A Kolkata kid, Siddiq completed his education in Indiana University, where he double majored in economics and telecommunication along with the business minor. On returning to India, he initially joined his father’s interior designing business, which involved large corporate projects. Here, he understood the financial aspects of running an enterprise in India, which prompted him to take up finance as a career.
That thought prompted him to shift base to Mumbai, where he worked as an investment banker for four years. In 2015, the entrepreneurial bug bit him and moved base back to Kolkata, thinking he would rejoin his father or take up another line of business.
Siddiq took up the distribution for a mattress brand in Eastern India, which involved handling retail as well as institutional business. That’s when he realised the challenges prevalent in the mattress industry, especially how difficult and expensive it is to sell one.
“It’s amazing that we spend over a third of on a mattress, but most of us don’t know anything about buying one. When they enter a store, the salesperson will try to sell them the most expensive product because that is how he will make margins, or the buyer will pick something they are unsure about. This decision making process takes place within 15 minutes and 10 days later, when they receive the product, most of the times they are unhappy with it, but they are stuck with it,” Siddiq explained.
Considering this grey area – including lack of information about the kinds of mattress, its USP, where it is available – Siddiq embarked on research on this product domain for almost two years and then launched SleepyCat in August 2017. Quiz him about this name and he laughs, “Cats sleep an average of 15 hours daily, and we want our customers to rest like them and way up with a purr-fect sleep.”
LOSING SLEEP OVER MATTRESSES
Based on his first-hand experience, Siddiq realised that it is amongst the most expensive products to sell per square foot of the real estate given the space it occupies. Additionally, a lot of effort is required to sell it in offline retail, with every channel in the network having their own margin.
This prompted him to launch SleepyCat as a mattress in a box. This meant that the product could be easily delivered without any hassle to any part of the country. “Since a mattress is so large, it’s impossible to transport it from let’s say Mumbai to Kolkata. But when we put it in a box, it so easily transferable that we can even courier it,” Siddiq explained, adding that SleepyCat has even shipped mattresses to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
While the concept of a mattress in a box existed in western countries, replicating it for the Indian market was not easy. Siddiq spent lot of time researching on the mattress’ composition, including the quality of foam used, and the machinery that can compress the foam in a way that it would bounce back once the package was opened.
Siddiq’s second decision was to opt for the online business route. And his choice of platform was Amazon Launchpad. He recalled, “When we launched on the ecommerce portal on August 2017, we had around 45 mattresses in stock. I expected to sell it within three months, since we did not have a brand name or advertising budget. All I did was create a video where I explained about the concept and what was different about SleepyCat.”
Imagine his surprise, when the inventory was sold out within three months. This carried on for a while, till he managed to build a company ecommerce portal as well and even take preorders from customers willing to wait for the product.
SIMPLIFYING MATTRESS BUYING
Often customers buying mattresses would be perplexed on the parameters on how to choose the right one, given that it would have different fabrics, thickness, firmness, material, thread count, etc. Siddiq decided to simplify matters by creating one mattress that had it all, the SleepyCat Original. “It had everything a customer could possibly need –1-inch of gel-memory foam, a 5-inch durable high-density base foam temperature control, orthopaedic base support, and a zipper outer cover that makes it easy to clean. Customers just had to choose their sizes online our size or Amazon and we would deliver it across,” he said.
THE NEXT BIG LEAP
In addition to quality, Siddiq decided to play smart on the pricing front to chart a long-term road map. Hence, the products are priced between INR 10,500 to INR 19,000. At the same time, emphasis was placed on improving quality not by reducing prices, but instead improving processes. Siddiq identified seven suppliers for the various raw materials that go into the making of a mattress.
“Since we presently have one product, it is viable for us to buy the raw material in volume from these suppliers, as opposed to if we had 10 different products. This helps us maintain economies of scale, which we can pass on to our customers,” he said. At the same time, it also makes it easier to map the order turnaround time and estimate the time to process the next shipment, given their limited requirements.
Recently, the company introduced SleepyCat Plus, a premium version of its flagship product, which also uses the same raw materials, albeit with a different structure. “Our idea is to get into a variety of affiliated products, like pillows, bedsheet, duvets, etc, and become the one-stop for sleep solutions,” Siddiq revealed.
CROSSING THE RURAL THRESHOLD
The Indian mattress market is estimated to be around INR 15,000 crore, with the unorganised segment commanding almost 65%, especially in tier two and three cities. The reason for their popularity is because the gadiwalas, as they are colloquially called, will visit a customer’s house, take measurements and negotiate on the price.
“They provide cheaper pricing because they have no other channels of distribution. At the same time, they often use inferior quality of raw materials, like coir and cotton. By offering delivery to the door with superior quality and prompt service, we can cater to the rural customers as well,” Siddiq claimed.
In fact, he said that almost 20% to 25% of orders that SleepyCat receives are from these cities, which underlines how ecommerce has democratized the buying process for mattresses. Now that he has built a sizable presence online, does he plan to open offline stores as well?
Not at the moment, Siddiq said. “If we move into offline, we will have to get into a distribution channel, give them margins, hire extra salespeople, which will increase our pricing However, we would not like to rule it out completely in the future either,” he optimistically stated.