Gaurav Dublish, Dinesh KS, and Siddharth Sood never expected their outdoor adventure hobby would turn into an industry juggernaut. Passion-filled, the founders of Wildcraft Dublish, KS and Sood went full force with their outdoor equipment and apparel offerings for urban travellers and adventure enthusiasts in India in 2007.
Today, Wildcraft is a quality, high-profile brand with dozens of brick-and-mortar stores and a strong, integrated online offering. As the company looks to continue its expansion throughout India and around the globe, Dublish--who oversees marketing and sales--shared the story of Wildcraft’s rise to prominence in the outdoor adventure industry.
CMO.com: Wildcraft has become the go-to brand for India’s active and adventurous. How did the idea come about?
Dublish: We started Wildcraft in 1998 as a hobby, with the aim of assisting and equipping Indians for outdoor activities. In the beginning, we tried our hand at everything, even adventure services like river rafting in Dandlei [a tourist town on the West coast of India].
However, in 2004 we decided to cull our services, keep our day jobs, and focus on products. Our aim was to build a portfolio of outdoor gear while we worked out the best way to bring these products to market. In 2007, we started gaining traction in sales and awareness, and were finally able to start realising the opportunities we saw in product categories and certain geographical areas.
CMO.com: What lessons did you learn as an entrepreneur and marketer during the brand’s rise to prominence?
Dublish: After years of urbanization, there was a generation looking for a life beyond a cubicle, which didn’t exist three or four decades ago. The generations before us came from rural roots, where indoors was aspirational, and they looked for the comforts of resorts, better buildings, or even the luxury of an air conditioner. The present generation looks beyond that.
As entrepreneurs, we took too much time going “all-in”–almost seven years to get serious. Youngsters make that call in seven days today. Remember, when we started it was not fashionable to be an entrepreneur. The word itself had a negative connotation seven years ago, and even more so 20 years ago.
The best advice, in short, is to have perseverance, put your heart into your venture, and don’t just follow the market fad of the day.
CMO.com: How do you see Wildcraft as a brand today? What attributes are driving success?
Dublish: To be honest, we are still scratching our heads on the brand side of the story. Wildcraft has evolved with the changing demands of consumers in mind.
The functional aspects of the products have built trust in the brand, and the source of this trust comes from our consumers. For the heartland of India, we may still appear slightly expensive, but in metros like Mumbai or Bangalore, our brand is seen as value for money.
Our product portfolio opened a new category altogether for Indian consumers. We now have an engaged audience asking us, “What’s next?” This wasn’t always the case. Our customers expect us to set the category benchmark with every new product launch. Trust, innovation, and the unique way we have positioned ourselves are our drivers.
CMO.com: What is your distribution strategy as you plan to expand into international markets?
Dublish: Over the past 18 months, we have started operations in 11 countries. We have a physical presence in Qatar, Oman, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, and an e-commerce presence throughout Southeast Asia.
Very early on we took a channel-agnostic approach, and this holds true even today. We look at the consumer base and our product base, and we figure out how to connect the two. To that extent, the channel is just an excuse for us to reach the customer.
We have explored a range of distribution options. We have exclusive stores that are responsible for one-fourth of our business today, and at last count the number of stores was 150. We distribute to mom-and-pop stores, large format stores, and we have an online partner e-retailer that contributes to 50% of the business. We also do institutional sales.
This article was produced for CMO.com by Paul Writer, India’s premier community marketing firm.