Atomberg’s Sibabrata Das Explains Do’s and Do not’s For a Consumer Electronics Startup

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The company has recently received an undisclosed amount of funding from Hero Group’s Suman Kant Munjal. Atomberg is marching towards a Rs 70 Cr + revenue this year

Atomberg Founders – Manoj Meena and Sibabrata Das (R to L)
Pic Credits – Atomberg

A lot of start-ups have come up in the accessories, Bluetooth speakers, earphones etc consumer electronics verticals in the last few years. However, the number of startups originating in verticals like ceiling fans, have been quite low. Interestingly, Atomberg Technologies, a startup launched by IIT-Bombay alumni, Manoj Meena and Sibabrata Das, is currently not only doing well in ceiling fans market, but is also planning to enter more consumer electronics verticals in India.

The company, as per one of its founders is also looking to foray into smart appliances market as well. Atomberg came into being in 2012 and started its commercial operations about two years ago.

Sibabrata Das, co-founder, Atomberg told Electronics For You, “In 2015, after three years of setting up of Atomberg Technologies, we were exploring the home automation domain, consumer electronics to be precise. We wanted to focus on IOT and started doing research around it. Soon, we realised that most of our peers in India are integrators and the smart home market is scattered and bullish. Apart from working in the smart home domain, we decided to launch energy saving ceiling fans in India.”

The story of Atomberg, since then, has been one of the most famous ones in India. This startup has not only got famous for its ceiling fans but has also made news with its unique marketing and customer acquisition strategies in the country. Electronics For You’s Mukul Yudhveer Singh spoke to Sibabrata Das about what went right for Atomberg and what should be the ideal approach for someone looking to foray into consumer electronics domain as a startup.

The focus should never be on the market buzzwords

Das said that one should never focus on the market buzzwords. He explained that Atomberg initially wanted to start as an IOT and smart features embedded home appliances company but the team realized that the adoption levels for smart appliances were in the initial stages. Das and Manoj Kumar Meena, then worked on the strategy again, and apart from working IoT and smart home appliances, Atomberg decided that it will also launch energy saving fans in the country.

Das said, “One should not blindly follow the market buzzword. For example – Home automation was a buzzword some three to four years years back, then came IoT. Instead of focusing on these buzzwords, we aimed to make IoT and home automation as problem solving technologies. Our focus was also on making these affordable for consumers. Now, IOT has also started picking up, but the adoption is not that high, may be because of the costs involved. So Atomberg is working on making these affordable for the consumer. The message is  – As a startup, every team needs to understand that eventually it will have to solve problems, even if the problems are not flexible. So, instead of focusing on buzzwords, a startup’s aim should be to solve problems by using it.”

Sibabrata Das, Co-Founder, Atomberg

He added, “If you are able to solve consumer problems at the right cost, your product will inevitably become one of the best sellers in the market. Instead of falling in the trap of market buzzwords, focus on solving problems through them. Solving problems is what makes a startup get recognized and continue its journey. There are more than enough problems to solve in the business as well as consumer domain.”

Investors should not be financial partners only

Atomberg started receiving a host of offers from individuals and institutions interested in investing in the company from its early days. The team, however, was focused on finding the right match of investors instead of focusing on the money.

Das told us that every offer Atomberg got, was exceptional, but finding the right one was very difficult. What makes this point more interesting is the fact that a lot of startups don’t even get a chance to choose investors.

Das explains, “If you follow the first step sincerely, you will see a lot of people and companies getting interested in being investors in your startup. The second most critical thing is to be able to choose the right one.”

And how do you do so? Das answered, “Carefully evaluate the goals of your startup and that of the investor. These should be one in terms of long term visions.”

He continued, “You need to have the right investor with you. Initial two to three years will just be investments in terms of increasing reach, creating a supply chain, setting quality standards before finally hitting the market. You will have to go through that cycle no matter what. A startup needs to have a long-term investor in the initial days, one that beleives in you and one that you can believe on, like Atomberg got Parampara and Hero Group’s Munjal.”

Let flexibility and innovation be your USP

Atomberg’s co-founder terms flexibility as the third major advice to startups. He mentioned that as a consumer electronics startup, it is almost impossible to compete against the established companies, but there is a catch.

Das pointed out, “You can file patents, invest more money and do lots of other things to make your product work but the only benefit you have against the large companies is your flexibility and approach towards innovation. If you get loose on flexibility and innovation, you will lose in the long-run.”

So, what innovations did Atomberg do? Das answered, “Atomberg didn’t just innovate in terms of ceiling fans that save power and help reduce electricity bills, but we actually innovated the ways we reach end customers.”

Interestingly, Atomberg has created a distribution channel through Tata Power. Das explains, “It took us around 10 months to crack this distribution channel strategy with Tata Power. We used to visit all the senior people and answered a tonne of questions. We explained that Atomberg has never made a compromise on the service, even if that costs more. I must also add that our service cost was initially higher than other brands, even the established ones.”

Atomberg, after creating a successful distribution channel with Tata Power, entered the online sales channel as well. As a matter of fact, Atomberg’s ceiling fans are now available on India’s leading e-commerce platforms and  in the offline channel too.

Das added, “What we eventually did is we did not decide on a distribution network in between. Instead we looked at this approach as more of a marketing expense than a sales expense. We decided to take a hit and give our customers fans through subsidized prices. We used digital and Tata Power distribution channel to validate the product scale before going in the offline consumer market.”

Take-away

The three areas to make a consumer electronics startup a success, as per Das, are the right focus, the right investor and the ability to be flexible and innovative. Reading between the lines, it will also be not be wrong to say that Atomberg succeeded because it was able to identify a problem and present a solution quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, the company apart from working on the product and solution, also was quick enough in finding ways to educate end customers with all the USPs of its ceiling fans. Atomberg is now also selling its products through e-commerce portals and offline channel as well.

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