In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers and innovators, we bring our next interview with an innovator, serial entrepreneur and visionary Mr. Hitesh Dhingra, Founder & MD, The Man Company.
Known for creating brands that take the market and ecosystem by storm, Hitesh completed his bachelor’s from Delhi University & MBA from UBS.
After completing his education, He joined an IT distribution company as a product manager and honed his management skills there. He later founded his first venture Tyroo Media which was one of the largest contextual advertising networks in India, incubated by Quasar Media in 2005, now partly owned by Yahoo.
He founded his second venture LetsBuy.com in 2009 with 5 team members. Letsbuy.com became India’s leading online retailer for 3Cs – Computers, consumer electronics, and communications & the fastest growing e-commerce company in 2011. Letsbuy.com was later acquired by Flipkart in March 2012.
His 3rd venture was a new age dating app before Tinder came to India, TrulyMadly which is hugely popular among working youngsters. You can read the few TrulyMadly stories here.
Most recently, Hitesh founded The Man Company in 2014. He terms this venture as a digitally native brand in men’s grooming space. The Man Company is the most popular among the 4 ventures he founded.
Let’s hear from him the insights he has gained in these years of hustling and his amazing journey.
- According to you, how important is brand value for any brand in the market?
For any company, the brand represents the promise made to the customer. It is important to establish trust among customers. You need to do what is right and what you stand for. You need to make sure that you stand by your defined brand values. Once you win the trust of your consumers, you make a name of yourself. The perfect example of that is Tesla & Apple. Both the brands deliver what they promise and that is why people trust them and love their designs and products. I believe Brands should be honest with their consumers. The stronger your brand and it values it, the less you invest in marketing.
- How has been your journey from Tyroo Media to Letsbuy.com To Truly Madly and now Man Company?
My journey has been a roller-coaster ride. With few failures and few successes, it has been 15 years of immense learning and never giving up. The fact that I never gave up that is why even if something fails today, I can start fresh and new. Luckily with all the ventures I started, I got a chance to disrupt the market. Tyroo was the first contextual ad network of India, LetsBuy was also one of the leading e-commerce startups especially in the consumer electronics section. We took on the matchmaking and online dating space when Tinder didn’t even enter India with TrulyMadly and we disrupted the market. Same I did with The Man Company when we started no one was talking about men grooming. Most of the traditional grooming products were women-centric. We decided to focus on the men grooming and started online only to disrupt the traditional channel. I have always believed in creating a dent in the market. The journey was fantastic, so were the failures and successes. On being asked does he consider himself a serial entrepreneur, he replied: “Considering that I have created 4 ventures in the last 15 years, I’ll call myself a Serial Entrepreneur.” (This is interviewer’s favorite answer from the whole interview).
- A lot of Gender-specific products are taking the market by storms such as pee buddy, pee safe, beard oils and many more resulting in gender-specific brands. Your views on that?
Men have been grooming themselves for years but we lacked a man-focused brand expect of shaving brands and deodorants. The skin of a man is different from a woman and so is the choice of fragrances but man ends up consuming the same product as of woman. The main challenge was to make men aware of these things and the right practices. We grabbed the opportunity to create something which more premium for men and we don’t only sell our products but also educate them. For example, if someone wants to keep a beard we came up with a beard grooming range and we have been educating our customers on how to use these beard oil, wax, and creams. With the response, we realized that there was a demand for this thing and with not many players catering to this demand we made a name for ourselves.
- We have shifted from traditional media to digital media. What are your views on digital trends?
Being a new-age brand you have to be present on the media where the consumer is present. Our main customer segment is young men from 24-38 years age group and Millenials and all these age groups are present on the social media networks. To target them, we need to be present on these mediums. The new-age customer wants their brand to be approachable, conversational, being present on the digital media helped us on this. There was a gap in traditional media between the customers and the brands, digital media has helped us bridge that gap. Our social media is full of messages and queries about different products, their usages, and feedbacks. This two-way communication helps us in creating authenticity and trust.
- Recently Bollywood Star Ayushmaan Khurrana recited a poem about men in a campaign by your company. The video went viral. How did this campaign help your brand?
If you look at that 3-minute long video, Ayushmaan doesn’t even talk about The Man Company in the video. The consumer love storytelling and they want to listen and see content that is authentic and real. What Ayushmaan recited is our company’s manifesto, we believe that we are a brand for the modern gentleman. You can’t define a modern gentleman with his way of dressing or his language or his profession or his sexuality. Fortunately for us, it related so well, it became an instant hit and gathered around 200 million organic reach and more than 85 million views across different social media platforms. This campaign saw a 7x jump in terms of traffic. The objective of the video was to create brand awareness about the company and reach a wider set of audience and the video did it perfectly. Not only men, but women also appreciated it creating a positive brand image in the process. Our website has 20-25% of women visitors and this video gave us a push among the Indian audience of other countries too.
- Digital Media is very unregulated and it makes it a boon and a bane. According to you what is the right practice on Digital Media?
As long as you are keeping your brand authentic and your audience knows that you are honest with them, they refer to you as a persona and treat you as a friend. People make mistakes, even if you face a backlash on social media and if you accept your mistake and you are honest about what happened the respect among consumers grows.
- There is competition in the space you are working such as Ustraa, Beardo. What are your thoughts on that?
It is good for us. The male grooming market is at a very nascent stage and with more brands coming in the market will help the market grow at a fast pace. At the same time, I believe that every company should have their own brand identity. The products can be replicated with time but the brand can’t be. We keep an eye on the competition and at the same time, we are very much focussed on growing The Man Company.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Hitesh and The Man Company. Kudos to him for such an amazing and fun interview, certainly one of the coolest entrepreneurs I have come across.
You can check our other interviews here.