Boonbox- Taking Online Shopping to Rural India

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The advent of e-commerce in India in the past decade has been unprecedented. While a huge chunk of the population in Indian cities are reaping the benefits of e-commerce, the rural areas still remain untouched by the effects of digitization.

With the masterly vision of taking e-commerce to rural India, the co-founders-Ramachandran Ramanathan, Karthik Natarajan, Narayanan launched Boonbox in 2013.

Boonbox - Company Highlights

  • Startup Name-Boonbox
  • Headquarter-Chennai
  • Founder-Ramachandran Ramanthan, Karthik Natarajan & Narayanan
  • Sector-E-commerce
  • Founded-2013
  • Parent Organization-Inthree Access Services Private Limited

About Boonbox and How it Works

Given the great idea and insight on which this startup is based, this is how the business functions. Boonbox has a local affiliate in each of the towns/villages that they are located in. These local affiliates assist the consumers with the products available in the application. These affiliates place the orders on the consumer's behalf and collect the money. These products are delivered by Boonbox through their hub & spoke fulfillment model.

In rural areas, there can't be a platform to start a business as the ecosystem does not exist. Boonbox is an integrated player in this ecosystem. It owns the ecosystem and this is difficult to replicate. Creating connectivity takes time and requires a deep understanding of rural purchase patterns and consumer behavior. And Boonbox team has decades of experience in building rural networks.

The rural ecosystem has a lot of human elements associated with it. There is touch and feel of human connectivity. To be a successful startup in rural India, the required building blocks are human touch, credibility & trust, accompanied by an integrated ecosystem. As Boonbox has been able to selectively identify the relevant trust elements within rural communities and has built them over the years, this platform is viewed as a trusted element in the rural ecosystems. Boonbox pivoted from being a single product seller to a multi-category catalog that empowers the rural customers with choice and convenience. The venture was pivoted in the year 2015.

Boonbox is a technology platform for providing products and services to consumers who live in tier-4 towns and villages and are deprived of access to these products. Through the company's "Rural Last Mile" logistics network, products are delivered at the doorstep of the consumers in remote villages. Boonbox also ensures that regular follow-up takes place with the customers, and promises them after-sale service to provide a top-class purchase experience.

Boonbox - USP

Boonbox chennai based startup, is an unique venture that aggregates the demand of rural customers and fulfills them by placing an order with the merchant. In simple words, it's a vehicle to enter the rural markets. The main idea of the startup is to be a desired brand for every rural household and be a part of their everyday lives. Also, Boonbox is of the ideology that every rural customer craves and deserves a top-class customer experience. With Boonbox online shopping has never been easier for the rural population!

Boonbox - Target Market

Boonbox was selling solar lamps in Rural Tamil Nadu and Karnataka during the peak power crisis in 2012-13. While seeking customer feedback, the Boonbox team received responses that indicated demand for Mobile Phones, White Goods (TV, Fridge, Washing Machine) and also Induction Stoves and Mixer Grinders. All these products were wanted by rural consumers during the peak power crisis. Thus, throughout the entrepreneurial journey, seeking customer feedback helped them deduce that Rural Customers are ASPIRATIONAL and CONSUMPTION is driving the Rural Economy.

70 % of India which is close to a billion people live in Rural India. Rural India contributes to 47% of the country's GDP. And these statistics were sufficient enough to indicate a massive market in a less than 30,000 population towns. These people in those towns were the target market of Boonbox.

" We foresee a consumption explosion in Rural India and expect Rural India to lead India's economy in the next 5 years." said the Co-founders of Boonbox positively.

Boonbox - Founders and team

Ramachandran Ramanthan, Karthik Natarajan and Narayanan are the Co-founders of Boonbox.

Co-Founders Boonbox

Ramachandran Ramanthan, Karthik Natarajan and Narayanan

The trio has an exciting story about how all of it began! While Ramachandran Ramanathan and Karthik Natarajan were colleagues, they met Narayanan through a common friend. Narayanan had created the rural network in Tamil Nadu for Tata Teleservices and immediately caught on to the potential of the idea. The co-founders then went on to build the team by selling a dream, which made many people leave their lucrative jobs in the corporate world to join in the Boonbox adventure. The fact that they were working in an exotic area, a white space, building for Bharat and also generating cash in the business, attracted many people to the Boonbox team.

Ramachandran Ramanathan is a Chartered Accountant by qualification. He has also held senior management positions in the RPG, ICICI and TVS groups. Boonbox adventure is a great opportunity for him to follow his passion i.e., to create business strategies in uncharted markets and build a great team for scaling the business.

Boonbox co-founder Ramachandran Ramanthan

Karthik Natarajan is a management graduate from a financial services background with stints at Citigroup and Fullerton. Karthik is the 'Zero to One' man in the co-founder circle and his strength is his excellent ability to smell business opportunities and develop concepts into businesses.

Narayanan is also a management graduate who worked extensively in the telecom world straddling all the major brands including Airtel and Tata Teleservices. A meticulous planner, he works on business excellence and takes the Boonbox businesses to scale.

How was Boonbox Started

The idea to take on the rural markets with a technology platform struck to the co-founders Ramachandran Ramanathan and Karthik Natarajan when they were working on the TVS group. TVS's consumer strategy was architected by the late Dr.C.K.Prahalad and focused entirely on capturing the rural markets. These two co-founders were working on creating alternate networks in rural markets and while doing that, the massive potential of this white space dawned upon them.

Boonbox was built based on these two co-founder's experiences in the rural market. In fact, they did not do any formal market research. Instead, they focused on using customer feedback as a mechanism to drive Boonbox to success.

Boonbox - Name, Tagline and Logo

Specialists were consulted to come up with the name Boonbox. The co-founders finally zoomed in on Inthree which is a Coined Name – coined from the ethos of the business which is the Inner India Initiative. Inthree is the registered name and BoonBox is its customer-facing platform. So Ideally the Boonbox company is a sister concern of Inthree and is launched in select districts of TamilNadu and Karnataka. Which is why the Boonbox website can be accessed from

Boonbox - Business Model and Revenue Model

The Boonbox business model is simple, it takes orders from rural customers and delivers products to their households. Considering that the rural market has a broken ecosystem and a virtually non-existent distribution network, this venture gets both the distributor and retailer's margins which makes Boonbox's Unit Economics very strong.

Boonbox - User Acquisition

Rural India is characterized by a huge trust deficit. Boonbox has sold products to 2.5 million customers to date. Their focus is mainly on customer experience and to ensure that every single customer complaint is addressed on time and they now have 2.5 million happy customers. The rural market works on word of mouth marketing and Boonbox is a formidable brand now. Hence the key strategy for Boonbox has been to focus on customer experience since the initial days.

Boonbox - Startup Challenges

Rural is a white space, the founders had no benchmarks to follow. The company's business model was formulated after multiple iterations and is not more than three years old. The model is based on continuous learning and building on the co-founder's experiences. Also, It is not something that others can replicate over a short period. Boonbox is consistently working towards solving two major challenges :

Gaining the trust of consumers living in towns and villages with a population of 30,000 and below

Catering to customers who live in locations without a proper address or pin code. In such areas, it's important to ensure that products reach customers on time.

This venture is the pioneer in this field and the co-founders are continuously trying their experiments and learning from them. There have been as many failed experiments as successful ones, as the business itself is one huge hack!

Boonbox - Competitors

Though Boonbox does not have any direct competition in the market. But unicorns like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon have been trying to get inroads in rural markets, some e-commerce startups like iPay and StoreKing solely focus on rural markets.

Boonbox - Advisors and Mentors

Boonbox does have mentors who have contributed their ideas in Business Strategy, Customer Experience and HR throughout the entrepreneurial journey.

Boonbox - Growth

Boonbox operates in 16 States. This includes acquiring customers and delivering products to 3,00,000 villages which accounts for 47% of India's universe of villages. Since inception and till date, Boonbox has sold products in rural markets totaling to INR 450 Crores.

Boonbox is the largest rural partner for Samsung mobiles and has been the largest partner for them for the last three consecutive years. Some of the other products and brands include:

Consumer durable: Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Whirlpool

Kitchen appliances: Prestige, Preethi, Premier, Jaipan, Hawkins, Butterfly

Boonbox - Future Plans

The Co-founders are expecting to close 2019 with a turnover of INR 300 Crores, and with a Gross Profit of INR 75 Crores. They are expecting to reach a turnover of INR 1,000 Crores by 2022.

The long-term plan of the venture is to be a pan India player, providing products at customer's doorstep in remote villages and that too backed by top-notch customer experience. Given that the following are the goals for the coming decade:

  • Become a multi-service offering for the rural consumer
  • Building a robust direct channel for selling to the consumer with a fintech offering
  • Adding categories like FMCG, fashion, apparel to the product mix in addition to mobile phones, consumer durables, kitchen appliances, and cookware
  • Designing subscription models that can be relevant for the rural consumer
  • Creating loyalty and membership programs to build long term value for customers

There's ideally nothing better than growing together. Boonbox's initiative of empowering rural India with the services that they deserve is a marvelous concept. After all, great businesses are always built out of satisfying needs rather than creating wants.

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Who are the Founders of Boonbox?

The Co-founders of Boonbox are Ramachandran Ramanthan, Karthik Natarajan and Narayanan.

What is Boonbox?

Boonbox is an unique venture that aggregates the demand of rural customers and fulfills them by placing an order with the merchant on their behalf and delivers it to the individuals.

Is Boonbox only available in Chennai?

No, Boonbox operates in 16 States including Chennai and are planning on expanding further.