Chanchani, The Economic Times
Bengaluru, 17 October 2016
FirstCry founder Supam Maheshwari is one of the
only entrepreneurs in the online-retail space who was also running a
business during the 1999 2000 dotcom bubble, which has perhaps helped
him chart a different course from his peers. His company started adding
offline stores in 2012 when omni-channel was not the buzzword, FirstCry
is based out of Pune and not startup hotspots of Bengaluru or Delhi,
and he has also been able to spin off a logistics business.
And on Saturday , Maheshwari pulled off a unique transaction where his
company acquired Mahindra BabyOye in a stock deal and also secured an
investment from the $18-billion conglomerate. By consolidating its
largest competitor, the 42-year-old Maheshwari will now be the CEO of
by far the largest baby and mothercare retailer in India, both online
"His ability to think strategic and macro, and suddenly go deep micro
is something very unique," said Sudhir Sethi, chairman of IDG Ventures
India, which invested in the company in 2012. "He is extremely
comfortable with extremely comfortable with uncertainty, and charting
out a new path which has not been done before." Players in the online
commerce market will now keenly watch Maheshwari, who unwinds by
playing squash on weekends and spending time with family, as he
integrates the offline operations of Mahindra BabyOye and FirstCry to
build an omni-channel play.
"There is no
divide between on line and offline channels, as from a customer's point
of view it's retail," said Devangshu Dutta, CEO at retail consultancy
firm Third Eyesight.
holds potential over the long term and companies need a management team
which understands the business."
But the going has not always been so smooth for Maheshwari, a
mechanical engineer from Delhi College of Engineering and MBA from
IIM-Ahmedabad, who knows he has his task cut out. He started his first
company , eLearning startup Brainvisa Technologies, in March 2000 which
raised `3 crore from Infinity Ventures 3-4 months before the dotcom
bubble burst. The business started as a customer facing online test
preparation play but had to pivot to a business-to-business model.
After running the business as CEO for over seven years, it was acquired
by Indecomm Global in 2007 for $16 million where he also saw impact on
corporate business of Lehman Brothers brankruptcy. "You become richer
by experience, there is no shortcut to it. Importance of cash, running
a business in a cost-efficient way and building that culture internally
is very important," said Maheshwari about his Brainvisa experience.
Maheshwari said that he has applied these lessons at FirstCry , which
he founded in 2010 with Brainvisa colleague Amitava Saha. He was also
the first online retailer to start adding online stores in 2012, a
trend which has been followed by several vertical etailers now. And in
2012, he also launched a logistics business to fulfil its own orders.
XpressBees, which is now run by Saha, started taking third-party orders
in 2015 and raised `85 crore in funding after spinning off from
FirstCry. But along the way, he has also taken some tough calls, like
shutting down the personal care products selling business Goodlife in
2013 admist funding winter in ecommerce space.
People who have worked closely with him say Maheshwari is a tough
taskmaster, and great at spotting opportunities which will help him
expand his business, even if they don't fall into conventional methods.
"He is very driven and committed to the cause of the business," said
early-stage fund India Quotient's Anand Lunia, who was a cofounder at
Brainvisa. "He does not think theoretically and gets stuck to a
particular notion of strategy , which is what most startups do."
in The Economic Times)