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Bhumi’s Bid for Global Expansion
Bhumi’s focus is on sustainability, but it is equally focused on sustained growth, raising capital for international expansion.
Aussie business Bhumi is preparing to launch across six new global markets. The Melbourne-headquartered company was established in 2015, and has grown from zero outside capital to turning over more than $1 million last financial year.
“Bhumi has helped Australians change the way they think about and consume cotton products by producing an ethically manufactured range of bedding, bath, basics, yoga and activewear,” Founder Vinita Baravkar tells Power Retail. “We have shipped over 65,000 products and had thousands of happy customers with over 4,000 reviews on our website since our launch in 2015.”
Sustainability and environmental issues are at the heart of the Bhumi model. “The negative effects of conventional cotton farming and what goes on in the textile industry is not something we should accept. This is why we started Bhumi Organic Cotton. As founders, we bring a deep understanding of health, social and environmental issues around sustainable textile production, along with strong business management experience,” Baravkar says.
Bhumi began as a bicks-and-mortar store, but has since shifted to online only, closing its physical storefront last year. “This decision came about primarily as a result of changing consumer behaviour,” says Founder Vinita Baravkar. “When we started, 90 percent of our sales were in-store purchases (and 10 percent online). Over the past 18 months, that ratio reversed to 90 percent online, 10 percent in-store.”
The pureplay model, as well as investment in automation, has positioned the company for cross-border growth and expansion of its product range. “One of the biggest efficiencies of no longer operating a physical store has been streamlining our inventory management and faster fulfilment of products, resulting in speedy delivery,” says Baravkar, telling us that over 95 percent of its products are shipped same or next day at no extra cost.
“The home is seen as the customer’s change room,” Baravkar says of of its generous returns policy. This is where decisions about fit, colour and size are made, which is why there is a free shipping and returns policy.
With a focus on sustainability, Baravkar tells us that the move to online-only also had to be environmentally friendly. “We are able to streamline our operations and thereby significantly reduce our carbon footprint,” she explains. “We are now partnered with Fulfilio (a subsidiary of Australia Post) who are very conscious and active in reducing their own carbon footprint. Our entire packaging process is eco-friendly and plastic free – we only use recycled boxes and even our packaging tape is not plastic. It is an eco-friendly alternative to reduce the amount of plastic used in ecommerce parcels.”
As part of its focus on the environment, Bhumi has now implemented real time impact metrics (relating to C02 emissions and water saved) on each purchase. It is also implementing real-time tracking that allows transparency from ‘seed to shelf’. Customers will know the journey of their cotton from which their product was made from (from farm, to factory, to sea, to port, to warehouse, to home).
Despite its success and focus on growth, it knows all too well the hurdles that come with it. “International expansion is one of the biggest challenges for Australian e-commerce businesses, particularly from a warehousing and fulfilment perspective,” Baravkar tells us. “For example, the outbound shipping from Australia to US (or Europe) is extremely expensive relative to inbound shipping, making it less desirable and competitive for e-commerce businesses to compete in these markets. To succeed overseas, Australian e-commerce businesses need to have a well thought out strategy to scale their warehousing and fulfilment in a profitable manner without diluting the customer experience.”
Bhumi is now raising capital via equity on the Birchal platform to allow for growth and international expansion.
“Business founders tell us that equity crowdfunding is a great additional reason to speak to your customers,” says Matthew Vitale, Co-Founder of the Birchal platform. “And when executed successfully, you get the funding you need, and a tribe of fiercely passionate ambassadors who love your product and will try to make everyone they know love it too.”
So, what’s next for Bhumi? “We are looking forward to an exciting 12 months ahead. We are preparing to roll out a number of new collections across Bedding (a new Winter range), Basics (a new Bra range), Yoga and Activewear (a new Spring collection) in six new countries, including the US and UK. Watch this space!”