India’s consumer brand story has been on an upward trajectory since forever, if media reports are to be believed. What we, Bangalore Insider can say is this: India’s consumer brand story must be going upwards since forever quite simply because of the humongous size of our demographic base, a full half of whom are below the age of 25. As more and more parts of the economy become organized and internet penetration continues to rise; the direct to consumer brand story is more the default than a statement that needs to be harped time and again as if entrepreneurs need this assurance.
On a macro point of view; India has around 350 million kids between the ages of 0 – 14, presenting a huge opportunity for companies to focus on solving their needs by reaching out to parents. This is a very simplistic view and we aren’t even going into the details of where all these kids are and what kind of socio-economic condition their parents are in. With that said, there is no doubt that we need more quality products to serve our kids’ needs.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Pallavi, the founder of SuperBottoms, a leading award winning cloth diaper company, who explained to us why the diaper category is unorganized and requires massive customer education in terms of what’s good for babies and what’s not. Below are the excerpts from our conversation.
Give a brief info about your startup?
SuperBottoms is a leading and award winning cloth diapering company. A brand of reusable and washable cloth diapers, we make them for babies from new-born till the child gets toilet trained. They are a skin friendly, eco-friendly and economical alternative & provide the goodness and functionality of a disposable diaper for babies.
SuperBottoms also makes other baby hygiene products like organic cotton nappies and padded underwear for toilet training of babies and other accessories related to diapering like waterproof cloth bags, diaper backpacks.
SuperBottoms has developed a very loyal base of customers since its inception in 2016 and aims to make cloth diapering a new category and mainstream in the Indian market. We are the no. 1 reusable cloth diaper brand in India.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
6 years back when I had my baby I knew two types of diapers – the regular disposable diapers and the traditional cloth langots. I was tired and needed some rest and using the langots all day was not possible for me. I tried disposable diapers but it gave him a rash and I realised he had a sensitive skin. Upon checking with other mothers I found out that this is a very common issue faced by a lot of babies. Also, me and my husband were really upset with the number of diapers that were thrown in the dustbin everyday. I started looking for an alternative. Cloth Diapers were already becoming popular in the US. I got a few from there but they were not very well fitted for Indian babies. I decided to follow this idea – make cloth diapers which were suitable for Indian babies and have Indian prints which were quirky and cute! Soon, I gave a few to my friends who had new babies and they loved it! Before I knew it, it started selling like hot cakes and here we are now! We are the biggest brand of reusable cloth diapers in India.
SuperBottoms was born out of a personal passion for a product that would give the convenience of diapers while not harming the environment and baby’s skin.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
My schooling happened in Nashik till 12th standard. I did my bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Telecom and MMS from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies.
I worked with Infosys as a software engineer for 2 years after my BE. My first stint in the field of brand building was in 2009 when I joined a Pharmaceutical company, based out of Bangalore to launch their India brand division.
I also realized brand building goes beyond the marketing right into the production, supply, operations and more. As of now, I have about 11 years of experience in Brand Management and have managed and launched sensitive products in the past in the female care sector
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
SuperBottoms is based out of Mumbai. We had a remotely working team right from the inception of the company and now we have a 30 member strong team spread out from Punjab to Tamil Nadu. Location does not really matter as much with a business like ours which is Direct to Consumer. All we need is great communication systems and logistics which is available all across the country now.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Well, I do sleep peacefully at night. But the biggest challenge for us as a brand is to establish the concept. Cloth diapering is a new system of diapering where the diaper is made completely of cloth but performs like a diaper. Indians are very well familiar with the concept of a cloth langot(nappy) but to convince them that it can really function like a diaper – give all night absorbency, give a dry feel to the baby – is an uphill task. It involves a big unlearning task to be done from our end. The category needs a significant amount of customer education to establish the concept and the fact that there is no other big player in the market in this category makes it tougher as the entire onus for education comes on us.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
When it comes to products, we compete with ourselves first and the most important thing is innovating continuously to give a better product than the previous one to the customer. Sometimes it involves not just hearing the said needs of the customers but also looking beyond that and giving them a product which they had not even imagined. High performance cloth diapers is really a category like that – we tap the unsaid and unimagined need of the customer to develop a product.
That said, our external competitor is the unorganized nappy (langot) segment which has more than 90% penetration in diapering. In India people have a high affinity towards using cloth for diapering for its skin friendliness so they tend to maximize the use of nappies but nappies turn out to be unwieldy to manage. SuperBottoms is a huge upgrade from nappies while not losing out on the benefits of the nappies. We want parents to get the comfort of a nappy and the performance of a diaper through SuperBottoms UNO diapers. We are better than the commonly available disposable diapers too as we do not have any harmful chemicals and we are very economical and eco friendly as well as compared to the disposable diapers.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
The biggest task is to mentally focus on work and not think of my mom duties and vice versa.
I overcome it by consciously blocking the things that may distract me or by keeping the phone away when at home. To be honest I do not think I overcame it, I am trying my best. Each morning I make a decision of how much of a mom I am going to be today, and how much of an entrepreneur and try to stick to that.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If not then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
We raised one round of angel investment in early 2019 and got the pre series A round of funds from DSG Consumer in early 2020.
What gets you excited about this company?
As I mentioned earlier, in a high potential market like India where cloth is the natural diapering choice makes me super excited about the potential for a brand like us. Being a Direct to Consumer business we are very close to the customers, interacting with them and getting direct feedback day in and day out which we use to continuously innovate our product and offer a better version every time. Our goal is to be the first choice of diapering for parents in the coming years.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
Typical day begins with a bit of exercise and playing with son, household chores and team calls to catch up on daily activities.
Post that a series of calls/meetings follow.
The day ends with spending time with my son and an elaborate bed-time routine which is the real time I get with my son.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
I was lucky to find some really critical and supportive customers early on who helped me immensely in improving the product. Some of these first customers were also looking for a work life balance post having a baby and joined my team and each member worked from their own homes. Now, 5 years from then, we are proud to have an all parents team who have been customers first and now help us with the business. This has helped us to build a team which is completely aligned with the brand values and is really passionate about spreading the concept of cloth diapering to new parents because they themselves have seen the benefits of it over other diapering options.
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