The Weekend Leader - Raghunandan Saraf Transforms InSaraf into a ?340 Crore Furniture Powerhouse

How a Young Entrepreneur Built a Rs 340 Crore Furniture Brand from a Small Town of 50,000

Shyla F   |  


Vol 15 | Issue 17

Hailing from the small town of Sardarshahar, Rajasthan, which has a population of just 50,000, Raghunandan Saraf has transformed a traditional family-run furniture business into a successful online marketplace, InSaraf, achieving a turnover of Rs 340 crore.

Raghunandan, a visionary second-generation entrepreneur, leveraged the potential of digital commerce to expand Saraf Furniture, a brand that started as a modest workshop and showroom trading Sheesham wood locally 40 years ago.

Raghunandan Saraf started InSaraf with Rs 50,000 in 2014 (Photos: Special Arrangement)

Established by Raghunandan’s father and uncles as a family business, Saraf Furnitures initially catered to regional buyers across India and had started exporting by 1998. They managed the business from a small shop in Sardarshahar, which is still operational today.

However, it was Raghunandan’s strategic pivot to online sales in 2014 that truly revolutionised the enterprise.
With a modest investment of just Rs 50,000, Raghunandan used most of this money to set up the website and for other related expenses to start the online venture in 2014.

Raghunandan reflects on the early challenges, "We had the resources, we had the product ready and it was affordable as well. So once the website was ready, we uploaded the entire offline catalog, with the thought of becoming a one-stop website for all the furniture requirements."

Despite his father’s initial reservations about online business, Raghunandan convinced him about the business model and clearly explained to him the expected returns.

"By the grace of God, we started this business just at the right time and at the right place and have never looked back since then," he says.

InSaraf Furniture is a manufacturer of Sheesham wood furniture and offers a diverse selection of home décor and furnishings.

In 2017 InSaraf expanded its product line to include lamps, chandeliers and more

The major product categories include furniture, lighting, rugs, and carpets. “It was in 2017 that we broadened the scope of our product line to include lamps, chandeliers. Rugs and carpets were added in 2019,” says Raghunandan.

They also sell wooden beds, bedside tables, bar cabinets, sideboards, kitchen cabinets, sofa sets, coffee tables, desks, bookshelves, boxes, consoles, tables, dressers, garden furniture, home temples, mirrors, TV units, and wardrobes.

Additionally, InSaraf has established four experience centres in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Surat, and Delhi, allowing customers to experience the products in person.

However, Raghunandan's journey wasn't smooth sailing from the start, particularly because Sardarshahar, being a small town, lacked a proper logistics setup.

He had to convince logistics companies to commence operations from there, assuring them of substantial volumes. Despite his efforts, organising logistics smoothly took considerable time and effort.

"Setting up the logistics initially was an uphill ride,” he recalls. “They agreed to manage our logistics just 3-4 months before the launch of the website. I promised them that in a year they would have to double their fleet in Sardarshahar. And by the grace of God, I was successful in doing so."

Another significant challenge was assembling the right team to handle online orders, sales, and ensure the safe and timely dispatch of furniture.

When the website was launched, Raghunandan started with about 2500 SKUs, and now the site boasts around 6000 pieces, ranging from decor to kitchen items to furniture.

Raghunandan with his team of carpenters at their Sardarshahar unit

Beds are the best-selling product on their website. The most affordable item is a kitchen decor piece priced at Rs. 999, while the most expensive is a bed that costs around Rs. 2.5 lakh.

Raghunandan is overjoyed about the customer response. "In the first year, i.e., 2014-15, we clocked a turnover of Rs. 2 crore, which went up to Rs. 12 crore by 2017. We experienced 200% growth in the first two years, and during the Covid year, we saw about 300% growth compared to the pre-Covid period,” he says.

“The initial phase was all about endurance, staying focused on our vision, investing in technology, employing better marketing strategies, and streamlining business processes to scale up a successful e-commerce platform.”

They design and manufacture their entire range of furniture at their facilities in Sardarshahar. The factory, warehouse, and head office are spread over a 2.5 lakh square feet area in Sardarshahar.

All dispatch and delivery operations are centralised in Sardarshahar, from where products are sent out to their four sub-warehouses located in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Surat, and Delhi.

InSaraf operates on two main business models. The first is the Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) model, where they sell furniture directly to customers through their website.

The second model is Business-to-Business (B2B), through which they supply furniture to hotels and resorts. Hyatt is one of the prominent names among their clientele. Annually, they furnish approximately 15,000 hotel rooms, with a significant portion of their business coming from Southern India.

InSaraf currently offers around 6000 SKUs ranging from decor to kitchen items to furniture

Raghunandan, now aged 38, attended a local school in Sardarshahar until Class six. From Class seven, he moved to Ryan International School in Jaipur, where he completed Class 12 in 2004.

He then did his B.Com at Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi, and followed it up with an MBA in Global Business Operations, which he finished in 2009.

Reflecting on his upbringing, Raghunandan says, “We used to live in a big joint family with my uncles and cousins. It was a typical village style growing up as Sardarshahar is a very small place. We spent a lot of time engaging with people, visiting places, and chatting with the family. Overall, it was a good and happy childhood.”

InSaraf Furniture is committed to promoting inclusivity in its workplace and addressing the employment needs of the community. The company has hired over 200 specially-abled individuals for desk jobs, enhancing diversity within the firm.

Moreover, InSaraf has instituted a two-day period leave policy every month, taking into account the biological needs of its female employees and fostering an employee-centric culture.

Raghunandan continues to cherish his roots and familial bonds, living in a joint family setup with his parents and cousins in Sardarshahar.

Raghunandan has implemented employee-centric policies at InSaraf

He is married to Priyanka, and they are parents to Vaidehi, 11, and Vivaan, 8. “I am blessed to have Priyanka as my life partner; she takes great care of our children and supports me as a guide when I am under stress,” Raghunandan says, expressing his appreciation for his wife.

Despite Raghunandan’s busy schedule, he manages to find the time for playing table tennis daily at home or at a local club.

His advice to budding entrepreneurs: "Keep going no matter what the situation is. Stay on your goals for a longer duration and you are surely going to be the winner. Being there on the run is the best attitude.” - ©TWL

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