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Brand Building Best Practices | Startups: Best startups base businesses on local market consumer insights

Brands solve problems, deliver

excellent customer experience


Parul Budhiraja

Associate Vice President, Strategic Planning




India has become a leading global startup hub. The winners of the Indian startups scene followed the advice of inventor Thomas Edison, who once said “Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration."


This approach has resulted in products that are not only based on inspired ideas, but also anchored in the knowledge of Indian consumer attitudes and beliefs, and delivery of great customer experience. Related brand-building practices have been long-term, strategic, and insightful.


However, 2016 turned into a rather cautious funding environment story for India. Several factors contributed to slower activity following 2015, when startups experienced a golden year, marked by investors pouring in money to the tune of billions of dollars.


This funding gave strong impetus to some winners, who with viable and sustainable business models and problem-solving demeanor, expanded aggressively and moved forward. But other startups used the funding to gain eyeballs without spending time on creating a unique product, clear business model, or execution plan.


The experiences of these two groups of startups confirmed that the secret sauce needed to build a successful brand contains these ingredients: solving problems for the benefit of customers, and India; prioritizing the customer experience; and developing a sustainable business model instead of one based on unrealistic growth in brand valuation or customer numbers. Here are three startup summary case studies that illustrate the point.


Case Study: Droom

Droom.in, an e-commerce platform for selling used cars and bikes, has shown strong strategic long-term vision. Founded in 2014, the brand maintains a lean and agile team. Unlike typical classified sites, which are mostly transactional, Droom is building an ecosystem of consulting services that build trust while facilitating purchase decisions.


One of the brand’s proprietary tools, Orange Book Value, helps buyers and sellers evaluate the price of car. A trusted price evaluation has been a key factor in successfully closing deals. Droom also built its brand communication around a deep-rooted cultural truth: when people buy new cars, they feel proud, but they do not feel the same pride when buying a used car. Droom promotes the emotional lift people can get from driving a vehicle—new or used.


Case Study: Chaayos

Chaayos, founded in 2012, creates a unique experience in its tea rooms. Chaayos understands the desire for a place to enjoy a break from daily stress, but responds with tea, India’s traditional drink, instead of coffee. Chaayos targets the rising middle class that has money to spend on experience, and it offers thousands of varieties of tea.


Chaayos has a sustainable business model with significant growth opportunity in India. The brand has ensured that while the company scales up, the quality or the customer experience will not be compromised.


Case Study: Nakuri.com

Nakuri.com is India’s No. 1 job search portal. Founded 20 years ago, Nakuri.com identified and gradually built a service around a market gap—the need for a simple, searchable web page where companies could post jobs and employees could look for jobs. The business model depended on companies paying a monthly fee.


The brand grew by using consumer insights to expand its offering and perfect the customer experience. Naukri.com developed its advertising messaging around the insight that people leave bosses, not jobs.


Naukri.com operates on a simple premise that it’s easier to gain business from existing customers than to gain new customers. Naukri.com provides basic search for free to ensure the customer keeps coming back, and it sells additional services at a premium.

Brand Building Action Points

1.          Prioritize customer experience

Customer expect a lot from startup brands. There is little room for error. Mistakes can mean losing a customer for life. Startup brands need to excel in executing their ideas and experience well to deliver on the promises they make. They need to avoid overstatement and under-delivery.


2.          Connect beyond functionality

Convenience, access, and price might seem like the important consumer benefits offered by online startups. But the key to building long-term connection lies a little beneath the surface. An emotional connect can be a reason for your brand to attract more people in an environment where competition is just a click away.


3.          Balance long-term and short-term actions

Short-term tactics like sales, promotions, and incentives are important. But they do not substitute for actions that create long-term sustainability. Even if the future is unclear, it is important to implement initiatives based on long-term vision, and not simply repeat short term tactics to inflate valuations.