"Our Products Are Our Hero" - Ashish Goel, Co-Founder - UrbanLadder
After graduating from IIT Mumbai and doing his MBA from IIM Bangalore, Ashish Goel joined McKinsey & Company as Engagement Manager and led project teams across banking, healthcare and real estate clients for over 4 years. Later, he went on to serve Chief Operating Officer at Amar Chitra Katha Media before co-founding Urban Ladder in 2012 out of Bangalore.
Over the period of last 4 years, Urban Ladder has become a household name for all things furniture. In this exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, we got Ashish Goel to share his version of the story. Read on!
Ashish Goel, Co-founder & CEO, UrbanLadder
CE: What was your role as CEO for Amar Chitra Katha media and MD for India Book House?
Ashish Goel: As Managing Director of India Book House and Chief Operating Officer at Amar Chitra Katha Media I worked on developing a portfolio of products that use innovative technology and India-centric content. I played a key role in expanding ACK’s reach by strengthening distribution in India and key foreign markets, launching online services, and partnering with TV, film and other mass media.
CE: When did the idea of becoming a startup guy first hit you? What were your baby steps in the world of entrepreneurship?
Ashish Goel: It all started when I was studying at IIT Mumbai, I picked up an unconventional assignment, unheard of by any student at IIT Mumbai studying electronics.
I decided to run a mess in the campus for two months during the summer break which turned out to be a profitable venture. I then went on to revive the campus newspaper, which earned unexpected profits and popularity. Since then, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
CE: Why did you think of starting a venture in the field of furnishing service industry? What was the motivation behind this idea?
Ashish Goel: The realization that furniture shopping is not an easy task came from a personal pain point for Rajiv and myself.
After moving to Bangalore, our houses were devoid of any kind of furniture because of the lack of trusted furniture brands. We noticed that there wasn’t a single brand, online or offline, which had the reputation of being a one-stop shop for every kind of furniture need. Hence, seeing a market opportunity and customer need in this category, and the quick adoption of e-commerce in India, we started Urban Ladder in July 2012.
CE: Who are other people behind UrbanLadder? How big is the team right now and where do you operate from? What are your typical work hours like?
Ashish Goel: Rajiv and I started Urban Ladder. We are headquartered in Bangalore with over 1200 team members.
We do not have any defined work hours. Employees are given the flexibility to choose their working hours depending on their work load and urgency of the project/task they are working on.
CE: How does UrbanLadder system work? Share the end to end process from the user coming to the website to making the delivery. (Do you provide after sale support?) Which part of the system are you the most proud of?
Ashish Goel: A sharp focus on product thinking (online and physical product) and exceptional customer experience has helped Urban Ladder carve a niche for itself. Being a consumer brand leveraging the digital platform, we have invested heavily in innovative technology solutions to solve problems such as product visualisation and to bridge the touch & feel gap. We have launched apps for complex products like sofas and wardrobes to help customers visualize the product and make the decision making simpler. Customers can make orders on the website, the app or our mobile-site.
The product, both in terms of design and quality has been our key differentiator. Since inception, we have focused on innovation on the design front, while ensuring great product quality. Each product is curated based on inputs sourced from extensive consumer research, conducted by our in-house team of designers. This focus on design has helped us carve a niche for ourselves, providing our customers with a curated range of products. We currently have over 5000 products in 35 categories.
When it comes to logistics, furniture is a unique category, unlike any other because of the care required during transportation and the need to assemble and install products for a superior customer experience. We have built our own Logistics team ground up and believe it helps customer experience hugely. Holding the entire chain means we are able to quality check the products at multiple points and assemble and install the products seamlessly as well.
We are extremely proud of our approach towards customer experience, we have a Net Promoter Score (referral score) of 0.80 which is much higher than global giants such as Amazon.
Our vision is to make a million beautiful homes, in the most seamless manner for the customer. This means easing the pain out of every process – be it product discovery, visualisation, delivery or assembly. We are committed to making the customer experience seamless and the clear focus on the consumer’s needs will help us stay ahead of the curve.
CE: Whom do you see as your potentials competitors in the market? What measures do you take to maintain an edge over them?
Ashish Goel: 85% of the furniture market in India is still un-organised. There is a huge open space of branded players to build long term, large consumer brands in the home and furniture space. Our real competition is the unorganized market.
Design and Trust have been two aspects on which we have clearly distinguished our brand. We will continue to stay focused on these two pieces. On design, we are spending a lot of time understanding the Indian consumer’s needs and pain points to find solutions that can help them.
Our products are our hero that make us stand out and create a niche.
We have a lot of new home owners who come to us for an integrated solution – and being able to provide a holistic answer for them is a big win for us.
CE: What are the team's efforts currently focused on?
Our focus will be on:
• Product innovation: We will continue to strengthen the product portfolio with research backed thoughtful designs that are distinctively Urban Ladder. We will bring out some path breaking solutions that will change the way Indian homes are furnished dramatically. We will continue to work towards our vision of making a million homes beautiful.
• Innovative technology solutions: We believe superior technology solutions will help solve many problems of online shopping such as visualization and touch & feel. We have already launched innovative apps for complex products like sofas and wardrobes. Innovation on this front will continue ensuring customers have a seamless online furniture buying experience.
• Complete home solutions: We want to be an end-to-end home solutions provider for new home owners \We will provide complete home solutions to customers so they can build their entire home – including modular kitchens and wardrobes, and o furniture to décor with us. All of this will be done with the ease of technology simplifying the entire process and complete handholding by our team of consultants and interior designers.
• Supply-chain innovation: We take pride in holding the entire supply chain being completely responsible for the complete shopping experience of each customer. Technology will play a key role in automating the process, reducing touch points to deliver a product enhancing efficiency and improving our quality of service.
CE: Any message or word of advice to your readers?
Ashish Goel: Focus on few things. Immense focus helped set a very clear direction for us in the early days. It's very easy to get distracted and try and do a lot of things - but you will end up biting more than you can chew. We have learnt this lesson along the way. This focus has helped us stay ahead in the market and establish a clear positioning for ourselves.