Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Tarun Gupta’s Boult Journey from Delhi to Global Acclaim

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Ever heard of those cool Boult headphones? Well, there’s a bit of a story behind them. The guy who started it, along with his brother Varun, went from the streets of Delhi to making a mark in the world of audio gadgets.

Boult Audio, a prominent player in the consumer electronics sector, traces its origins to the entrepreneurial endeavors of its founder and his brother, Varun. Rooted in the bustling streets of Delhi, the brand’s inception in 2017 marked a pivotal shift in the audio technology landscape. The entrepreneur, with a background encompassing a decade-long tenure in a US investment bank and an MBA from Boston University, laid the foundation for a company that would become the second-largest audio brand in India and a noteworthy contender in the smartwatch domain. This narrative showcases the journey of Boult Audio, an odyssey characterized by innovation, resilience, and a commitment to delivering quality in the dynamic realm of consumer electronics.

An introduction about you and your early life.

Hi, I am Tarun Gupta. I grew up in Delhi. I’m from Delhi. We are two brothers, Varun and myself. He’s my younger brother. I did my schooling and then moved to USA for my undergrad, did my bachelors, worked for an investment bank for about ten years in the US. And then did my MBA, from Boston University, in Boston itself. Later we started this company in 2017, which is about like six and a half years ago. We started in like May 2017. It’s been six-and-a-half-year journey to be here today.

What inspired you to start Boult?

Before starting Boult, Varun had another e-commerce consulting company called Brand Hawkers, where he was consulting many e-commerce companies, basically consulting many offline companies to come online. And we were helping them to sell on Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, sort of e-commerce marketplaces. He dealt in a lot of different categories of products, so not just in audio, a lot of different categories. And that inspired us to do something of our own. So rather than consulting other brands, we thought, why not start something of our own? And was passively involved with him back then because was working for the investment bank during 2015-2026. So, I was specifically working with him. And of course, this was his primary work. And then, we started this, we thought let’s start an audio brand. Also being a musician himself. So audio was a good place to enter this category. We started this on Myntra and we were Myntra exclusive for about 18 months. Before we opened up doors to Amazon and all other e-commerce marketplaces from 2019 January.

What are your goals for Boult in the next 5 to 10 years?

We aspire to be the biggest brand globally in both, audio and smartwatch segment. We had a phenomenal growth journey in last six and a half years. In India itself, like we are second largest audio brand.Tthen in smartwatch itself, we are fourth largest brand. And this is when we just launched last year like summer of last year. So we’ve just been in this category for about 12 to 15 months in the smartwatch category, where most of the competition has been there for 2 to 3 years. We had a phenomenal journey. And then we plan to of course to be on top within India and then also take brand globally to a lot of other markets. And we are one of the top brands over the IoT space.

Can you share some of the best marketing strategies according to you that Boult used?

In terms of marketing strategy, one thing we believe, like as a bootstrap firm, we’ve never had a big marketing budget. So we’ve not spent like a competition, like, spend a lot of money into big marketing. What we’ve always done well in terms of marketing is like having a good, solid product. We believe if you make a good quality product in terms of design, in terms of specs and quality, and you deliver that to customer, the customer will come back asking for more. And as a category itself, especially the audio category, it’s a very high repeat purchase and referral category for both. It’s true for both audio and smartwatches. So customers do come back. Also, there’s a lot of referral purchase. So if you’re a college student, I mean, if you buy a product, right, your friends will be asking and, suggest the product to a friend because it’s very affordable products as well. For a working professional, if you’re wearing it in your office, people will come around the thing they’ll be asking you, like you know which product you’re wearing, and then you come back. So that has been the best form of marketing. So we always invest heavily into our product and quality. That is always welcome along with that. Of course we also have brand ambassadors like we have Saif Ali Khan for both audio and smartwatches. And before these guys we had Vicky Kaushal as well. So of course that enables trust. You know because customers mindset they trust the brand more. You know when they see these celebrities as well. Using them and of course as a good quality product apart from that, we advertise on the ecommerce marketplaces a lot directly and both on Amazon and Flipkart, which of course gives us good returns as well.

So according to you, which ecommerce platform is best for your category of products like speakers and stuff?

Primary business is not just speakers. I mean it’s basically personal audio which is headphones. Earbuds what you see me wearing, earbuds, neck bands, wired products. And that’s primary business in the audio segment. Speaker is a very small segment of personal audio. I mean in terms of marketplaces it’s difficult to say like, which one is the best. I would say in terms of, like the biggest players in the market, both Amazon and Flipkart are two best players in the market in terms of the commerce marketplace, but there are a lot of other platforms who are doing well, like Myntra, Tata, cliq, there are many new emerging platforms as well. Along with that, we also do well on our own website. So there are a lot of customers who come and buy directly from us.

How do you see Boult Audio differentiating itself from other audio brands?

The best form of differentiation is the quality. Design and quality is how we lead as a brand. If you look at any of our audio products, you know they are better in terms of design language compared to any of the competition in the market. And same goes for quality. So if you look at the way to telephone product is good quality or not is also like by looking at the reviews on Amazon and Flipkart. So if you see most of products are rated for 4500 across these two platforms, rated far better compared to our competition. And you know, we always believe if the quality is good, the customer is going to come back.

Can you share some of the biggest challenges that you have faced in building Boult?

One challenge that we’ve always faced as a company is working capital. We’ve been, a bootstrap company for six and a half years. We had a phenomenal growth journey. So working capital has always been something which we’ve faced a challenge with, but we’ve always managed to get by. And, we kept on still keep growing with that. Along with that building a right team, it’s always a challenge to find the right set of people who believe in your goals. Then they can be a part of it and help you grow as well. One thing we’ve also learned is you can’t do everything by yourself, especially once you achieve a scale. You need a right team that can help you scale. So just building a team has not been easy. And then the other part was the working capital.

How does the brand balance innovation and affordability?

In terms of innovation, affordability we always make sure we give the best possible specs to the customer at the best price point. So we know there could be, for example, there could be some specs which we can add to the product, which could increase the price. But we always see like what actually customer want. We have to find that balance right between pricing because it is a price sensitive market. If the price goes up, you know, the demand typically goes down unless the specs that we are giving to them is something which they definitely strive for. For example, right now in audio, we definitely see a good quality battery, like a high battery life, a good quality micro, something they look for. So, with our scale, what we can do successfully is we can always get good pricing, sourcing from China itself, which helps us. Customers don’t really have to pick too much helium even if they bring a top-quality product.

Okay, so does the brand support local communities and social causes by any chance?

So in terms of local community, India has been a big initiative in terms of supporting local community. We’ve created a lot of employment, both directly and indirectly. So directly as in like we have our own facility where we employ a lot of people and then indirectly through our contract manufacturers. So, you know, so we employ more than 1000 people or would say more about 1500 people, which previously used to all be in China. So this has been something which we’ve done in just the last, I would say, 12 to 15 months. In terms of social causes, I mean, what we do is mean in terms of, for example, packaging itself, we try to use recyclable products. I mean, we’re trying to get away from plastics as much as possible and use paper along with that as a brand. But we also try to do is support education for underprivileged kids. So like, we have one of the initiatives with the others, which is where we fund education, for privileged kids. So, we are funding 1000 plus kids right now. And then we keep funding more and more. These are a couple of things that come to my mind right now. And we do a few more things like that.

We have heard a lot in the news that continuous usage of headphones and speakers causes damage to the ears. And this generation is using it like too much more than expected. So what would you like to advice them?

There’s two parts to it. One is, there’s a myth that the Bluetooth connectivity affects your brain, which is not true. The Bluetooth signal has no real effect to your brain and doesn’t cause any damage. What actually causes damage can be like high volume. Which is true for any speaker that you have at home. If you listen to music at 100% volume for a very long time, it can affect your ears. But as long as you’re using the right volume, it has no effect on your ears or your brain. I mean, it’s absolutely safe. And even if you have very long, consumption like, throughout the day, you’re using for ten hours a day, it has absolutely no effect as long as the volume is controlled, you don’t want it to be at 100% or like 90% volume. You blasting music in your ears throughout the day. It can be. But if you’re using a 70% volume, 80% volume, it’s totally fine.

Okay, so can you share some of the things that you are most proud of accomplishing with Boult?

So one thing we were proud of is like in our growth journey, being a bootstrap firm, having to reach this scale in just a matter of six and a half years is something we proud of. It being the second largest audio brand, most of our competition is heavily funded. And, we have a company even in smartwatches, just becoming the largest player. We sell a product every five seconds. So this is something very proud of

What is the most important thing that you have learned in this journey as an entrepreneur?

Journey that we’ve learned is overall, that we need to learn from mistakes. We always keep making mistakes, because we keep trying something new, right? In the past six years, you always need to learn from mistakes whenever and always move forward after that. Also like always, keep innovating. We are in a tech consumer tech industry. The technology always keeps involving, so something, that we’ve also seen like, keep innovating and innovating very fast. You can’t have to wait faster than your competition. Always stay ahead of the competition. So that is something we always go for. And, in general, just stay hungry for most. As an entrepreneur, you have to have that hunger in you to grow at a very fast, massive pace, which is what we’ve done very successfully.

One piece of advice that you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the consumer electronics industry.

If you want to enter this industry to choose the right personally set of product, figure out where there is a gap in the market. Because when we entered this market, there was a big gap because most of the other brands were at a premium segment, that there was nobody at affordable price point where you can give a premium product at a portable price point to figure out where the gap is in that consumer space industry, because there are always gaps, which, you know can be found in any industry which is consumer tech or any other industry. So figure out the gaps and enter the right time. Apart from that once you’re entering, of course some of the things from what I mentioned earlier stay hungry and keep innovating. One of the things I mentioned with challenges, build a right team because, again you can’t do everything by yourself. You need to make sure you have the right thing. One last piece of advice would be, whenever you stuck with the problem, as an entrepreneur, find a solution, figure out, find a solution. Just don’t give up. You can never give up. You will always face challenges. You know you will fail. Obstacles are everywhere. So just don’t give up and try something new. Even if you think it might not work, just try it out. Because we try something, you learn from it, right? You learn from your mistakes and, you know, you keep improving. So. But you need to keep trying, right? Rather than just give up. Because what I’ll say to any entrepreneur getting into wayside, not just consumer tech in any industry, the same rule applies everywhere for people.

The challenges they faced, the lessons learned, and the commitment to making top-notch stuff all contribute to a story that goes beyond just headphones. Boult’s tale is like a guide for anyone wanting to start something. It’s about quality, innovation, and helping out the community. Boult isn’t just about audio; it’s about turning dreams into reality, and that’s pretty cool.

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