"It doesn’t get old.” You can hear the smile in Kashyap’s voice as he speaks of his response when people tell him they are Pepperfry customers. It is a world away from when he joined the digital-first furniture and home décor company in 2013. “Then, I had to explain to people just what Pepperfry was,” he recalls. These days, he meets customers almost everywhere he goes. The chief marketing officer and business head of the Bengaluru-based start-up sees these changing customer reactions as stages in the evolution of the market. Phase 1 started in 2012-13, when the first specialised retailers, including Pepperfry and Urban Ladder, began their operations online, and phase 2 about five years later, when large, multi-product players jumped onto the bandwagon. Now, as the online furniture retail market enters its next stage, Vadapalli is looking forward to hearing customer affirmations even more frequently.
But, there’s a lot going on right now. Swedish home furnishings major Ikea is pushing deeper into India; Reliance Ventures scooped up Urban Ladder in a fire sale that surprised almost nobody; and, of course, there’s the elephant in the living room, COVID-19. The competitive landscape is altering before Pepperfry’s eyes. How is the Reliance-Urban Ladder deal especially going to impact Pepperfry and other online furniture retailers? Here’s the shocker. It seems counterintuitive to think that a megacorporation’s entry into a minuscule but growing market will help start-ups, but it will (Terms and conditions apply).