built to seamlessly connect device to phone. Experimenting for all this began four to five years ago and the results are showing now.

VK: How did a bootstrapped brand invest in celebrity advertisement?
GK: A bootstrapped business takes longer time than any other business to get into such expenses. We didn’t have any celebrity advertisement from 2014-2020. It took six years to gather that much amount to get one celebrity onboard. The frugality we have kept from day one has helped us reach here. However, it is a long journey behind getting a celebrity or putting out extraordinary promotions in the market. One of the biggest things I would recommend is that everyone should be conscious of each penny they are putting into their business and what kind of results it is bringing.

VK: The pricing of Noise products is significantly on the higher side as compared to similar brands available? How do you command that premium?
GK: Over the years, we’ve heard that Indian consumer is a price conscious consumer. However, that’s not true as, according to us, Indian consumer is a price and quality conscious consumer. An Indian consumer wouldn’t pay Rs 5 and get trash. She would rather pay Rs 10 and get better quality. And it is ROI (return on investment) driven.

There are multiple reasons why our ROI is higher than the market; we are 20-25% better than our nearest competition and people pay extra to certain brands as those brands give that extra experience. E-commerce and digital world have taught customers that feedback is available right in front of them.

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