The evolving landscape of Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) in India, 2023

Photo of author

By Arnab Ray

In recent years, the Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) market in India has undergone a transformative journey. From being a fledgling sector to becoming a formidable player in the retail landscape, D2C brands have captured the imagination of consumers and investors alike. However, the road to success has been fraught with challenges, and the sector now finds itself at a crossroads. This exhaustive article aims to delve deep into the various dimensions of the D2C market in India, examining its growth trajectory, the hurdles it faces, and what the future holds.

The ascent of D2C Brands: A phenomenal rise

The catalysts behind the surge

The D2C market in India has witnessed an astronomical rise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to industry reports, the sector generated a staggering $4 billion in revenue in the fiscal year 2022 and is projected to cross the $100 billion mark by 2025. Several factors have contributed to this remarkable growth:

  1. Direct Customer Engagement: One of the most significant advantages that D2C brands enjoy is the ability to engage directly with their customers. This direct interaction allows them to collect real-time feedback, understand consumer preferences, and tailor their products and services accordingly.
  2. Technological Advancements: The rise of e-commerce platforms, coupled with sophisticated digital marketing tools and data analytics, has empowered D2C brands to target specific customer segments effectively. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have further enhanced their ability to understand consumer behavior and trends.

Expanding market reach

D2C brands have successfully penetrated a wide array of sectors, ranging from fashion and lifestyle to groceries and household items. For instance, Tata Consumer, a leading player in the D2C market, has significantly expanded its product portfolio. Initially known for its tea, coffee, and salt products, the company has ventured into new categories like pulses, spices, and ready-to-cook items. Tata Consumer’s acquisition of a 100% stake in Kottaram Agro Foods, the maker of the Soulfull brand of breakfast cereals and millet-based snacks, exemplifies the aggressive expansion strategies adopted by D2C brands.

Obstacles, Challenges and Setbacks

The diminishing hype & reality check

Sunil D’Souza, the managing director at Tata Consumer, has pointed out that the initial hype surrounding D2C brands is beginning to wane. This has led many online-only brands to shift their focus towards local kirana stores and other offline channels. According to industry experts, the growth rate of the D2C market has halved to approximately 25-30% from the 50-70% observed during the pandemic period of March 2020 to March 2022.

The funding conundrum

The D2C sector has experienced a noticeable decline in funding, particularly in recent quarters. Data indicates that ecommerce funding in the second quarter of 2022 declined by 36.84% to $1.2 billion, down from $1.9 billion in the previous quarter. Furthermore, the number of deals in Q2 2022 plummeted by 18.55% to 79, compared to 97 in Q1 2022. This decline in funding has raised concerns about the sector’s long-term viability.


Supply chain complexities and logistics woes

Managing an efficient supply chain is a monumental challenge for D2C brands. The cost of shipping can quickly erode profit margins, especially for orders under INR 1,000 that require pan-India delivery. Businesses have reported a 10-15% increase in logistics costs over the past two years, primarily driven by rising fuel prices.

The cost of customer acquisition

With the market becoming increasingly saturated, customer acquisition costs have emerged as a significant burden for D2C brands. Brands are grappling with the challenge of balancing cost-efficient acquisition strategies with the need to deliver superior customer experiences to maximize their return on investment (ROI).

The Road Ahead: Is D2C a dying sector?

There is a growing sentiment among industry stakeholders that the D2C sector is on the decline. However, this perspective often disproportionately focuses on large D2C players, which may not provide a holistic view of the sector’s health.

The first mover fallacy

The concept of the “first mover fallacy” suggests that being the first to enter a market can be disadvantageous due to the absence of existing infrastructure and market dynamics. This theory posits that later entrants can capitalize on the groundwork laid by the first movers, often leading to their success.

The dawn of D2C 2.0

Recent data indicates that the D2C sector is far from dead; it’s merely evolving. The total funding received by top D2C enablement platforms to date is a staggering $603 million. One such company, Shiprocket, has even achieved unicorn status. Furthermore, sales from small D2C brands have grown by 36% since 2020, suggesting that we are on the cusp of a new era—D2C 2.0—where smaller, later entrants will capitalize on the infrastructure left behind by larger brands.


The D2C market in India is at a critical juncture. While the sector has enjoyed unprecedented growth and has revolutionized the retail landscape, it also faces formidable challenges in terms of funding, supply chain management, and customer acquisition. As the market matures, D2C brands will need to adapt, innovate, and possibly even reinvent themselves to continue thriving in this dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape. The future may hold challenges, but it also offers unparalleled opportunities for those willing to adapt and innovate.

Stay ahead!

Join the community. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter to get updates, articles, freebies, tools, workshops, webinars and event notifications right into your inbox.

    Leave a Comment