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D2C brand The Clownfish to achieve 100% CAGR by 2025: Co-founder Kushal Bhansali

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The company aims to grow 2 times year-on-year (YoY) across the categories of bags and rainwear in the next three years

With the world returning to normal, the bags and luggage category is expected to grow at 25% YOY for the next five years. Even the market size for rainwear in India is around Rs. 2,000 crore. Operating in these two categories is The Clownfish, a brand that is winning customers’ hearts through its products that focus both on aesthetics and quality.

The ideation

Founded by Mahesh Subbiah and Kushal Bhansali in 2015, The Clownfish is one of the popular brands in the categories of rainwear as well as bags and luggage. The brand’s name is inspired by Nemo, a clownfish who was the titular character of the 2003 American computer-animated film, Finding Nemo. “At The Clownfish, we are inspired by Nemo’s spirit of adventure and persistence which are key to life’s many experiences, including travel. This is our brand spirit, and we have the persistence to grow the business and take it forward,” shares Mahesh Subbiah. The Clownfish started with women’s handbags, focusing on tapestry and jute-based bags. “As we had a fabric manufacturing background, we managed to innovate using great fabric printing techniques to offer customers unique designs,” adds Subbiah.

However, the bags and luggage market in India was severely hit during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the market size was reduced from Rs. 23,000 crore to Rs. 14,000 crore. “We, therefore, entered the rainwear category, and within two years, became one of the biggest sellers across e-commerce platforms. Our focus has been to provide a value-added product to consumers in terms of design and performance. With the same philosophy, next in line was our stylish and premium line of laptop bags, luggage and duffels. Now, we wish to grow 2 times YoY [year-on-year] across the categories of bags and rainwear in the next three years,” shares Subbiah.

Focused on the future

At The Clownfish, the co-founders’ knowledge of the manufacturing of fabrics and finished products has helped them understand the category in the best manner. The products are manufactured in-house, allowing the brand to address consumer needs during production, and giving it the time to market (the length of time it takes from a product being conceived until its being available for sale). “Even when it comes to our raw material, we are on a constant lookout for Indian sources,” adds Kushal Bhansali.

The brand’s products are sold via its own website and e-marketplaces including Amazon and Flipkart—these also serve as its customer touch points. “In the e-commerce space, it is very important for a brand to focus on customers’ feedback, reviews and ratings for its products. Online reputation management and answering customer queries nimbly is the key here, therefore, our customer service team is always vigilant,” shares Bhansali.

As The Clownfish is a growing brand, it pays attention to performance marketing too. “But now with us scaling up the business, it is important to focus on top-of-funnel marketing and create tools for brand marketing as well. We are also working on creating an engaging social media presence and running influencer programmes in the future,” explains Bhansali. This apart, The Clownfish is building a strong business intelligence tool to help manage the levers of business, including daily tracking of revenue and inventory at an SKU [stock-keeping unit] level. “We are also working on better warehouse management systems to offer our products fastest to any consumer across India,” conveys Bhansali.

The Clownfish has been operating as a bootstrapped start-up since its inception. “Arranging capital for growth has been a challenge. The second challenge emerged due to the outbreak of Covid-19; at that time, the handbags category suffered in terms of demand, which forced us to venture into rainwear. During the pandemic, this move proved to be the biggest turnaround for us—it has led to our growth over the last two years,” explains Bhansali.

According to Bhansali, The Clownfish is looking to finish this year at 2 times top line. “With a lot of new products underway, we believe our 100% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] will be sustained for the next three years. We are eyeing to be one of the top five brands in the categories we operate in, by 2025,” finishes Bhansali.

Brownie Points

  • The Clownfish is one of the popular brands in the categories of rainwear as well as bags and luggage.
  • The brand’s name is inspired by Nemo, a clownfish who was the titular character of the 2003 American computer-animated film, Finding Nemo.
  • The brand’s products are manufactured in-house, allowing it to address consumer needs during production, and giving it the time to market (the length of time it takes from a product being conceived until its being available for sale).

First appeared in The India D2C Yearbook 2022

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