Small Business Saturday: Zoomin CEO Sachin Katira On Growing A Customized Gifting Company
American Express started Small Business Saturdays on November 27, 2010, to introduce people to more small businesses. Local businesses with big dreams form the core of many communities across the world. Falling on the weekend of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the day is an exciting chance for small businesses to gain more traction.
The world of small business is often tricky. Gaining an audience and continuing down the path is difficult for any entrepreneur looking to start.
Sachin Katira, the CEO and Director of Zoomin, knows this world inside and out. Founded in 2009, the innovative enterprise has made its mark on personal gifting technology. But, how did this business come into being, and how did it reach the heights it claims today?
The landscape of personal gifting was relatively a largely unexplored space in India. But, photos make great conversations, remarks Sachin. “How about a photo printing service which will start conversations?” was the line of questioning they pursued as the idea struck. The business was born to provide customized gifting options to customers with excellent quality designs at an affordable price.
“I think Zoomin was started to let NRIs print and ship their regular photo prints to parents based out in India,” Sachin explains. In 2009, much of India didn’t enjoy the same access to the internet. The need for preserving the memories in a physical format was an essential part of the culture.
The internet access game underwent a sea of change when Jio entered the picture. With the explosion of data access, the India-specific photo printing and the personalized gifting market also grew in size. Sachin says, “We've launched the India-specific photo service, both the website and the app. And, we believe we are the go-to place for everything personalized, helping our customers to creatively express themselves through the thoughtfully designed photo products of the highest quality at an affordable price point.”
Sachin, who initially moved to Zoomin as the Head of Customer Service has seen the company grow from strength to strength. He was instrumental in turning a loss making business profitable and grew the vertical retailing cameras and accessories from 2 to 20 crores within a year. This eventually paved his path to becoming the CEO and Director of Zoomin in 2018. Today, he is also the founder and CEO of Zooboo, a platform to make kids’ learning experience better and more personalized.
Marketing the business
For a largely sentimental population like India, the gifting process is no longer restricted to occasions. People practice self-gifting and like to document key milestones in their lives. For him, Zoomin is a company that facilitates this with enthusiasm. The celebration of these occasions in a data-accessible world is what the company offers to its consumers. Sachin believes that their service gives people a respite from the drudgery of regular life in the fast-moving world with a space where they are celebrated.
“The largest consumer base for Zoomin is the young family, who would want to preserve all their moments, celebrating their anniversaries, babies or family occasions, that's the consumer, and predominantly female is what we are targeting in the age group of 28 to 40.”
The company is unique in another aspect too. As a personalized and customized service, the customer spends a long time on the service. The designs require inputs, and the customer is constantly in touch with the service during the process. Zoomin navigates this difficulty by owning and using its entire value chain. Everything from design to production and the creative team is under a roof, making the whole business personal in itself.
The typical Zoomin workday
Sachin breaks into laughter as he explains the workday. They’re a dashboard-inclined company, with numbers and statistics playing a large part in their daily lives. They track the performance on a day-to-day basis to assure optimum quality to all their consumers.
"The day for us starts with the quick review of the numbers of the previous day. When it’s time for a product launch, we are working on a fortnightly sprint to get started with the features that we want to launch,” he says.
He shares that they spend a lot of time with the production team and since they own the entire value chain, it is quite convenient. “We can easily go to a production center, see what people are printing, how they are using our designs, and that gives us the best insight to be able to decide the kind of themes people really like,” Sachin adds.
Regardless of sector or size, productivity and performance is crucial for all companies. Sachin’s team uses Trello on a day-to-day basis. The tracking process leads to a weekly catch-up with the team. Sachin encourages a horizontal structure where everyone comes in with their ideas and explains what they want from the team. The work is facilitated by Trello cards that share data access throughout the organization.
The public forum offers them a way to get solutions to sticky problems that plague the company every week. “We use Trello to guide the meeting. We keep all our egos at the door, we keep it short, and everyone has a say in arriving at clear outcomes,” says the CEO. He believes that this organizational style has served him best, offering Zoomin the flexibility to make decisions. These weekly meetings allow the business to deliver its best quality to the consumers.
There are interesting plans of expansions on the horizon for the growing company. “I think we have evolved over the last few years, specifically in the last three years is when we have seen exponential growth. We've launched our new UI and the UX on the Android app, and the iOS is launching early next week, and then the web,” Sachin says. They feel that there is a lot of opportunity in the Indian market and want to focus on unit economics, making calculative decisions, and taking risks that can help the company move fast.
There have been instance where they would invest in a feature that would not work out, failing over the next few weeks. Then COVID-19 came. Over the past year, the company had to deal with a loss of consumers over an extended period. Forced to stay home, they saw 40% of their consumer base dwindle during that period.
Expressing his gratitude for the consumers, he says “There were a lot of customers who had access to data, and they were sitting at home, so they had some more time with their families to create products and preserve the memories. And that helped us keep going.”
Zoomin has grown by leaps and bounds in its 12 years and now, it services 20,000 pin codes and creates more designs every day to help more people preserve their memories. The business is still on the uptick, and Sachin plans to take the company further to increase its offerings and scale towards other major cities.
P.S. They’re hiring UX designers and tech folks who want to contribute to personalized gifting!