Retail

Buying brands is the easy part, running and growing them is relatively complex: Powerhouse91


Founded in 2021 by Shashwat Diesh and Aqib Mohammed, Powerhouse91 is the latest roll-up ecommerce entrant in the Thrasio- style business model. In a conversation with ET Digital, Shashwat Diesh, co-founder, Powerhouse91 talks about the brand’s journey till now and the emerging trends in the ecommerce domain. Edited excerpts:

Economic Times (ET): How do you foresee the Thrasio-modelled businesses faring in India?

Shashwat Diesh (SD): As we all know the Thrasio business model in the west has proven that it has the right fundamentals using which one can build a sizable self-sustainable business. It’s inevitable for us to see the same trajectory in India, however, the time required will be relatively higher given the nascent stage of the e-commerce sector in India. The e-commerce sector in India is poised to grow by 3X in the next couple of years and we will start seeing businesses in the aggregator sector becoming sizable and contributing to this growth while riding the next wave of consumption in India.

ET: How is PH91 uniquely positioned in this space, and how has been your journey so far?

SD: Based on our past experience in the e-commerce sector in India we believe that our business is more of an operations-led business rather than just financial engineering. Buying brands is the easier part, running and growing them is relatively complex as every category/niche has its own nuances.

Our journey so far has been full of experiments and learnings as running multiple brands concurrently has far more complexities as opposed to running a single brand. Some highlights of our business being that the business of our portfolio has grown by 1.8X in the past 6 months with healthy and sustainable margins. We would also be expanding in different geographies such as the USA and UAE early next month.

ET: What sectors of the e-commerce business are witnessing great potential for PH91?

SD: Given that the e-commerce market is still nascent, most of the sectors are still under-penetrated and are poised to deliver great returns in the long term.

Having said that, we at Powerhouse91 feel that the personal care & wellness, home & kitchen, elderly care, fitness and outdoor/ travel accessories sectors will deliver high returns in the future.

ET: What are the emerging trends in the roll-up industry?

SD: Amidst all the issues that COVID has created in our sector, particularly with respect to the supply chain, it has acted as a catalyst for the adoption and growth of e-commerce in India. There are a number of businesses that have grown exponentially in the past two years, however, the growth in some sectors is opportunistic and not sustainable in the short to medium term.

Currently, there are a limited number of sizable and quality online brands in India. The multiple to buy the brands has been increasing constantly, thereby, making the buy approach financially unfeasible in some cases. While the multiples will gradually normalise to the original levels over a period of time, in the near-term businesses in our sector will have to be very prudent while making new purchases and will have to focus on alternative innovative levers to achieve the desired growth.

ET: Why does it make sense for a small and medium ecommerce player to sell/get acquired byPH91?

SD: Running an online business is not straightforward as it seems. The complexities increase multifold with scale. While most brand owners successfully scale their business from zero to one, they face a number of issues during their next phase of growth from thereon.

Powerhouse91 is an operations-driven, customer-obsessed organisation that fills this void and acts as a catalyst to the brand’s growth journey by leveraging its knowledge base, infrastructure, in-house tools & technology and resources that have been built based on our learnings from running multiple brands across diverse categories.

Just like all brand owners, our core focus is to deliver high-quality products at an affordable price point to our customers and make our brands a household name in the near future.

ET: What are your future plans?

SD: The next couple of years is just about building & adhering to the foundational pillars that potentially improve the quality of our customers’ lives and help create a self-sustainable organisation. We will acquire more brands in our journey going forward but our focus will always be on understanding our customers’ requirements, solving their problems and taking our brands to a global stage.

(The one-stop destination for MSME, ET RISE provides news, views and analysis around GST, Exports, Funding, Policy and small business management.)

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