Bharat Kalia resigned from his management consulting job in 2015 to start Lifelong Online and produce mixer grinders. Lifelong Online has grown rapidly in five years.
In 2015, increasing internet penetration fueled e-commerce growth in India. Bharat Kalia pondered consumer durables at his Bain & Company Gurugram office.
Bharat, who had been using his parents’ appliances for 20–30 years, believed the consumer durables market needed a digital makeover.
There was a lot of innovation in 2015 in mobile and TV, but none in home appliances and consumer durables. These legacy categories were characterised by inefficient manufacturing and distribution methods.”
People in small towns and rural regions desired to live more comfortably at the time, he says. Neither were home appliances or consumer durables.”
From associate to team manager, Bharat spent five years with the management consulting business. The time had come to quit his secure corporate career and enter the uncertain realm of entrepreneurship.
“I decided to start creating these things according to their demands and at fair prices,” he continues.
A trust jump
Bharat resigned from his management consulting job in 2015 to create Lifelong Online in Gurugram. He was accompanied by Atul Raheja and Varun Grover of Bain & Company.
In order to create goods, Bharat wanted to launch a customer-backwards brand with a lean supply chain and direct-to-customer distribution. This would help us produce great goods and save money for consumers.”
With a modest budget, the three created their first product, a mixer grinder.
Over five years, Bharat and his co-founders expanded Lifelong Online into a fast-growing, digital-first consumer durables firm.
Bharat and his colleagues secured Rs 40 crore from Tanglin Venture Partners in 2019.
Bharat says the 60-person Lifelong Online team generates Rs 40 crore in peak months. Home and kitchen appliances account for 33% of total sales, followed by grooming and sports items, and leisure and health products.
The convergence of retail and Not to be confused with Lifelong India Pvt Ltd, Bharat’s brand retails to over 500 Indian cities through Amazon, Flipkart, Tata Cliq, Nykaa, Paytm, Snapdeal, 1Mg, and offline distribution networks.
“Traditionally, a salesperson might recommend a mixer grinder or washing machine. Customers now actively participate in purchasing choices by looking at internet material, product ratings, and reviews. “The brand reaches these customers,” Bharat says.
A factory in Coimbatore and two in Haryana presently produce solely for Lifelong Online but are not owned by it.
“We have entrepreneurs that build up factories and just create our products,” Bharat adds. We merely lease the factories and do not own them. We expect to commission and operate a new multi-line facility this year.”
Lifelong Online can offer at competitive pricing because of its asset-light production approach and direct-to-consumer retail strategy.
Bharat has implemented a 60-90 day product development cycle based on channel and product review feedback. Direct contact with consumers enabled the brand to quickly get consumer feedback and data.
In the end, Lifelong Online engineers produce a functional design that meets customer expectations and optimises the whole value chain of the brand, from product specs to supply chain to packaging.
An first test launch follows, with the brand evaluating the category and market size.
After that, Bharat and his team perform a pre-launch quality test and proceed to the final launch once satisfied.
Lifelong Online began as a bootstrapped startup but quickly required cash to expand. Bharat’s company did both manufacturing and selling and had trouble getting loan finance.
“Investors were reluctant to provide money to a four- or five-year-old firm. Even as a thriving firm, we had trouble getting working capital loans. “We needed equity financing,” he explains.
When the COVID-19 outbreak struck India, Bharat and his crew couldn’t visit customers’ houses to install or maintain their gadgets. So they developed digital documentation that showed users how to install and maintain various Lifelong Online items themselves.
For being a digital brand, Lifelong Online helps boost the country’s economic recovery.
The Indian appliance and consumer electronics industry is predicted to grow from Rs 76,400 crore in 2019 to Rs 1.48 lakh crore in 2025, according to IBEF estimates.
“Today, we compete in several categories against major, established companies. “I am certain that our constant customer focus and technology-driven quick innovation cycle will help us retain customers,” Bharat adds.
“Large brands dominate these areas, but adopting our digital-first, D2C strategy would be like swapping DNA. This may change in the future, but it is not their core. ”
Bharat intends to improve the brand’s innovation cycle and produce new goods for the household. Lifelong Online will also allow young engineers and designers to construct and test new consumer durable items. A mix of alliances and acquisitions, he says.