What does it take to build a brand and rise to the very top in a mere four years. In a market that is commoditized with cheaper no name brands at one end, and premium, global products on the other? What name(s) come to your mind when you think of headphones/earphones?

If you’re in India, under 35 and want Value For Money (most Indians) – its most likely that you will mention a company called boAt. It’s a brand that’s caught the fancy of Indian millennials by creating a distinct position for itself and on-point delivery with its products.

Some of you (like us), might have followed the brand’s meteoric rise in the last couple of years but the sheer size of its lead had me reeling!

Even as far back as January 2020 – we could see how much category share they have in terms of e-commerce sales. Given that April 2020 was when the (initial) Covid lockdowns in India had just taken effect – I’m going to ignore that one month.

Before boAt came along, it was difficult to find quality headphones between the price of Rs. 600-Rs. 2000 – they built a great product in this niche and established a strong brand using an e-commerce led sales model. Now they’re expanding into newer product categories and provide affordable audio accessories and more recently smart watches.

A key USP for boAt is providing (justifiable) value at the right price point. A whopping ~75% of the top selling brands (by revenues) are below an average ticket price of Rs. 1500, and about 50% are between 1000 -1500.

BoAt provided a bridge to premium brands – with high tech features made accessible to the “average” Indian.

In an attempt to go mainstream and appeal to a broader audience – boAt’s now going premium, getting models to walk the ramp sporting boAt accessories for the Lakme Fashion week. More importantly – They are also the official ‘audio partners’ for six IPL T20 teams.

To give you a sense of how large boAt is compared to other personal audio brands in India – take a look at the graph below

It’s no wonder they recently raised a massive $100 Million from Warburg Pincus. Presumably that capital will go into doubling down on brand building, geographic expansion and extending their product portfolio.

In many ways, boAt is a great proxy to capture the upside from the boom in smartphone sales.

boAt is also emblematic of the ‘digital first brand’ revolution – companies that have found whitespaces using e-commerce platforms and built brands by serving a niche. Wow Cosmetics, Mama Earth, Sugar Cosmetics are great examples of companies that built a digital first brand. Retailers both online and offline have been doing this for some time via private labels.

Vertical e-commerce platforms like Nykaa & Purplle both have their own range of cosmetics. Amazon has Solimo & Amazon Basics; while Flipkart is building MARQ (amongst others). Private labels offer one avenue to increase profitability and get a larger share of value.

Expect to see an increasing amount of deal activity and investments in this space as more entrepreneurs take advantage of the distribution these platforms offer.