Entrepreneur: Alphonse Reddy
Business Name: Sunday Mattress
Welcome to Entrepreneurs of India #startupstories episode 66
We all long for a peaceful sleep after a hectic day at office. A sound sleep recharges you for the next day. Alphonse Reddy too yearned for a good sleep when he bought a cozy mattress from India. Having travelled to over 40 countries, he knew how mattresses could give you a good sleep.
But Alphonse was taken back by the quality of the mattress. He changed three mattresses in six months. But nothing could really make him sleep. He was tossing and turning all the night!
That’s how he realized the poor quality of the so-called premium mattresses in India. He observed that Indian customers bought mattresses based on quick judgements.
Alphonse set out to solve this problem, which ultimately persuaded him to launch Sunday Mattress. His aim was to give top-notch mattresses to Indian customers. You can use Sunday mattresses for 100 days and request for a refund if you’re not satisfied!
Alphonse Reddy recalls his story of launching Sunday Mattress and discusses different aspects of his business in this conversation.
1) How did you get your idea for this business?
Sunday is India’s first sleep-focused, disruptive, technology driven company that is passionate about building mattresses and other accessories that guarantee outrageously good sleep. A key endeavor is to pair great products with a simplified and a hassle-free buying experience through its pioneering 100 night’s returns on mattresses. Sunday retails exclusively online through www.sundayrest.com.
I come with over a decade of experience across technology, sales and distribution, strategy and private equity domains.
Travelling is my passion and I have traveled to or worked in over 40 countries so far. This is where the idea of Sunday Mattresses was born. My extensive travel made me acutely aware of how mattresses affected the quality of sleep. Upon returning to India, I found I had to change three mattresses in six months.
The mattresses though new, were not returnable and that got me thinking. I went about on a personal project to discover what the ideal mattress was, what the perfect after-sale customer service offering should comprise of and how to help a potential customer choose the perfect mattress in a highly fragmented market.
I identified the top two companies (both located in Belgium) from whom to procure the raw material (natural latex) required for the mattresses and I associated with Hiroko Shiratori from Tokyo who is an acclaimed designer, having won several awards across the globe including Australia and London and who has been instrumental in the design of the product.
After we decided to build a mattress that was highly comfortable, safe and honestly priced, we wanted to choose a name that stood for what we wanted to do.
We felt that we were very different from the existing slew of brands in the market. We are not from the industry and in fact viewed a mattress from a consumer’s point for most of our lives. That made us realize that we pretty much wanted to change everything about a mattress, the whole buying experience in fact. So, in short, we wanted something that is different from the existing names.
While we wanted a different name, we did not want something that was completely unrelated to sleep or the benefits of sleep. We wanted something that kind of evokes curious and mildly baffling reaction and forces people to think how it might be related to sleep.
We wanted a cool and trendy name for the Brand, which defines modern living, A name that resonates with our global ambitions and is easy to remember universally. One that has great recall value in minds of consumer at large. That’s how we chose Sunday!
2) Why is “now” a good time for this idea to exist?
The current mattress buying experience is broken for a consumer. They must choose from a large number of models with little differentiation and with hi-tech buzzwords of little value and are left completely confused. The prices are exorbitantly high, and the sales are completely price and promotion driven. Plus, there is no transparent pricing as most brands are sold up to 30% discount in most of the stores all year round. Once the mattress is sold the after sales experience is also poor.
We observed that mattress is a highly fragmented industry with known brands and other lesser known brands contributing only about 20-25% of the total market share. The addressable market for Sunday is about $3.5 b and growing at a healthy rate of 20% y-o-y which is a huge market out there to be catered to.
Also, globally, mattresses with health and safety certifications are a norm and we think India will soon catch up on this trend. This means that consumers are becoming more aware, which is a positive thing. Mattresses are treated on par with food in the western countries and we are sure that India will move towards regulating this industry as well and we aim to be the leaders in this segment. We are the only mattress brand in the country that comes with European certification for health and safety.
With online purchasing picking up in a big way, it is the right time for us to offer a great, differentiated, purpose built product to customers all over the country
3) What was the reaction from your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?
When I told my family about Sunday which was started with my personal savings they were extremely supportive as we come from an entrepreneurial background. And after one year due to the business picking up, we raised further seed capital through friends and family there was no looking back.
We went through the same journey as most startups right from challenges with hiring, managing vendors, product development, marketing etc. but our difference was our commitment and aim to build a sustainable business.
Luckily, I had a supportive family and a great team and made some smart decisions along the way which has helped us grow our business in a very competitive space in a very short time and I thank my family for their unhindered support in me.
4) What was your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn from it?
Not focusing enough on Recruitment and Training would be our mistake. What we learnt is that believing in short terms sales tactics such as discounts will not work in the long run
5) What is your biggest obstacle in the next 12 months and how will you overcome it?
We started product development in the summer of 2014. We took 12-14 months to come up with the best product keeping in mind the varied climatic conditions and budgets.
We started commercially offering the product in September 2015 although test customers have been using our product for the last two and a half years.
The plan currently is to keep focused on India and do a phenomenal job here before looking for at micro and macro geographical expansion. Fortunately, we have investors/board that believes building a good brand takes laying solid foundation.
Having said that, Sunday wants to stand for everything related to “sleep” and we want to continue building the company in that direction.
Creating a new line of products that would be better than what we already have by getting the supply chain right and delivering the product at the earliest possible time
Identify and obtain new vendors/suppliers with better capabilities
Procuring of Larger warehouses would also be our focus for the next year
6) What habits contribute to your success?
As a team we mostly think and make our decisions with the bigger picture/long term vision in mind. We try not to get bogged down by short term issues too much.
Try to look for new/innovative ways to solve problems rather than falling back always on traditional solutions. This helps us to be better at what we do and adds the excitement to the job
7) If you had the opportunity to start this business again what would you do differently?
I think we haven’t done anything that we are unable to correct. So, I think we will pretty much do the same things all over again
8) Where do you find inspiration?
I look up to successful visionary entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs has been my favorite.
9) What is your favorite book?
Steve Jobs Biography
10) What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Passion is the biggest ingredient that drives entrepreneurs. If you are really not passionate about what you are doing, you will need to rethink why you want to be an entrepreneur? The journey is tough and only those who are passionate, survive.
Mattress is not new business domain in India. We have uncountable brands that sell mattress. But most of them failed to understand the needs of customers. That’s where Alphonse, as an entrepreneur, played his cards right.
He was keen on providing his customers with the best product. As he says, thinking from the customers’ point of view helped him build Sunday Mattress as a reliable brand in the country. So your ultimate aim should be to meet the demands of your potential customers in an innovative way. Just like Alphonse did!
Want to sleep peacefully amidst the hustle and bustle? Check out the website of Sunday Mattress now!