Chaitanya Ramalingegowda is a serial entrepreneur who made three attempts at taking his startups towards self-sufficiency or exits. “My first two startups ended up shutting down. It was a very low period in my life professionally and personally. But that period also ended up being a period of introspection into what went wrong, and what skills I had gained in those attempts,” says Chaitanya. Having the right business partner is a very important factor in building a successful startup business and entrepreneurial venture. He adds, “Those failures became the foundation for the next phase of my career since that is when I met my Co-founder, Ankit and we started Wakefit.co together.”
Started in 2016, Wakefit.co is a sleep-solutions brand that aims to revolutionize the way Indians sleep, with cutting edge products. “Our product portfolio includes mattresses, bed frames, pillows, comforters, mattress protectors, bed sheets, back cushions and neck pillows. We manufacture our products in-house and sell online through our website and other e-marketplaces,” shares Chaitanya. With an ever-expanding portfolio and a growing customer base which currently stands at over 5 Lakhs, Wakefit.co commands about 40 per cent of the online mattress market.
Wakefit.co focuses on and promotes healthy sleep culture to help our customers and community lead healthier lives. Having seen 3x growth revenues since inception, Chaitanya and his team are now looking forward to expanding their brand to deeper pockets in the country to help India sleep better. “We keep in constant touch with customers even after they buy from us, to enhance the overall purchase and post-purchase experience,” pinpoints Chaitanya.
Finding the Right Co-Founder
Entrepreneurship has always been an exciting prospect for Chaitanya. His first two ventures had given him invaluable learning experiences and he had acquired the skills and wherewithal to build rich online communities without spending too much on marketing. “When Ankit Garg spoke to me about his startup idea while we were working together at another company, it struck a chord and I felt I could use my past learnings to help build Wakefit.co along with Ankit,” recounts Chaitanya.
Ankit has a background in chemical engineering from IIT Roorkee and had worked with a German multinational that produces and sells foam previously. He commands a deep knowledge of the mattress market. Ankit has identified that there were major gaps in the mattress and sleep-solutions industry. People were paying high prices for products that had seen minimal innovation due to the structural framework of the mattress sector. Moreover, customer service was very poor, and middlemen increased product prices by as much as 40-50 per cent. These factors pointed towards the need for innovation in product development, customer experience and cost-efficiency.
“Ankit and I decided to start Wakefit.co as a Direct-to-Consumer brand that would do its own R&D, manufacture high-quality products, cut middlemen and reduce prices by selling online and delivering to the doorstep of consumers,” explains Chaitanya. This move helped the founding team of Wakefit.co to gather valuable insights about the customer, which in turn helped them in product development and improving their customer experience. He adds, “The initial challenge lied in earning the trust of customers. However, word-of-mouth played a key role in establishing the trust and credibility of the company.”
Being Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand that operates on an online-only model, Wakefit.co extensively uses the digital medium as the foundation to reach out to the customers for its business and the majority of its communication and engagement happens online. “The digital platforms have democratized access to customers, and if a brand is willing to put in the hard work of engaging with their customers, it is a great way of educating as well as selling to your audience,” pinpoints Chaitanya.
Being an Entrepreneur
Chaitanya knows that the journey of an entrepreneur is almost always filled with roadblocks at multiple stages. He says, “With the experiences from my first two startups, my major takeaway was that only hard work is not enough to guarantee success. A combination of a promising business idea, hard work and the coming together of various factors externally and internally need to happen if the startup has to take off.” Chaitanya has managed to create engaged communities in both his previous startups, which helped him adapt the learnings to suit Wakefit.co’s needs. He has also kept in touch with the startup community and had learnings from his consulting days, which helped Wakefit.co in customer acquisition, retention, sales, marketing and technology functions while starting up
“Strong business fundamentals and a razor-sharp focus on what your customer wants can greatly enhance the chances of success. I also realized that one of the key qualities an entrepreneur must inculcate is to have faith in their abilities. Challenges can stunt your confidence but believing in your strengths and learning from past mistakes is the only way to ensure that your entrepreneurial spirit is not jaded over time,” states Chaitanya. An MBA holder from ISB Hyderabad, Chaitanya has worked as a management consultant advising CXOs in the US, Canada and Europe.
Today, the work culture at Wakefit.co is lively and vibrant. The start-up considers its employees as the strongest pillars and hence, is very rigorous about the hiring process. “We typically look for go-getters and problem solvers, who are not afraid to break out of the mould to achieve goals. Since we are a growing start-up, we pursue aggressive growth targets and hence, qualities such as hard work and a learning attitude are highly valued at the company,” pinpoints Chaitanya.
Despite being a serial entrepreneur, there has been no single role model in Chaitanya’s life. “I believe when you look at one person and try to make him/her your role model, you tend to get disappointed somewhere along the way because every person has his/her own flaws. A better approach is to constantly look for the good in everyone you meet or read about and try to pick up the trait you most admire,” shares Chaitanya.
With big risks come big failures, but if you are determined to achieve something, you are more likely to succeed from what you learn from the times you did not succeed. Advising future entrepreneur, Chaitanya concludes, “We are all constantly in a learning curve, so always be humble and understand that you have a lot to learn from your customers. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be able to finish what you initiated, which means, you need to stay motivated for the long haul, to overcome adversity, to be mentally tough and act resilient – tenacity develops grit. Make sure to be kind and respectful to the people that you work with – rest assured; you will go a long way in your journey.”