Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 30 || Wink and Nod

Wink and Nod is an innovative sleep-focused company which creates premium mattress and pillow products designed for the modern Indian consumer. Through innovative use of internationally certified materials, they aim to leave the users relaxed, refreshed and ready to dream. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Sandeep Prasad, Founder & CEO – Wink & Nod.

Q) Please tell us about the founders?

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Ans:
 Wink & Nod was founded by Sandeep Prasad and co-founded by Vishal Mundhra. They started working together and built the company from the ground up. Sandeep over the past few years had acquired skills through various jobs across finance, strategy, and operations which provided him the relevant skills to manage Wink & Nod’s growth. His most recent experience as the COO of a luxury watch startup based in Florida set the perfect training platform for him to transition into the role of Wink & Nod’s CEO. Before that, he worked in the finance heavy Investment Banking role which trained him to get very good with finance and accounting as well provided the work ethics to endure long hours at work with intense attention to detail.

Vishal, on the other hand, is Wink & Nod’s technology guide and guru, Vishal is a business-technology entrepreneur and an advisor to global businesses. Most recently, he was a product manager and the head of the user experience group at TIBCO Software. In this role, he led large scale business transformation initiatives for Fortune 1000 companies. He has lived and worked (and slept!) in 6 different countries in his career.

Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans:
 The startup idea didn’t occur to Sandeep in his sleep. Sandeep’s mother helped him identify a pain point. His parents lived in Pune and they had to hunt for a good mattress for two to three weeks but ended up buying an expensive one for Rs 30,000 or so. When he asked his mother what mattress it was, she had no clue. Around this time, Sandeep was also handling investments for various consumer brands in the US, one of which was making innovative sleep products. Sleep-related products were a burgeoning market in the West, given how elusive sleep had become in the lives of millennials. It piqued Sandeep’s curiosity, and he wanted to know what was happening in India.

A few months of research ensued, and he discovered that the domestic mattress market was largely driven by traditional players like Kurlon, Sleepwell, and others. Not only was the distribution model broken, but there was also confusion over product categories from a consumer’s point of view. The cost too was superlative “for something that was not even good”. There was a lack of innovative products. And good mattresses weren’t affordable. That is when he decided to quit his VC job, get back to India, team up with a few people from the e-commerce and logistics sector, and eventually, launch Wink & Nod in July 2017. Sandeep always wanted to start a business. For him, it was about finding the right pain point and taking the risk, as he had some experience growing an e-commerce business in the US. Sandeep’s team took four to five months doing the R&D before coming up with the first iteration of their product.

Q: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it?
Ans:
 Failure is a part of an entrepreneur’s everyday life. For me, the biggest learnings have been related to areas where I didn’t focus very early on in the business. E.g. Finance & Accounting – these are functions that most founders consider as back office and don’t pay a lot of attention initially. After a year of growing the business, we realized while filing our taxes that there were a lot of issues and gaps in our processes which resulted in fines as well as loss of time to fix the finance and accounting data. Moreover, a lot of strategic decisions depend on accurate finance data and due to lack of this data on a timely basis, a lot of our decisions got delayed. Post this experience, we hired an in-house finance person and continue to invest more time in the finance department to ensure that our book-keeping is accurate and timely.

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Q) Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it?
Ans:
Wink & Nod started selling its premium memory foam mattresses in early 2018 off its website and Amazon. Sandeep was able to leverage his experience to build an efficient process so that the company was cash positive from Day 1. Wink & Nod mattresses are loved by consumers and the company has grown in revenue by 5x in the last 1.5 years.

Q) How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc.? Explain your thought process.
Ans:
Pricing depends on the product. If we launch a product that has similar versions in the market, we try to price it close to the competitors. We also have some internal metrics related to the margin that we need to make sure to adhere to when we price a product. For unique products that do not exist in the market, we try to figure out a price that justifies our margin structure as well as consumer’s ability to spend.

Q) What is your USP?
Ans:
The company believes that it can distinguish itself through an extreme focus on product innovation, international certifications (OEKO-Tex and CertiPUR-US) and patented technologies. Brands cut corners and use low-quality foam and fabrics to sell cheap priced mattresses. But people spend many hours on the mattress, and through the certifications, Wink & Nod ensures that the products are not harmful to health in the long run. This gives them an edge in quality and assurance, and Wink & Nod remains one of the few sleep-focused startups with quality certifications from renowned international bodies.

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 29 || Indifi Technologies

An IIT Delhi graduate, Alok Mittal is a first generation entrepreneur, who spent years traversing India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. An active angel investor and the founding board member of Indian Angel Network (IAN), Alok also co-founded JobsAhead.com, which was later acquired by Monster.com.

While Alok was looking to return to his entrepreneurial roots and set up his next business venture, at the same time, US-based VC firm Canaan Partners was looking to set up its base in India. Caanan brought Alok on board, who worked with the venture capital firm for nine years.

Indifi

While working with Caanan, Alok identified there was a huge financing gap in the MSME sector, with an estimated $397 billion of unfulfilled credit requirement.

“When I came out of Canaan, I had three business ideas – one was about lending business to SMEs, the second idea was about chronic disease management, and the third about supplementary education. While I invested in startups in the two sectors, the third idea was Indifi,” Alok says.

To enable the country’s micro and small enterprises gain greater access to debt financing, Alok started Indifi Technologies along with Siddharth Mahanot in 2015.

“MSME-focused online lending seemed like an interesting place to begin. Lending platforms were finding global traction and were a good fit for addressing the financing gap in the Indian MSME sector. We conducted preliminary research and established Indifi with a mission to address the lack of credit available to smaller businesses. It was the best idea for us, both from an opportunity perspective and our respective skill sets,” says Alok.

He adds: “Indifi’s idea was to cater to this market with unique digital lending solutions that enabled smaller businesses gain access to credit. We wanted to create a platform that facilitated financing solutions that were tailored to the specific requirement of the industry in which the borrowing business operated,” explains Alok.

The startup today provides term loan, line of credit, invoice discounting, and merchant cash advance services to small businesses in categories such as travel, hotel, ecommerce, restaurant, trading, and retail. 

Indifi

“The addressable market for MSME financing is massive. Catering to this demand-gap is a challenge by itself, but becomes even more challenging when one considers that different industries have different requirements and risk triggers. On top of it, the digital adoption in India was nowhere at the level that it is at right now. Being a new player, we also needed to create awareness about the differentiation that our offerings delivered.

Today, Indifi Technologies serves about 10,000 active customers. It claims to have also facilitated more than 25,000 loans for MSMEs across multiple sectors, including travel, hotel, ecommerce, trading, restaurant, and retail. It currently has more than 80 partners, and is catering to customers in over 200 cities.

In 2019, Indifi raised Rs 145 crore in Series C funding led by London-based CDC Group. It also appointed former FreeCharge CEO Sangram Singh as its president in the same year.

According to Alok, their goal is to serve 1,00,000 active customers in the next four to five years. “We are looking at both horizontal and vertical expansion to strengthen our product portfolio. We will be expanding into newer verticals and will also be looking to penetrate deeper into the sectors that we currently cater to.”

Alok says that with tech disruptions such as account aggregators and GST data in the pipeline, the team plans to upgrade its in-platform framework to facilitate better decision-making and to ensure more creditworthy businesses and individuals have access to the credit they need.

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 28 || LuggageHero

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You’re familiar with the predicament: You’ve got a few hours before you can check into your vacation rental, or before you leave for your flight, and you want to do some sightseeing — but that means slogging along crowded sidewalks with your luggage in tow.

Or does it?

LuggageHero comes to your rescue with their growing network of 38 luggage storage sites in: New York, London, Copenhagen, and many more major cities across Europe and North America. You no longer have to drag your luggage all over a city or hunt for the elusive storage locker, where you need exact change in the right currency. LuggageHero is a network of short-term luggage storage options in shops, cafes, hotels and more. LuggageHero offers online booking with a credit card, hence eliminating the need for users to have local currency on hand.

Luggage storage sites are located inside existing businesses, including retail outlets, hotels, cafes, and more. All of these sites are vetted by LuggageHero’s local representative, who perform regular quality checks.

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Jannik Lawaetz
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder

Jannik Lawaetz, the founder of the company, had the original idea for LuggageHero in 2016 after dragging around his own luggage too many times. He created a peer-to-peer economy-sharing concept that is easy to use, trustworthy, and where customers pay only for the hours their luggage is stored. He started in his hometown of Copenhagen.

Kristian Loekkegaard reached out to Jannik after reading a newspaper article about Jannik’s idea and early traction in Copenhagen. Initially, he was interested in becoming an investor, but he ended up joining Jannik to head up the technology side of the business. Together they founded LuggageHero as it is today and expanded the service to London and New York City in 2017. In 2019, LuggageHero raised $2.25 million in funding and grew to more than 35 major cities in Europe and North America.

Jannik has become a sought-after speaker, including appearances at several tech startup and short-term rental conferences, including HOST 2019 | The New Business of Accommodation in London, Tech BBQ in Copenhagen and the Short Stay Summit in Barcelona. In March 2020, he’ll address the Guest Experience Show in London.

As for the funding, the company got funds on a crowdfunding platform, Seedrs, and within 28 hours, LuggageHero had fully funded its €1.23 million equity crowdfunding campaign. With more than 600 investors, it is overfunded and has closed its campaign on May 3, 2019.

Steps undertaken to avail the service

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Watch the following video to get a better understanding of how the whole process works:

LuggageHero concept video

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 27 || Avail Finance

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A person may, at any point, need a personal loan for a variety of situations: It could be a marriage loan for a loved one’s wedding, a medical loan for an impending surgery or as an advance paycheck because they may have used up their monthly salary. And personal loans can quickly become a necessity when one’s income is low or unsteady. The sources of finance they immediately seek can be- Friends & Family, Local moneylenders or chit funds. All of which come with their own inherent shortcomings.

Asking friends and family for a loan can often be uncomfortable. Borrowing from a loan shark is quite expensive and sometimes unsafe too. Chit funds don’t allow people to withdraw money when they need fast cash. As a solution to this issue the Avail instant loan app was established by Bengaluru based start-up Avail Finance.

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The Avail instant online loan app aims to save customers from embarrassment, harassment or long-term investment when they need low-interest loans. Avail Finance provides Indians with an instant online loan app built for them to have access to fast cash anytime, anywhere. Avail provides unsecured online loans in a quick and easy manner with a hassle-free loan application that requires minimal paperwork. Not only that, but Avail’s low-interest personal loans also help one build a credit history through timely, simple repayment.
Started in 2017 by Ankush Aggarwal and Tushar Mehndiratta, Avail Finance focuses on the blue-collar segment by offering them easy credit solutions. Its multiple products like personal loans, salary advances, and savings are customized for the blue-collar segment. It also helps its customers in understanding the importance of being financially independent.

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The target group of this start-up, as mentioned earlier, is the blue-collar segment in India, which includes security guards, delivery executives, drivers, housekeeping staff, etc, who have a monthly income in the range of Rs 8,000 – Rs 25,000. Avail Finance has two main products. One is a short-term personal loan of Rs 20,000 for five months — the average ticket size and tenure. The other product is of an even smaller ticket size of Rs 5,000 for one month and is an interest-free one to assist them during their frequent cash flow problems. Borrowers have the flexibility to leave a tip if they are satisfied with the service and experience. And this is one of the ways of revenue generation apart from the interest payments.

In June 2019, the start-up raised its Series A funding round of $9 million led by Matrix Partners India. In March 2018, the company raised pre-Series A round of $17.2 million led by Matrix Partners. This round also saw participation from Co-founders of Ola Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, Flipkart Co-founder Binny Bansal, Cred founder Kunal Shah, and Mswipe Founder Manish Patel.
The competitive advantage it has against its competitors is multifaceted. Some of these are-

  • Avail loan through a smartphone- A mobile app-only service that puts personal loans just a few swipes away
  • Flexible Repayment Plan- No rigorous repayment schedule. Repay according to your convenience
  • Quick Disbursal
  • Low-Interest Rates
  • Paperless Approval- Helps you out from the hassles of paperwork. Upload minimal documentation digitally.
  • The borrower can get up to 200% of your salary in advance

Considering Avail is operating in a high volume, low ticket size market, Ankush says he looks to sachetising his products like the FMCG companies. One big challenge they face is the missing credit history of the customer. In order to cater to this challenge, they look for alternatives like professional history and other information on the app. The start-up has a 150-member team that works closely with its customer segment. “Our culture is being customer-first and data-obsessed,” says Ankush.

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Ankush Aggarwal (on the right) and Tushar Mehndiratta Founders Avail Finance

 

 

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