The White Willow has sold over a quarter-of-a-million pillows to customers in India and abroad, increasingly contributing to the sleep health of the population.
What started as a casual online search for comfortable and affordable memory foam pillows in India, led to the creation of a brand offering the largest range of pillows in the country (70+ types of pillows), designed to enhance the way people sleep.
Launched in 2015, the bootstrapped startup is now a booming business that aims to bring sustainable and comfortable pillows to everyone. Aptly named The White Willow, the business derives its title from the white colour that is often associated with linen and the willow trees with several medicinal properties such as reducing anxiety, stress and pain.
In its 5 years of existence, the White Willow has sold over a quarter-of-a-million pillows to customers in India and abroad, increasingly contributing to the sleep health of the population.
For the founders – Anuj, a successful serial entrepreneur, Meghna, a social worker and philanthropist, and Abhishek, an ex-investment banker – the absence of affordable quality memory foam pillows in the market seemed like a great market opportunity to address. Soon, the trio set about exploring market opportunities and customer preferences in the pillow industry in India. Surprisingly, most people didn’t give much thought to their pillows.
“We all know that good sleep is integral to good health. Many of us are aware of the various types of mattresses available in the market and how they contribute to better sleep. Unfortunately, the same awareness is not present around pillows – which, according to sleep scientists, play a huge role in ensuring sound sleep,” explains Meghna, who handles product research and brand development at The White Willow.
Delving deeper into the science behind attaining sound sleep, Meghna discovered the significance of sleeping on pillows matched to the person’s body type and sleeping style. This realisation opened the gates of a viable business opportunity that could help the masses by promoting good sleep.
Instead of diving straight into manufacturing pillows, the founders decided to map their market better to curate specialised products that filled the existing gaps. An extensive market research exercise revealed that most individuals in India either preferred a pillow that came free with their mattress or used the same type of pillow for the entire family.
Clearly, a majority of the population lacked pillow education and needed proper pillow talk to understand the importance of choosing the right pillow according to their body type and sleeping style.
The Foundation of Great Sleep
TWW founders followed a three-pronged approach to building their niche in the Indian pillow market.
Firstly, mass production of scientifically designed, high-quality memory foam pillows at low cost. Anuj, leveraging his substantial experience in strategy and operations, with Meghna’s contribution to R&D and product design, has been zealously working on this aspect of the business since its inception. Over the years, the company has created an array of pillows with varying lofts, shapes and sizes, helping buyers choose products that best suit them.
Secondly, the dissemination of quality content to educate people about the benefits of using a proper pillow for improving sleep quality. Abhishek, who drives digital marketing, data analysis and finance at TWW, has successfully created a considerable awareness about choosing the right pillow, subsequently building an increasing market appetite for its products. He also drives sales at leading e-commerce platforms.
Finally, to manufacture memory foam pillows, the company partnered with BASF – one of the world’s leading chemical suppliers, bringing German technology to India while procuring raw materials manufactured locally. BASF has helped TWW manufacture products that comply with environmental standards and enable higher air permeability as well as breathability, elasticity and longevity through the use of its polyurethane flexible foam – CosyPUR®. These qualities help enhance the sleeping experience of customers.
Steeped in the ethos of innovation and service, TWW continually launches new products and combos designed to provide comforting support to users; latest in the line being the ‘Work From Home’ range of pillows and cushions.
“Customers are our number one priority. We proactively resolve customer concerns with genuine empathy,” says Meghna. The company offers a 101-night trial on all sleeping pillows to ensure that buyers get sufficient time to adjust to a new pillow and a 30-night trial offer on other set of cushions and pillows, too. “All our products come with skin-friendly, hypoallergenic covers to ensure that users have a natural, refreshing sleeping experience,” she adds.
The organization has a strong focus on online sales and ranks amongst the top-selling brands on Amazon India and other market places. Going forward, The White Willow team aims to add more sleep products to its catalogue, including premium quality memory foam mattresses, and expand its global footprint.
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