In Conversation with Gaurav Singh Kushwaha

CEO & Founder, BlueStone
Thursday, 31 Aug 2017
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Gaurav is the CEO & Founder of BlueStone and his entrepreneurial journey spans more than half a decade. Prior to BlueStone, he served as the CEO of Chakpak, an online entertainment portal, which he co-founded in 2007. Under his leadership, the start-up witnessed growth in leaps and bounds, and successfully raised two rounds of funding from Accel and Canaan Partners respectively. Gaurav has also worked with national and multinational firms including Amazon and Tavant Technologies. At the former organization, he was responsible for building web products for the US e-Commerce market. He is an alumnus of IIT Delhi and holds a B. Tech degree in Computer Science. He is a prominent figure in the start-up realm and advises new and budding entrepreneurs on marketing and product strategies.
About
Gaurav is the CEO & Founder of BlueStone and his entrepreneurial journey spans more than half a decade. Prior to BlueStone, he served as the CEO of Chakpak, an online entertainment portal, which he co-founded in 2007. Under his leadership, the start-up witnessed growth in leaps and bounds, and successfully raised two rounds of funding from Accel and Canaan Partners respectively. Gaurav has also worked with national and multinational firms including Amazon and Tavant Technologies. At the former organization, he was responsible for building web products for the US e-Commerce market. He is an alumnus of IIT Delhi and holds a B. Tech degree in Computer Science. He is a prominent figure in the start-up realm and advises new and budding entrepreneurs on marketing and product strategies.

BlueStone is an increasingly popular online jewellery brand. It has reportedly raised roughly Rs200 crore in 2016, and is now ramping up its spending in advertising, on TV and outdoor marketing, including a tie-up with actor Alia Bhatt as the brand’s ambassador recently. How should brands decide on celebrity endorsements? How should brands identify when’s the right time to sign up a celebrity?

First of all, the celebrity needs to have the attributes that the brand is looking for. No brand, in my view, should tie up with a brand ambassador from day one. There needs to be a thought process behind this exercise. At BlueStone we approach our advertising process differently than other jewellery retailers. We won’t have a celebrity simply wearing our jewellery and posing. We will take a certain position, one that showcases our strengths and reflects our innovative strategies.

We could have easily signed a brand ambassador two years ago but we decided to wait for the right time. A brand needs to have its own identity firm and intact before signing up with a celebrity endorser. A brand cannot be known because of the celebrity; it has to be known for its own strengths and attributes, which the celebrity takes on as her own. Brands should first work on their own unique identity and only then sign up with celebrities who exemplify those attributes.

The BlueStone advertisement featuring Alia Bhatt focuses on your innovative strategy, ‘Try at Home’, wherein the jewellery products can be seen in the comfort of the consumers’ homes. Is that the differentiator when you talk about doing advertising differently from the rest of the jewellery brands? 

Yes. Our focus has been on showcasing our innovation. ‘Try at home’ is a unique concept given that online jewellery selling is a challenge given that you are trying to break the age-old habit of consumers in terms of how they have purchased jewellery. While consumers want the ease of shopping, when it comes to the actual purchase decision, they like to touch and feel the product. As an online jewellery brand, we have to be innovative in that we have to allow consumers to feel comfortable while making the final purchase. We wanted to extend this communication to the consumer through our advertising strategy.

Should brands be prepared to make changes in company strategies?

Of course, brands should be prepared to tweak strategies. Look at the rate at which everything, especially in the wake of social media, is changing around us.

Every strategy that a brand or a company makes is part of its ethos, its core culture. At BlueStone, every strategy is logically thought through, it has valid reason for why it is present. But that doesn’t mean that strategies won’t change. In terms of manufacturing, in terms of design, in terms of innovation, BlueStone is always reinventing its strategies. We don’t do it for the heck of it but we are quick to identity as and when changes are required. We are keeping a close watch on our consumers’ buying behaviour and purchase trends. Every brand should remember that strategies are in place because they seem right and logical in the current scenario. When these two attributes fail to come across, brands should be willing to tweak their respective strategies. That’s our approach in BlueStone.

What are the some of the more successful strategies at BlueStone?

Since we are an online jewellery brand, our design strategy is always strong and we’re always in the process of innovating it. We are cognizant of the fact that people need many options to browse when they are seeing products online. They need variations within a segment [pendants, earrings, bangles, necklaces, etc], they need very good quality, they need the ease of shopping, they need the option of touch and feel, so when they opt for ‘Try at Home’, we need to give them options too… We also have a very good operative model in that our products are ‘made to order’. We follow a complete in-house model, in which we design the product, determine its ‘sellability’, make a prototype and put up the picture of the product online only when we are ready to take an order.

How important is social media for brands to grow?

Social media is allowing for two way communication, between the brand and the consumer. It has its strengths and challenges too. At BlueStone, we understand that consumers trust the social media platform in terms of purchase-making decisions. We are always looking closely at social media to understand the consumer better but we do it with caution and care. There is, after all, a tendency of a ‘mob/herd mentality’ in that what one person says about a brand can get escalated. Social media amplifies conversations about brands – if a brand is doing well, it amplifies it, if it’s not doing well, it gets further amplified. Brands need to understand just what information they want from social media to their advantage, to grow their innovation strategies and to genuinely listen to the consumers.

Should brands look at doing everything inhouse? Do you think outsourcing is a good idea?

I personally prefer to get everything done inhouse. That’s my basic tendency. That said, even if you outsource the work [in terms of media or advertising agencies, for instance], it needs a lot of thought, care and synergy.

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