Sometimes, it only takes 25 minutes of a lukewarm shower and a nice cup of coffee after that, to think something out of box that would have the potential to create a huge impact. But not even a million dollars can buy you, what it takes to go ahead, protect that idea and turn it into reality. People who are able to do that, we know them by different names.
Today, we bring to you one such name who stepped into the congested landscape of mobile accessories retail and carved a niche with his out-of-box idea. Meet Vaishnav of OTimber who manufactures exquisite cases for next generation mobile phones and iPads with wood.
Vaishnav can you tell us a bit about yourself and the team behind OTimber?
There are three of us behind the store. Vishnu, Vaisakh and me. Vishnu is in his final year of Mechanical Engineering. He is the man behind the production of the products. I am also about to complete my final year of B.Com from Calicut and I mainly handle the marketing of the company and Vaisakh also helps us run OTimber.com
Can you share how OTimber came to be?
The idea germinated when Vishnu had to use the CNC machine for his final year project. It is basically a lathe machine which works with wood. It was then that he realised how beautiful products could be carved out in this machine. Basically it is very easy to manufacture any model you have created in this machine. So we started creating prototypes of toy motorbikes on this machine.
Favorably, our grandfather had a traditional timber business where we made furniture. Here we observed that a lot of good quality wood like cherry, rosewood, walnut were being wasted while forging the furniture. A few brainstorming sessions later we came up with this idea of using these unusable wooden pieces to create high utility items which are used daily.
It then took us almost 6 months to create our very first wooden iphone-4 case.
“The next successful business venture you want to start up is right around the corner. You do not need to travel far and dig deep. Keep your eyes open and you can do it.”
What was the biggest Inspiration behind Otimber?
Wood treatment is a very complicated process and needs experienced hands to be done well. My grandfather was the biggest inspiration as he has been managing the timber business for almost 25 years. He helped us nurture the idea and bring out the final products. Without him it would really have not been possible.
When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
We had spare time which we wanted to utilize and do something really innovative by combining all the resources we had in hand. This idea struck upon us and we started working on it slowly.
Since we would be completing our degrees very soon, so “What next?“ was always a big question. So we thought, why not create a new opportunity? That is when we decided to create our own futures.
You mentioned you have a traditional family business, why did you decide to take the ecommerce route instead?
There are a couple of factors involved here. Primarily, it is no hidden fact that the Indian ecommerce industry is in a booming stage. So it was a very convenient decision to decide that we wanted to sell our products online. Secondly, we were also not interested in the prospect of traditionally selling from a single point/shop. Instead we wanted to reach out to customers pan India.
Now that we have got the foothold of online selling we would now look for creating an offline presence starting with the South Zone and slowly move into a hybrid model. Bangalore might be the first city to host an Otimber outlet.
What do you believe is the biggest innovation brought in by Otimber in the already cluttered mobile accessories market?
Unlike plastic, our products are made from renewable sources. 80% of the cases we manufacturer are made from unusable wood. IPad cases are one of the products which is made of fresh wood.
Also we have successfully experimented with Bamboo. Bamboo is a highly renewable wood and that is the reason we chose bamboo. Bamboo grows very quickly and is readily available for use.We consciously use bamboo that pandas do not eat. So it’s highly renewable. Many of our upcoming products are going to be bamboo based.
How did the idea for eco-friendly products come?
Firstly, we strongly believe we have to replace plastic usage gradually. Secondly, we were really interested in the uses of bamboo and its versatility as a material. It is equally strong as plastic and is ecofriendly. It is one amazing material which people are hardly aware of. In fact there is a World Bamboo Day (18 September) which very few people know about.
Is the price point for the mobile cases an hurdle to sales?
We have received such queries in the past too but the price tag takes into account the state of the art process by which our products are manufactured.Every single product goes through milling done by CNC. Gluing for lock, tanning for finishing and smoothing, then it is soaked in oil to protect from termites and then the designs are engraved. Carving is through the lathe machine. The price is based on the state of the art processing that is done to create the finished product.
For custom designs, when a customer uploads a design, within a day we send them a proof of how the design would look and in a couple of hours. After production the cases are hand inspected to check of its quality. And only after this whole process the product is packaged and shipped to the customer.
How tough it is to make time for business while being full time students?
Initially it was very tough. It was not possible to hire people so we did everything ourselves. Packaging was a huge challenge.Now we are into the 4th month of the business and we have employees to manage our stocks and dispatch orders. Now we can say we are in the groove.
Your advice for young entrepreneurs?
If you want to be an entrepreneur, keep your eyes wide open and look around. The next successful business venture you want to start up is right around the corner. You do not need to travel far and dig deep. Keep your eyes open and you can do it. Otimber is one of the biggest example of this philosophy implemented successfully.
Can you tell us your experience with ZEPO. How did you come to know about our services?
Google helped actually. Initially we were boggled with the choices and were looking at expensive options. However slowly on exploring the choices further we found that ZEPO was a good option. ZEPO fits my pocket and has all the services which we need.
However it would be awesome if you could come up with a Mobile App for managing the dashboard. Also if ZEPO can have its own logistics solution** instead of a 3rd party then it would be great. Some more customization options here and there are always a bonus to have.
Can you share an experience where you felt lovely about the work that you were doing?
We receive a lot of feedback. But there was this elderly lady who had called up. Her grandson had gifted her a wooden case for her IPad Mini. She called us up to just to share her feedback, saying although she was using such geeky devices but still it felt to her like she was touching and feeling wood and felt close to nature in a small way. Basically she wanted to share the old age earthy feel that the product gave.
Can you tell us the marketing strategies you used to promote your products?
We had contacted Malayala Manorama and they loved our concept and covered us which led to two other media houses Indian Express and Deccan chronicle to contact us. Thereafter, we launched a couple of Facebook marketing campaigns for visibility of the brand and we decided to tell people about the products. Our initial customers were really happy and the sales picked up through word of mouth marketing as well.
How are you investing your time and ideas into product innovation? What do we expect from Otimber in the near future?
At Otimber we want to bring a touch of wood in our daily lives. Majorly we want to replace all plastic based products which people use regularly.
Would you like to put in any closing remarks?
Yes, at Otimber, we are tying up with an NGO where the organization will plant a tree for every purchase made on Otimber and a certificate will be shipped along with the product to the customer.
** Zepo is currently tied up with AVN Logistics solution. ZEPO’s own shipping solution is in the works and is coming up very soon!
We wish Otimber the very best in the coming years with their insanely innovative products. We also wish Vaishnav, Vishnu, Vaisakh and their granddad who continues to inspire them – very good health! You too can check out the awesome wooden cases on Otimber or join their Facebook page here for regular updates.
Every entrepreneur and his unique product makes a difference to someone’s life . Do you have any product which can add charm to anyone’s mundane routine? Zepo can help you to take your products to people across the globe.