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Boult is diving into smart eyewear: Co-founder Varun Gupta

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Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

Varun Gupta, Co-founder of Boult, India’s fifth largest wearable brand opens up about the brand’s category expansions and innovations, strategy, and omnichannel play

With a growth of 34% touching 134.2 million units, calendar year 2023 was a good one for India’s wearables market. It was especially good for Gurugram-based wearables company Boult Audio, which registered the highest year-on-year growth of 130.1% among the top five players in the segment, said market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

Founded by brothers Varun and Tarun Gupta, Boult is the fifth-largest wearable brand in India with a 6.9% market share, as per IDC. In the True Wireless Stereo (TWS) category, it is the second largest player with a market share of 10.7%, behind Imagine Marketing’s Boat which holds a 33.9% market share. Boult is the fifth biggest smartwatch player with a 3.8% market share as per the latest research by Counterpoint’s IoT Service.

Interestingly, the brand that clocked Rs500 crore in the last financial year (FY) is even today bootstrapped, although as per a media report, the company is planning to raise PE funding in FY2025.

The 2017-incepted brand that was first launched on Myntra went omnichannel in October last year in partnership with leading offline retailers in 13 states including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, West Bengal (Kolkata), Rajasthan (Jodhpur), and Punjab (Jalandhar), among others. The brand has also ventured into the UK, the US and Nepal and is now planning to accelerate both national and international expansion as well as enter new smart product categories, co-founder Varun Gupta told IndiaRetailing in an exclusive interview.

Edited excerpts…

What is your growth strategy?

Our growth strategy has been unique. Instead of diversifying into numerous categories, we have focused on our core product lines: audio and smartwatches. This focused approach helps maintain our brand identity and ensures continued excellence.

Boult aspires to be a global force in consumer electronics, with a strong presence in wireless, wearables, and IoT categories.

What’s your pricing strategy? Are you aiming at a sweet spot?

Our strategy is centred on making technology accessible to everyone. We are dedicated to providing our customers with the best possible prices across our range of products, taking into account various factors such as the type of product and its category.

While we don’t have a specific ‘sweet spot,’ we aim to ensure that customers get the most value for their money.

As per media reports, you don’t have a marketing budget. How do you reach your target customers?

Being a bootstrapped and profitable brand, our focus is on efficiency in all our marketing activities.

We prioritize optimizing our resources through meticulous planning and analytics, which has proven successful in guiding our marketing decisions. One of our strengths lies in our in-house design, performance marketing, and production teams dedicated to creating impactful advertisements that resonate with our audience.

While we utilize major channels, both digital and offline, to reach our customers, we also maintain flexibility in our marketing mix. This allows us to experiment and refine our approach based on what works best.

Moreover, we believe in the power of our products and the customer experience to speak for themselves. This combination of strategic marketing and exceptional products, coupled with our in-house teams’ expertise, has been instrumental in our success in reaching our target customers.

Why embark on an offline expansion?

The decision to pursue offline expansion alongside the D2C model is based on several strategic considerations:

Enhancing Consumer Experience: Certain products, especially those related to sensory experiences like touch and sound, are better appreciated when experienced offline. By establishing a physical presence, we aim to provide consumers with an immersive experience that online channels cannot replicate. 

Brand Exposure and Credibility: Having a physical presence in key locations not only increases brand awareness but also signals legitimacy and reliability to consumers, especially those who may be sceptical of purely online brands. 

Targeting Different Consumer Segments: Offline expansion enables us to reach a broader demographic, including those who prefer traditional retail channels or may not have access to online shopping platforms.

Omnichannel Strategy: By integrating offline and online channels, we adopt an omnichannel approach that offers consumers flexibility and choice in how they interact with our brand, driving satisfaction and loyalty.

Where have you reached in your offline journey?

We have just begun our retail expansion journey and there is still scope for us to expand. We are present across more than 5000 stores in India leveraging local as well as national partnerships with distributors and retailers to tap into the 25% sales that take place primarily offline.

We are not only expanding nationally but also internationally, and we intend to keep this momentum going. Eventually, our objective is to create experiences for our community, and we intend to create exclusive Boult experience zones across strategic locations in the country. But that comes at a stage when we decide to consolidate our retail business and create focal points for the fans of the brand.

Who are your offline partners?

At the national level, we have partnered with Reliance Retail Limited, while in the North and East, our main distributor is Smart Dukaan. In Kerala, we have two prime partners i.e. Oxygen Digital and G. Nanadalath.

We have a two-fold approach to offline expansion. We are already in partnership with larger labels like Croma and Trends and at the same time, are looking at extensive local penetration with partnerships. Local distributors like Sangeetha Mobiles and Poorvika Mobiles allow us deeper access to the tier-2 and 3 cities and help us cater better to all customer cohorts.

How do you plan to manage the supply chain?

A key focus has been reducing our dependence on foreign supply chains by boosting component manufacturing within India. This move has reduced our reliance on imports, particularly from China, allowing for enhanced quality control and adding local value. Technological integration is another pillar of our strategy. We have adopted automation and advanced software for production planning, significantly streamlining operations and improving productivity. This approach is crucial as we continue to grow and diversify our product range.

To bolster our offline retail presence, we have implemented data management systems that provide clear visibility over our supply chain. This ensures rigorous monitoring and control, which is essential for maintaining our supply chain’s integrity.

Local sourcing of components is a priority, aiding in reducing lead times and fostering a more robust supply chain. We are also in active discussions with Indian battery manufacturers to localize sourcing further.

Finally, we are leveraging the Indian government’s Phased Manufacturing Plan (PMP) to enhance local production and reduce costs.

How these brothers built Boult

Boult was founded by brothers Varun and Tarun Gupta, who put their collective experiences gained from diverse backgrounds to start a high-end consumer electronics brand with modest capital.

Varun Gupta, with a BTech in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing and Management, brought his expertise from internships at Yahoo Research, along with stints at Business World and Snapdeal. He had already explored entrepreneurship through three previous startups in advertising, community-based reselling platforms, and e-commerce consulting.

Tarun Gupta also with a BTech in Computer Science, was equipped with an MBA in Finance. He had garnered insights from his tenure at Brown Brothers Harriman, an investment bank in the USA.

While Varun spearheaded product design, marketing, and people relations, Tarun took charge of manufacturing, e-commerce, logistics, and finance. Soon, Boult’s products with attractive average selling prices (ASP) of around Rs990 – Rs4999 started attracting attention. Soon, the brand was also available on Amazon, Flipkart and other e-commerce platforms.

An interesting facet of Boult’s genesis lies in the brothers’ shared interests beyond business. Varun’s musical talents as a vocalist and guitarist complemented his role in a brand dedicated to audio excellence, while Tarun’s passion for fitness and sports mirrored Boult’s commitment to dynamic and active lifestyles.

 

Have how you grown, revenue-wise?

Our company has seen significant growth, achieving a revenue of around Rs 500 crore in the last fiscal year. We are striving to double that in the current year. Our ambitious revenue target is Rs 800 crore.

The majority of our revenue, more than 85%, is derived from e-commerce marketplaces. These platforms serve as a significant avenue for our sales, offering a broad reach to our target audience.

Additionally, we have seen promising growth on our direct-to-consumer (D2C) website, contributing about 10% to our overall revenue.

Revenue expectations—offline versus online?

Presently, our revenue from offline channels accounts for approximately 3%-4% of our total revenue, as we ventured into this market only a few months ago. We anticipate this contribution to increase by 4-5 times in the coming quarters as we expand our presence and offerings.

What’s in store for 2024?

In 2024, our company is poised to expand our portfolio with exciting new offerings. We’ll kick off with the launch of a new addition to our highly successful Z40 Series TWS from 2023. Additionally, we’re planning to diversify into a new product category within the first quarter. A significant partnership with a leading automobile manufacturer is also on the horizon, culminating in a limited-edition product release in the first quarter.

Any other plans?

Boult is diving into smart eyewear, aiming to offer feature-packed, quality products at prices accessible to the mass-prestige segment. We’re pushing boundaries with Augmented Reality (AR) for immersive, real-time experiences; advanced health monitoring to track vital signs like glucose levels; and sustainable materials and production to appeal to the environmentally conscious.

Connectivity is key, so we’re ensuring our wearables integrate seamlessly with other tech ecosystems. Personalization is also a focus, with customizable options for functionality and design to cater to individual tastes. We’re dedicated to creating wearables that not only last longer but also incorporate AI and machine learning to adapt to and predict user needs.

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