Having presence in more than 2000 stores and representing 8 different brands in 2 different categories, Merlin First & Co. is one of the leading distributors in the kids and baby care market in India. Mommy & Baby Times (MBT) had a detailed chat with Mr. Siddharth Suneja, Managing Partner at Merlin First & Co., about the in-house brand of the company- Rabitat, the product offerings, the future plans regarding the growth of the brand, on the window of growth opportunities in the organized baby care and kids market in India and taking stock of the crisis like situation brought by the pandemic.
April 23, 2020
MBT: Could you please brief us up about the business story of Merlin First & Co?
Siddharth Suneja: Merlin First was started in 1999 as a distribution company for international brands in India. We were one of the first Indian companies dedicated to bringing high end international brands in the domain of kids and baby care to India. We wanted to solve a problem for the Indian consumers who were constantly on a lookout for products from the international market. Today, with our own in-house brand- Rabitat, we aspire to bring the products that is on par and even beyond the international quality standards, and at a price that gives good value to the customers.
MBT: What do you think about the ongoing expansion of distribution channel in India?
SS: India is yet to see exponential growth in terms of organised retail channels. We expect that in a few years time, some more retail brands will enter the Indian market, and that will be a very exciting time for the Baby and Kids retail market in India. Currently, the unorganised retail channel is the one where we continue to see growth, and that will remain so in the near future.
The company was born under the aegis of Eagle Home Entertainment which is one of the largest Home video distribution company. Because of that, we had managed to have a very robust distribution channel in the country in a matter of time. We have a strong network of distributors and dealers across the country, and we continue to increase of our network consistently.
MBT: Apart from being the distributor for different brands, describe a bit about your in-house brand- Rabitat.
SS: Rabitat was born with one focus – bringing products that comply to and goes beyond International quality standards and that are reasonably priced for the Indian consumers. Having distributed a number of International brands for so long, we appreciate the quality that these brands have, but somehow, these brands were often high-end in terms of their pricing. So, we decided to start our brand Rabitat to fill the gap in the market and our idea was to bring something of greater value and bring a diverse product rang. With our products, we are sincerely committed throughout the entire development and production process leading upto the diligent series of quality checks and comply to all the relevant and the most stringent international and Indian standards, before it hits the shelves.
MBT: Could you please guide us through the product range offered by Rabitat and the physical as well as online market presence of the brand?
SS: In Rabitat, we have products that touch our customers lives from Pregnancy up until their kids go to school. We have a range of products such as – Pregnancy Pillows, Swaddles, Feeding Pillows, Baby Loungers, Food Jars, School Bags, Hooded Towels, Sipper bottles and many others. The little ones will literally grow up with the brand as the diverse needs of the little one and the mother is taken care of. Our products are BPA-Free which makes it safe to be used by infants, children, new mothers and mothers to be. We use GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)- certified 100% organic cotton textile for the crib sheets and other fabric-based products. Our soft swaddles are made with bamboo fibers which are the softest naturally occuring fibers and are gentle to the skin of the little ones.
We present a wide collection of high quality, safe and durable maternity, baby and toddler products, keeping in consideration the needs and suitability of the Indian parents.
MBT: Since you’re working with brands that are in the baby care and kids market space, what are your insights on the present day retail channel in India of this particular market segment?
SS: The baby care and kids market is still very heavily reliant on the unorganised channel in our country. We think that going forward while unorganised retail channel will remain potent and in its place, however, the organised retail market will emerge to be stronger than how it is positioned now. Furthermore, with the growth of the organized retail in the coming times, the ongoing evolution in the e-commerce space is also going to take place.
MBT: Please apprise us about any recent developments and future goals of your company? Kindly outline your company’s plans to expand the market presence and product range of the company.
We have recently launched our Smash range of products which includes School Bag, Picnic Bag, Sipper Bottles, Steel tumblers, Food jars and other products. These products are aimed at 2-5 years age group, and we have received a great response from the trade as well as the customers in the market.
In terms of our future plans, we are about to launch our Organic Cotton Bedding collection which will include a complete bedding range in a bag for infants, i.e. a furnishing range for the nursery or a child’s bedroom.
MBT: Take us through your business mantra, and how do you extend this to the actual distribution of the brands that you are associated with?
SS: At Merlin First and Rabitat, we believe that little things matter. As a matter of fact, that is Rabitat’s Tag line and we are firm in this belief and the responsibility that it entails being a baby care brand. We make sure that every aspect of the product that goes out in the market from our end is taken care of diligently. In fact the introduction of products in the market is the next step to our process of thoroughly making sure that we are bringing the products of the right quality. Moreover, we want to make products that bring the international quality while keeping in mind Indian values and sensibilities.
MBT: What precautionary and safety policies is Rabitat taking into consideration during this time to manage the crisis situation well for the organization amidst the global pandemic?
SS: We have set up stringent sanitation practices and safety measures at our production unit and our team is fully equipped to handle contact less and cash less deliveries. Since, our products in many ways are essential for new moms or moms to be, we are shipping pan India to provide parents the safest solution for their requirements in the least time possible.