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“There Is Opportunity To Scale Up D2C Brands”

Serial entrepreneur Rishi Vasudev is optimistic about the opportunity that lies ahead of the direct to consumer brands, on the back of a fast growing e-commerce sector. In this interview with BW Businessworld’s Urvi Shrivastav, Vasudev, the co-founder of the newly launched G.O.A.T., details the plans ahead for the venture. Excerpts:

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Tell us more about your new venture -G.O.A.T.? 

E-commerce is a segment that is growing very fast, especially due to the pandemic. Consumers are increasingly getting more comfortable buying online, creating a whole new opportunity for brands and labels to sell their products directly to consumers. As brands scale, they encounter the challenge of expertise, such as digital marketing, backend logistics, selling on different marketplaces, etc.

We believe there is a great opportunity to help D2C (direct to consumer) brands become big players in the market. At G.OA.T. we believe the time is right to help them and take brands that are at Rs 5-10 crore, and scale them to become Rs 100 crore brands in the next three to five years. We will first invest in these brands and then provide expertise to them in various areas such as warehousing, logistics, sales and marketplaces, digital marketing capabilities, and of course availability of funds.

E-commerce and D2C brands have been around for some time now. Why did you plan to launch G.O.A.T. now?

In the last three-four years, the online ecosystem has opened up significantly. Due to the pandemic, many D2C brands have emerged, that should have scaled up by 3X or 4X, but are barely afloat. Something must have gone wrong with the inventory planning, access to funds to build more working capital, or getting the right people on board. This is the right time when markets are growing for D2C brands. Many brands have already done the hard work of reaching zero to one but are now struggling in moving from one to ten.
What went behind putting G.O.A.T together? How was the investment raising experience?

I have spent about two decades in the industry, with the first 13-14 years spent offline working with brands such as Aditya Birla Group, Arvind Brands, Calvin Klein, Arrow, and the likes. Post that, I spent five to six years in Flipkart, as head of their fashion business. Having had the experience both online and offline, I realised how fast the online market is emerging, and how there is a need for many more brands in this space. When we put this plan together and went to various venture capitalists, we saw a lot of interest, even from the industry experts in the market. We have experts across the spectrum, including the MD of CondeNast to the CEO of Texsport, and Sujeet Kumar who is the co-founder of Udaan. We are also backed by investors like Tiger Global, Flipkart, Nordstar, Mayfield, and angels as well, who have all believed in us and provided the funding to start this journey.
As you just mentioned, you bring diverse experience, having worked with several companies. How do you plan to inculcate your learnings in G.O.A.T. and make it stand out from the existing players?

People in the offline space have become efficient in doing things a certain way, while people working in the online space have not spent enough time in the offline industry to understand design, fashion industry, etc. Having spent time in online and offline spaces, I am in a good space to bring them together via G.O.A.T. This will merge the art of fashion and brand building and the science of e-commerce. The confluence of online and offline becomes very important as brands try to grow. With my background and the people who have joined the company, we have a huge capability to do that.
What was your business model like in an already crowded e-commerce market that drew in these giant investors?

Globally accelerator model and roll-up model are gaining steam, as are Thrasio and Perch business model. Many brands joining a larger group has always been a good strategy. Even in the offline space, large conglomerates operate multiple brands, while the backend is driven by a common system. This business model is gaining pace online as well. I think the investors truly understand this business plan very well. There is the knowledge base of start-ups, and then there is the knowledge base of large organisations, as we bring them together there is more synergy.
G.O.A.T is an interesting name, how did it come about?

I love sports and I am an avid sportsman myself. I have always been inspired by the great sportsmen -- from Roger Federer to Mohammad Ali. They have always been the G.O.A.T.s for me, the ‘Greatest of All Time’. When I look at brand owners, they have created something, left their cushy jobs, and tried to create a proposition in a crowded market. They deserve to stand on the podium as the ‘Greatest of All Time’. When we thought about this, the idea was to make the experts in various fields available to brands. The other way to look at it, is that goat is a wise animal -- it is not aggressive, does not push you hard, but it can guide you. It goes with expertise, knowledge, wisdom.