From Retail Revolution to Social Impact: An Inspiring Interview with  Ms. Pooja Sodhi, CEO of Combonation

Combonation, India’s combo deal destination, has quickly made a mark in the retail industry. With an impressive pre-seed funding round of $2 million in July 2022, Combonation has swiftly expanded its reach since its inception, launching over 20 retail stores in well-known locations across India, including Amritsar, Kanpur, Mgf Mall, Arya Mall, Gk, Akshardham, Lajpat Nagar, Faridabad, Rajouri Garden, Punjabi Bagh, and many more. As part of its growth strategy, the company recently announced its focus on expanding in the Northern part of India. In addition to its physical stores, Combonation’s e-commerce site has experienced remarkable growth, increasing its user base tenfold since its launch earlier this year.

At Combonation, customers can find more than 500 curated combo deals, encompassing a wide range of products such as cosmetics, healthcare items, wellness products, and organic goods. Offering a one-stop solution for families, Combonation allows customers to conveniently purchase housekeeping supplies, personal care products, baby care essentials, beauty items, men’s grooming products, and more, both in-store and through their website.

Leading the way for Combonation is its Co-founder and CEO, Pooja Sodhi. With a deep understanding of consumer behavior, supply chain management, marketing, and sales, Sodhi has proven to be a visionary entrepreneur in the competitive retail landscape. Her unique perspective and entrepreneurial spirit have propelled Combonation to success and carved out a distinct niche in the industry.

Pooja Sodhi’s journey began in 1999 when she joined Citibank at the age of 21. Through her determination and expertise, she turned around the fortunes of a retail outlet at the airport, transforming it into a highly profitable venture. However, driven by a desire for more, Sodhi embarked on her entrepreneurial journey later in life, recognizing the demand for sales and discounts across all income segments. This insight led her to establish Combonation, pioneering the concept of bundle offers on multiple products in India.

Ms. Pooja Sodhi Co Founder and CEO Combonation
Ms. Pooja Sodhi, Co-Founder, and CEO, Combonation

Despite encountering challenges along the way, including the closure of her first startup due to external competition, Sodhi’s passion for entrepreneurship never wavered. After a brief return to corporate life, she rekindled her entrepreneurial spirit and founded Combonation. Her perseverance, self-reliance, and dedication have been instrumental in the company’s growth.

Beyond business success, Pooja Sodhi harbors a social vision. She aims to open a Combonation store exclusively staffed by transgender individuals, who often face marginalization in Indian society. Her intention is not solely for business purposes but stems from a genuine concern for the betterment of society. Sodhi firmly believes in the untapped talent within the transgender community and aims to empower them by providing employment opportunities to realize their full potential and make a meaningful difference in their lives.

Pooja Sodhi’s story is a testament to her resilience, determination, and foresight. She has not only navigated the intricate retail landscape of India but also made a lasting impact through Combonation. Her commitment to social change and her entrepreneurial achievements make her an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide. Pooja Sodhi’s journey exemplifies the power of vision, determination, and hard work.

In a recent interview apart from Ms. Pooja Sodhi’s story we also got to know more about her company, here are some insights…

1. Can you share the inspiration behind starting Combonation and pioneering the concept of combo deals in India’s retail industry?

I worked for an organization in the retail industry, which has consistently been a field that intrigued me. The concept of Combonation, which began as an e-commerce platform and is now a widely known retail platform, was to bring ease of shopping to the table. During my entrepreneurial venture, I noticed that people of all economic levels wanted deals and discounts.

Following this, the primary concept for Combonation’s launch came into existence with the intention of bringing special combo deals to the surface. Combonation facilitates and eases the concept of shopping for clients from all spheres of life, whether they are negotiation hunters or online shoppers, by offering a combo deal on their favorite products. The platform’s offers and discounts are what bring users in.

2. What challenges did you face when launching Combonation, and how did you overcome them to establish your niche in the market?

While navigating the complex landscape and stages of startups, one faces numerous known and legitimate difficulties. There were challenges along the way for me as an entrepreneur, and I also played a part in them. I returned to the corporate sector when my first startup witnessed a stagnation in its revenues, and continuing it appeared inefficacious, but I soon realized that entrepreneurship was my true calling.

Three years later, I went back to the startup and launched Combonation. It is an extremely competitive sector, with established firms controlling the market and new entrants striving to build in their own space.

One requires a clear vision and an entrepreneurial mindset to thrive in such an environment. By considering all of these potential challenges, I was able to navigate this complex retail industry and turn my vision into reality with Combonation.

3. Could you elaborate on the unique value proposition of Combonation and how it attracts customers, both deal seekers and online shoppers?

Combonation is a one-stop shop for all of your everyday lifestyle needs, offering more than 500 brands in pre-curated combo packs for items like cosmetics, healthcare, wellness, organic goods, etc. Combonation is India’s first and only combo deal retail platform, and one of our key USPs is our proficiency in acquiring premium brands and offering bundle shopping under one roof.

For the best variety from renowned brands, our combos are hand-selected by industry professionals. Combonation reduces the trade imbalance and fosters reconciliation between online and offline trade platforms by enticing customers with steep discounts that are appealing to both deal hunters and online buyers.

4. Opening 50 offline stores in Delhi NCR is an ambitious plan. What factors influenced this decision, and what benefits do you foresee in having a physical presence alongside the online platform?

Our ambition has been strengthened to increase our footprint in Delhi NCR after the successful completion of opening 23 outlets there. We are envisioning taking this expansion spree to 50 offline stores in Delhi, NCR.

The company has had a positive growth trajectory for a startup. Monthly growth over the last six months has been 10%. By the end of the following year, we hope to have a revenue of Rs 300 crore, and we are working hard to get there. With the response we are receiving from our already existing stores in Delhi NCR, we are planning to further expand our presence there.

We want to broaden the categories and assortment of what we have to offer. Regardless of the demands and interests of each consumer, it is our mission to offer a thorough shopping experience.

5. In addition to offering combo deals, Combonation provides various customer-centric features such as free shipping, AI-enabled recommendations, and prompt customer care. How do these offerings contribute to enhancing the overall customer experience?

The platform, in addition to offering exceptional combo deals, also provides free shipping, hassle-free delivery, pertinent recommendations from AI-enabled tools, quick customer service, and secure payment.

We track consumer purchasing patterns using artificial intelligence and generate bundles as necessary. We have been putting a lot of effort into utilizing AI and machine learning to advance our business. We use these technologies to develop personalized combos based on consumer behavior.

To design personalized offers and discounts that are catered to each unique consumer, our AI algorithms examine customer data and purchase histories. In addition to improving the consumer experience, this helps us increase sales and boost our bottom line.

6. The retail industry is highly competitive. What strategies have you employed to differentiate Combonation from established players and attract a loyal customer base?

Digital transformation is now a requirement for retail organizations in this dynamic and ever-changing competitive market, not an option. Retail businesses need to make technology investments and innovative consumer behavior initiatives under these circumstances in order to be competitive against growing competition.

Our AI algorithms assist us in analyzing client data and enhancing our offers in real time, giving us a competitive edge and assisting us in staying abreast of trends. Moreover, supporting Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) consumer products is one of the ways we stay one step ahead of the curve.

By better understanding their needs and preferences, we can collaborate more directly with our clients, which enables us to develop our services and maintain our relevance in a market that is undergoing rapid change.

7. Your entrepreneurial journey has seen both success and challenges. Can you share a significant lesson or insight you gained from your previous startup experience that influenced the development and growth of Combonation?

As an entrepreneur, there were challenges along the way, but the key was to remain positive and persistent in pursuing my objectives. For new business owners, the early phases are often challenging, and it can be challenging to retain the same level of motivation.

Consistency is the key, though, if one is willing to make things work out for them. In the long run, you’ll discover that all of your efforts and hard work will eventually pay off, with an array of benefits.

When my first startup’s sales almost started to stagnate and carrying it on with such tenuous profits seemed ineffective, I left it and went back to the corporate world. This time, I returned with even more experience under my belt, and perhaps where I fell short in my last endeavor, I was able to make up for it. Combonation is a testament to my tenacity and patience.

8. We admire your social vision of opening a Combonation store employing transgender individuals who face marginalization in Indian society. What motivated you to take this step, and how do you believe it will contribute to society and make a difference in their lives?

Due to a lack of equity in the workplace, transgender people may have various negative employment consequences. A variety of hurdles and problems may arise at work for trans employees which we all are aware of.

Opening up an outlet that is entirely managed by transgender people is an attempt to incorporate a sense of inclusivity and diversity into the work culture. Conveying the idea that intelligence and capabilities are not primarily determined by a person’s gender. Each and every one of us should have an equal chance to demonstrate our ability.

The initiative aims to provide transgender people with employment opportunities because they typically face discrimination and poverty. An attempt has been made to minimize their suffering by providing them with a platform to be autonomous, build their own identities, and reclaim their lost dignity.

9. As an entrepreneur, what are your future plans and aspirations for Combonation? How do you envision the growth and evolution of the company in the coming years?

By fusing technology with traditional retail through an internet app, Combonation is working to create a seamless channel of sales and purchasing for both customers and new-age brands.

Our goal is to provide a comprehensive shopping experience, regardless of the needs and preferences of each customer. We deliver our items to clients all around the country as an omnichannel business, and we’ll keep developing our delivery options to serve even more people in the future.

Additionally, we believe in using technology to create a community that enjoys staying in touch with their favorite businesses and brands, as well as providing them with an entertaining and educational buying experience.

10. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make a mark in the retail industry or any competitive market?

An entrepreneur is an individual who establishes a cutting-edge business that offers clients a novel or essential product. Increasing your knowledge of budding entrepreneurs and how to become one will help you acquire the abilities necessary to forge a lucrative professional path. You should ask seasoned businesspeople and subject-matter experts for assistance as a young and aspiring entrepreneur.

Work and commitment are necessary to launch a business. Your company idea should inspire you, and you should be dedicated to seeing it through to success. Additionally, you should always be learning as you embark on your entrepreneurial adventure because your sector will be evolving; therefore, doing so will help you flourish as a new business owner. In particular, they must maintain their focus throughout their journey and have a clear vision and objective.