A man from a small town in Madhya Pradesh asked BabyChakra to help him find a fertility clinic. BabyChakra sent him some recommendations. Last week, a year after his initial message, he shared a picture of two baby girls thanking BabyChakra. He now has a family he thought he would never have.
This is just one of the countless heartwarming stories one can witness daily on BabyChakra. A leading online parenting platform in India, it connects 2 million families with experts and with each other every month. As one of the early stage investors, we can only be proud of how well BabyChakra has grown. Today, their services cover everything from infertility experts, nutritionists, physiotherapists, baby products to playschools. It has over 17,000 service providers listed across three cities- Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi.
In a candid phone call with Naiyya Saggi, the founder and CEO of BabyChakra, we realized she is emotionally attached to BabyChakra, treating it as more than just a business. Her entire team is deeply attached to their cause and has achieved remarkable growth since its inception in 2015. A soon-to-be mom herself, Naiyya uses the platform and was amazed at its dynamic nature. She said, “I especially love to read the tip of the day which knows exactly what I’m feeling every morning and what I should be doing to feel better. How does it do that?”
The platform doesn’t simply provide services. It lets to-be parents and young parents connect with each other to discuss issues and solutions. During pregnancy, an expecting mother undergoes a lot of physical and emotional change. In such a time, community support matters. BabyChakra plays a huge role in providing much-needed support as well as educating individuals about baby-care and parenting.
In our hour-long discussion with Naiyya, we deep-dived into the problem she was addressing, the processes she followed when she began the business, and what lay ahead for BabyChakra and the Indian parenting sector.
According to industry analysts and insiders, the Indian parenting sector isn’t an easy market to crack. Around 90% of the market is locked up with old-world offline baby product retailers.
However, it has seen massive growth in the last couple of years. Parents no longer want to lean only on the circle of their parents, in-laws and local paediatricians for advice on child rearing. Joint families are giving way to nuclear ones and the rise in disposable incomes, as well as double income households, have led to parents devoting more money to child-rearing. The growing internet penetration across the country has led to awareness among parents (even in remote areas) about proper child-care. More parents are now willing to use premium quality products, services and specialists for their babies. In a market that was reliant on old networks, this shift is clearly visible from the growing number of users on BabyChakra platform.
But this was not the case when Naiyya began her journey. “Back in the day,” Naiyya recalls, “it was a sunrise sector, hardly any brands provided premium baby products. Experts were geographically concentrated and unavailable to parents from rural India. Many parents from the cities too were unaware of a lot of things, for instance, there is something like a lactation specialist.”
A former rainmaker with McKinsey, Naiyya used her learnings and business acumen in the field of maternal and child health to start her venture. While she had the business skills, she lacked user-research and hence, wanted to first understand the user problems and pain points that she could address with her product. For her research, she met around 600 mothers over coffee. She learnt about the issues they faced and the products they used for themselves or their baby. Her research culminated in the launch of a personalized, mobile first app and web platform for mothers and fathers.
Naiyya launched the BabyChakra platform in February 2015 and then there was no looking back. The start-up has raised three rounds of funding in total with the latest one from a group of senior corporate leaders including Equanimity Ventures Fund, backed by Mark Mobius and Rajesh Sehgal; Facebook director Anand Chandrasekaran; OYO chief strategy officer and ex-Lightspeed Ventures investor Maninder Gulati; and Gideon Marks, a Silicon Valley tech investor credited with three NASDAQ public offerings. Existing investors Arihant Patni, Artha India Ventures, and Bharat Rawla were also a part of this funding round.
Investors are keen on investing in the parenting sector. With more than 127 million children under the age of 4 years, nearly 27 million annual births and a fertility rate of 2.72 per woman, India makes for an attractive market. The Indian baby care market is expected to grow annually by 17% in revenues from $14 billion to $31 billion in the 2014–2019 period. Multiple mother-child care portals have recently launched, and offline retailers are slowly disappearing since they pay high rentals, earn slim margins and deal with employee churn. Whereas, online companies build a large inventory and a strong supply chain backbone to deal with the wide array of orders. BabyChakra has been at the forefront in this segment.
Currently, BabyChakra records 5,00,000 users who log-in every month. And the team has set ambitious goals for the new year. They want to deploy their funds to expand the platform to more regions across India, increase the number of users and their stickiness within the platform. With the implementation of 10 regional languages, BabyChakra expects its user base to grow about 5–10 times and touch 15 million by the end of FY19. They want to help native and rural users to easily understand and communicate on the platform by incorporating Hindi and other regional languages. Naiyya said, “Today, we serve a pressing need for India. More than 70% of our users are families in tier 2 and tier 3 towns. They use regional languages, video and voice to make critical health and wellness decisions for mothers and children.”
This post was originally published on Medium in Artha India Ventures on 18 January 2019 by the author as part of her work at the company.