At the start of this year, a David versus Goliath battle took place for the franchisee rights of Mothercare, the UK-headquartered baby and maternity chain. On one side was India’s largest conglomerate, Reliance Industries. In the opposite corner stood FirstCry, the baby care and children’s product retailer.

Goliath won.

Reliance’s victory wasn’t surprising in the least. FirstCry’s involvement absolutely was. Historically, the Pune-based company has chosen the road less travelled in e-commerce. Even as others in the e-commerce game prioritised growth at all costs, FirstCry took things slow and steady. “Frugality is a part of our business,” says Supam Maheshwari, the company’s co-founder and CEO, matter-of-factly.

So FirstCry stayed out of the limelight, building the baby and kids category brick by brick, working towards profitability. Indeed, in the year ended March 2018, the company’s losses narrowed by a massive 86%— to Rs 55 crore ($7.71 million), down from Rs 393 crore ($55.2 million) in the previous fiscal. Its revenues in the same period grew 48% to Rs 355 crore ($49.7 million).

But after ten years spent taking baby steps forward, the bid for the Mothercare rights was emblematic of a startup that believes it has come of age. There is a spring in FirstCry’s step—one that coincides with the backing of the granddaddy of VC firms, SoftBank. In January, the Japanese behemoth invested $400 million for a 42% stake in the company, making FirstCry among its largest bets in India. The round valued the baby and kids retailer at $850 million, a significant mark-up from its previous round in 2016 where it was valued at $350 million.

SoftBank understands the potential. With over 25 million children born in India annually, the opportunity is huge. According to publicly available reports, the potential across products and services in the mother and childcare space in India is estimated to be worth $74 billion by 2020. Naiyya Saggi, founder of pregnancy and parenting platform Babychakra, says less than 2% of the market is organised. FirstCry is looking to both grow and corner this market.

“When it comes to kids, everybody wants the best and nothing less. Today, if you look around, disposable incomes have gone up. The percentage of working women has increased, and a lot of purchasing decisions today are being taken by women. This gels perfectly with kids retail, where purchase drivers are mostly working moms,” says Abhishek Singhal, founder and CEO of Inroadz, a B2B marketplace connecting global brands in the baby and kids space to distributors.

Opportunity and execution, however, are far removed in this space. Over the years, many have struggled. Some—like Accel Partners-funded Babyoye—have given up the ghost altogether. Against this backdrop, FirstCry has built a solid omni-channel retail platform, creating a brand that resonates with the new generation of Indian mothers.

AUTHOR

Vandana

Vandana is based in Delhi. She covers vertically focussed startups in consumer internet space and also writes on travel tech and smartphones for The Ken. She has spent 13 years in journalism covering a wide range of subjects- equity markets, mutual funds to education and skilling, working at organisations such as Business Standard, CNBC TV18 and The Week in the past.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.