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?

 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.
 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?
 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.


Q) Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it?
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.
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?
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.

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