With the word “wanderlust” getting extremely popular, people have become extremely enthusiastic about traveling. From the scenic mountains of Himachal to the soothing beaches in Kerala, traveling is not just for leisure when you start traveling, you learn a lot. One thing that every travel enthusiast is looking for is affordable, long-lasting, and quality travel products. This is exactly what founders, Santosh Kumar, Niraj Sharma, and Sourabh S Jaiswar have created through their startup De Vagabond.
Mr. Santosh is a first-generation entrepreneur and he has worked with Deutsche Bank for around seven years in investment banking operations and country management. Originally from Himachal Pradesh, he has been in Mumbai since 2006.
Mr. Niraj is from Patna, Bihar, and was a part of the Sales and Marketing industry before beginning with De Vagabond. He was also a part of the company Wildcraft.
Mr. Sourabh is an M Tech Environmental Science, staying at Mira Road, Mumbai, and Originally from Pilibhit U.P.
Neeraj and Santosh have been batchmates since they were pursuing MBA and when they coincidentally met in the city of dreams, the idea of De Vagabond struck. At the peak of their careers, they found a gap in the travel and bags market that hardly anyone was catering to and so they set on their entrepreneurial journey. Here’s what the co-founders shared with team Sociobits:
Team Sociobits: How did you come up with the idea of De Vagabond?
Co-Founders: We found that there was potential to come up with a solution that provided functional and durable bags at an affordable rate. We basically saw that good quality sports and outdoor gear products were only available for the niche market but there was no product catering to middle-income earning families.
Both of us are also traveling enthusiasts and since we used to travel a lot, we were aware of the kind of challenges related to travel equipment that is faced in India. There are basically two options available; either you get a high-priced option that also comes with good quality, or you get a low-priced one whose quality won’t be up to the mark. So, we identified this opportunity and are trying to cater to it.
There are basically two options available; either you get a high-priced option that also comes with good quality, or you get a low-priced one whose quality won’t be up to the mark. So, we identified this opportunity and are trying to cater to it.
Team Sociobits: Why is this gap present in the market? And how are you catering to it?
Co-Founders: The luggage market is a highly unorganized market and 70% of it is dominated by unorganized local players. So, the companies that provide an affordable solution source it from a different country, but most of the time products are not functional and durable and also do not provide opportunities to the local players. I then used my prior experience to understand that if we can build or source a product that fits in between, and is affordable, it would be a market fit.
That’s when we started manufacturing and came up with products that are made in India from the scratch. That’s how we could provide affordable solutions.
Team Sociobits: How has your journey with the De Vagabond been so far?
Co-Founders: When we left our jobs and started to venture into the world of entrepreneurship, our families were puzzled as to why were we doing this. We also put in everything we had to build De Vagabond. When you are into manufacturing, initially you have to put in a lot of effort. So, the last seven years were tough for us but we are serving at least 100 families through our company and this makes us feel confident and also gives us immense happiness.
It is true that we were doing well in our professional careers but when we saw the opportunity and the fact that we can make indigenous products, although it was tough previously, now we have a team of more than 100 people.
It is true that we were doing well in our professional careers but when we saw the opportunity and the fact that we can make indigenous products, although it was tough previously, now we have a team of more than 100 people. This gives us a feeling of achievement. Since the first day, we were clear that we are building a brand, an institution, and not something that you could make us quick money.
Sometimes times were unconventional, like when we expected the market to move at a certain pace but it didn’t. We were also offered jobs but we rejected them. So, we chose the tough path but it is worth it.
Team Sociobits: Could you also point out some of the challenges that you faced while building De Vagabond?
Team Sociobits: Since we were totally new to manufacturing, hiring the right people was an initial challenge, because, unlike the garment industry where many things are automated, the gear and equipment industry needs more manpower. Automation plays a minor role.
When we started off we weren’t from a business background so we also didn’t have the collateral to get funds from the bank. The startup ecosystem was still developing back then so we approached the banks. They saw our entrepreneurial spirit and we were one of the few people who secured a loan through the CGTMSE of the Government of India.
In 2014, there were four kinds of markets, the traditional market, also known as general trade, modern trade, corporate, and B2B orders, and the e-commerce sector. But the online market was quite small and it was tough to participate and understand. We started with general trade but moved on to modern trade because the market was changing and this helped us build our cash flow. Eventually, we also partnered with online brands. So since the market was rapidly changing, it was initially difficult to navigate through it.
The startup ecosystem was still developing back then so we approached the banks. They saw our entrepreneurial spirit and we were one of the few people who secured a loan through the CGTMSE of the Government of India.
These were some of the challenges we faced initially but when everyone saw our work, our passion, and our vision, everyone supported us.
Team Sociobits: Did COVID-19 affect your business in any way? And why would consumers choose you?
Co-Founders: It was during COVID-19 that our business turned profitable and this is because we chose the right partners. Our partners like D-Mart, Walmart, etc. knew that De Vagabond provided quality and affordable products. Our partnerships were so strong that when the travel or luggage market was down, they suggested alternatives that we can provide to consumers that were in demand. The pandemic didn’t impact us a lot and we could maintain our top and bottom line even during the pandemic.
After the pandemic, we started ideating how we can showcase our product for mass consumption on a global platform. So with an example in our heads to become the ‘mini Decathalon’ for the tier two and tier three cities of India, we added new products. So, people from anywhere in India, where big names are not present, can get access to good-quality and affordable products.
People choose De Vagabond because our products are functional and durable at a very affordable price.
Team Sociobits: What are some of the goals that you have set to be achieved this year? And what are your plans for the future?
Co-Founders: We are looking forward to installing at least 4 – 5 experience centers across India. So people get the option to buy online as well as offline. We are doing this because when it comes to the products from this industry, people want to feel and touch the product before buying it. With this, we are also planning to understand the Indian sports market and its requirements, and cater to it by providing affordable equipment. This way we can help people who are in the interior parts of India can also get access to these products. We also want to increase our online revenue share to 25% next year.
With this, we are also planning to understand the Indian sports market and its requirements, and cater to it by providing affordable equipment. This way we can help people who are in the interior parts of India can also get access to these products.
De Vagabond is set to provide end-to-end travel, sports, and luggage solutions so consumers don’t have to go to different places looking for these products. The company is becoming a one-stop-shop solution for any kind of travel and sport equipment needs and who would understand it better than two travel and sport enthusiasts themselves?