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We spend most of our money on brand building: Ambareesh Murty, Pepperfry

At the Pitch CMO Summit, Murty, co-founder and CEO, Pepperfry, engaged in a fireside chat with Nawal Ahuja, Co-founder & Director, exchange4media

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Mar 28, 2023 11:03 AM  |  5 min read

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The recently-held Pitch CMO Summit witnessed a fireside chat between Ambareesh Murty, Co-founder and CEO, Pepperfry, and Nawal Ahuja, Co-founder, exchange4media.

Kicking off the session, Ahuja asked Murty about agile marketing and pointed out how Pepperfry was a disruptor when it entered the furniture market. “How does Pepperfry signify agile marketing because you had an entrenched ecosystem and you also had competition. What are the things that you did to disrupt the market?”

Murty said that it all started with a vision. “If somebody hangs around long in a place...so suppose somebody's working in an organisation for 10 years, typically the word that gets used for the person is 'yeh insaan to furniture ho gaya'. So the pace we were operating in was one where furniture was not really even thought to be agile or thought to be something that is glamorous, new, trendy and so on. So, the vision that Ashish, my co-founder, and I had was that we were going to make this category really exciting and it started off with a name. We could have been called 'Fabulous Furniture' but we didn't choose to be called that. Instead, we chose to be called something that had nothing to do with furniture – Pepperfry. And I think that is where it started.”

Murty went on to share more on the brand’s journey. “We then realised that when you are on a journey of creating something which is lasting and forever then the approach has to be very different from everybody else. We are fundamentally an online play, however, we spend most of our money on brand building. So, interestingly, most of our budgets typically go into television media and outdoor. Yes, we do internet marketing. There are people who need to find us online but the interesting thing is that by virtue of having created our brand more than 75 per cent of our business today comes organically. We do not have to pay anybody anything in order to drive a customer in our direction. And then, the journey just continued like that. So, I think we have been agile across everything and that there will be five other things that will happen over the next 10 years and will have to respond to it and prepare for it well in advance.”

Ahuja noted that a lot of legacy businesses, in the last 10-15 years, have been disrupted through the use of technology. He gave the example of how Netflix is fundamentally a tech company that is doing fantastic content and they are able to discover what’s better with the use of tech as base. “If you look at content, very few companies come close to what HBO does globally. But Netflix's tech base gives them a huge advantage. Pepperfry is a legacy industry that you have tried to change through technology and you have built many offline legs to it. So, what role does technology play in this since you are offering products which are brick and mortar? The other question, Ahuja posed was, “As you expand and build your brand what is the balance of technology versus old-fashioned insight that you hardwire into the business to scale it up?” 

To this, Murty said, “Fundamentally, we are a technology company. And if I were to add, we are a technology supply chain company at our core. Everything we do is about making decisions regarding our customers and staying in sync with them using tech. For example, be it your virtual experience onsite, be it on an app or be it on your mobile website, everything has to be done using technology, which gauges how customers want to interact with you. Therefore, you interact with them and present the interface that works best for them. We also have added this entire layer of supply chain, which is everything for any business that delivers goods.”

Sharing early realisations, Murty said, “We realised one of things that used to be fundamental before Pepperfry was that furniture used to be a local business. So, there would be a manufacturer, say, based out of Delhi and he would be selling products in a 100-km radius. We realised that for variety and choice we needed to create pipes, which allowed a person in Delhi to sell to a person in Bengaluru.

Therefore, the supply chain had to be created.”  

Coming to the challenges, he said: “But then again, there are supply chains and there are supply chains. The good supply chain has got to operate on data, which is the bedrock for almost every single decision. So, you have heard of the travelling salesman problem, which is how much can you stuff the containers and how fast can you move them.”

“Our entire supply chain works in that algorithm and works to get that data that allows us to be super-efficient while ensuring that user experience is maintained. That is how we think of ourselves as a tech company. We do not sell anything in our stores. Our stores provide a virtual shopping experience to the people. So, if tech wasn't there, frankly, our stores would not have existed. Because, in a 3,000-sq-ft store how many pieces of furniture and décor can you put in? 500? We have 100,000 pieces online. Therefore, if there was no tech, I would never have been able to expose my catalogue to the people. Bottom line, everything we do is technology!”

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