Marketplace roll-up platform Mensa Brands became the fastest Indian startup to enter the unicorn club in November 2021. Unlike most of the new age unicorns which are bleeding money with no revenue in income statements, the Thrasio-style company registered $41.36 million (Rs 310 crore) in revenue in its first year of operations, thanks to its acquisitions driven operating philosophy.
The Tiger Global-backed group acquires direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands in three verticals (home, lifestyle, and beauty) with revenue between $1.5 to $10 million and helps them in process optimization, growth hacking, demand planning, expansion, and marketing. The sale of products from these acquired companies is the only source of revenue for Mensa, as per the annual financial statements filed by the company in Singapore.
During FY22, it spent $88.55 million (Rs 670 crore) in acquisitions, which include $66.66 million fixed and $21.88 million contingent consideration. As per Fintrackr’s data, Mensa acquired around a dozen startups during FY22 and has taken over 25 startups in the past 20 months. It recently acquired MensXP, iDiva, and Hypp from Times Internet for an undisclosed amount.
For the unaware, e-commerce roll up companies acquire cash flow positive brands, but instead of acquiring the whole company, they structure it as an asset sale. These companies also raise debt funds and use it to service the deal terms.
On the cost front, the cost of materials consumed is the largest cost center for Mensa which includes fashion and home products. It accounted for 32% of the overall cost and registered at $19.26 million in FY22.
Marketplace expenses were the second largest cost followed by the cost of material consumed. The company booked $8.98 million as marketplace expenses in FY22.
Advertisement/business promotion and cost of legal and professional fees were recorded at $3.64 million and $2.5 million in FY22. The company added another $3.33 million towards freight and forward which pushed the total expenditure to $59.5 million (Rs 450 crore) in FY22.
With the cost near $60 million in FY22, Mensa brands registered a loss of $16.41 million in the first fiscal year. On a unit level, the company spent $1.44 to earn a single unit of USD.
While Mensa has been claiming to hit profitability since its unicorn round, the company is yet to hit breakeven on a group level. Led by Ananth Narayanan, former CEO of Myntra and Medlife, the firm directly competes with GlobalBees, Goat Brand Labs, Evenflow, 10club, and Powerhouse91.
With a threshold of around Rs 10-12 crore, Mensa Brands has a large pool of potential brands to consider, when we look at the e-commerce space in India. However, the trick is to not overpay, as margins in the business can be thin for many of these brands, as they cover for payments to e-commerce platforms and high promotion costs. That, and the ability to ‘sweat’ these assets with superior inputs will be key to determining the winners in this segment.