Read our story, as told by our CEO & Founder, Raghav
"It’s hard to believe its been 10 years since Headphone Zone first opened its doors. It’s not a short amount of time. Even after a decade, I still wake up every morning as excited as ever to go to work and continue doing what I know best. I guess thats how you know your doing something right. If you're reading this page, then you've probably had a big role in the story of Headphone Zone. I thank you for joining me for the ride."
"After graduating from university, I chose to work with my family business based in Chennai which at the time was involved with the distribution and marketing of audio video accessories.
My first job was to market Headphones through large format electronic retailers across India - everyone from Croma, Reliance Digital, Big Bazaar and others, who were all convinced that headphones had a lot of potential. But that's when I realised that most big retailers had little or no understanding of Headphones. They were usually just hung on a peg hook like a pendrive, and the customer got a terrible experience in store and limited options outside it.
I was convinced that with some real focus, genuine passion and great customer service thrown in, Headphones can be a serious retail category in India. I guess, just wanted to prove a point to everyone that a concept like Headphone Zone could work."
"Buying headphones is a sensory experience, and being able to listen to the way your music can sound on them is extremely important. We started our first retail store in Bangalore’s Garuda Mall keeping that in mind.
The Headphone Zone store had 20 sectionalised categories - everything from Headphones for athletes, frequent fliers, and DJs. We had over 600 different headphones all in one store, and they were always beautifully displayed. It was pretty fantastic.
If you spent a few hours in the store, you'd quickly realise that everyone loves their music. It's almost universal. And we always had great music playing at the store. It was a transformative experience listening to it on some great sounding headphones. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with each customer who walked in everyday, and I knew this was 'my thing'. The time I spent in the store laid the foundation for our customer service philosophy that we carry till date."
"All of 2013 was focused on expanding our retail presence across 9 stores in 3 cities. We opened Headphone Zone stores in the finest malls of Bangalore and Chennai, and mini stores and kiosks in Mumbai.
When designing our stores, we wanted to maximize the space and use very little floor space which was incredibly expensive. Thankfully, our products could be retailed off the wall. We pioneered the concept of a 'store on a wall' with some of the coolest shopping malls in India. We were really proud of how we expressed the brand through the visual merchandising and a personalized customer experience. But giving each store the attention for it to give customers a consistently great experience was a big challenge.
I was shuffling my time between Chennai and Bangalore, but I finally decided that Mumbai would be the city that I'd call home. And that decision really started a completely new chapter in the Headphone Zone story."
"I very quickly realised that to bring Headphone Zone to music listeners across India, we would have to open stores in every town, every neighbourhood, almost like Café Coffee Day outlets. That would be really expensive and super unsustainable.
We Indians love good deals, and we would find customers trying out headphones at our stores and then buying them online at cheaper prices. Offline retail was seeing a huge devolution, and malls were losing out to online stores with unlimited shelf space. Social media was a better place to reach out to young music enthusiasts.
We had to adapt to the changing times. I, along with the new team in Mumbai got to work on building a new website and it allowed us to cater to a much wider audience, offer better products at substantially lower prices, and perhaps most importantly, allowed us to offer a consistently brilliant customer experience to everyone without having to be there everywhere."
"A few years after moving to Mumbai, we were lucky to find that the website was growing rapidly and we needed more people on board. We left our cramped co-working space for a very cozy 1 storied office right beside an old bakery & bang in the middle of Mumbai’s Bollywood district.
We started hiring our team through our social media pages, looking for people who shared our common passion for live music, great food, TV shows and even stand-up comedy. That was a massive hit, and we got very lucky with the amazing talent that joined our growing team.
2015 was all about building a fantastic team and culture at Headphone Zone. Here's where we shared our love for pizzas and poker week after week amidst super busy working hours while building a great website. We also introduced several new Headphone brands for the very first time in India like RHA, JAYS, V-MODA and FiiO, that all went on to become houehold names in India."
"2016 was the year we created Headphone Connect - a unique community meetup event for headphone enthusiasts and audiophiles and held the first event in Mumbai. We would book out the coolest craft breweries across India and travel with bags full of expensive headphones, DACs and players. We'd invite everyone we knew to spend a day with us over good food, great craft beers, some incredible music, and ofcourse the finest collection of Headphones put together anywhere.
Headphone Connect allowed us to get up and close and personal with our customers, the way we wanted to: without the snooze-fest formality of trade shows & and create some indelible memories with our headphone-obsessed team. We really created a community bringing together audiophiles for the first time in India.
Fun fact: Our team in 2015 ended up being 90% female with just 2 boys and 10 girls!"
"We were confronted with problems of scaling and automating processes and business operations the most this year. We were shipping twice as many headphones, and everything needed to catch up to speed. 2017 was a great year for us but also one with many ups and downs. We worked much harder than ever before, made some mistakes along the way. But we learnt that chocolate cake makes everything better. A lot of customers quickly discovered this too and we’ve sent out thousands of chocolate cakes to customers since.
Having moved to a bigger space, we also hired more people. This meant we could no longer go out as a team. So we replaced bowling alleys and dinner tables with foosball tournaments and pizza deliveries.
We also launched our online community on Facebook - The Indian Audiophile Forum which started with only a handful of friends sharing advice but is now amongst the largest of its kind anywhere in the world."
"We found that to take Headphone Zone to the next level, our existing brand was lacking, and was really created for a store in a mall. Redeveloping the Headphone Zone brand was the need of the hour. It meant letting go of everything we had created so far to make way for something new. Until now, we would attempt to do everything in-house, but this we decided to leave to the experts. We had to ask ourselves a lot of tough questions that helped us shape and define our brand's ethos, personality and communication style.
Rebranding was an expensive project, sure, but it forced us to look closely at what we were building and why we should be the ones to do it. Headphone Zone was so much more than a store that sold headphones. We were a destination for the discerning music listener but also at the center of India’s audiophile community. It gave us a lot of perspective and helped shape our core values that continue to guide each of us today."
"For the first time, we had a large dedicated team of Headphone Gurus and Customer Happiness Officers who interacted with hundreds of customers everyday. It got pretty chaotic with 10 or more people being on calls simultaneously. We got very lucky finding another space in the same building and moved the teams there. This meant that there were problems when Maggi was made only in one office! But we still made it a point to come together everyday.
We started making friends with several other independent E-Commerce brands across India and realized that they could really benefit from our experience. Working with them and watching them grow is probably the most fulfilling part of my job.
This was a memorable year for me for personal reasons too. Bhavika finally said yes, and we decided to spend our lives together."
"The year started out really positive for the team. We'd had 3 Townhalls with ambitious projections and plans for the year. Then March happened. COVID-19 lockdowns affected everyone and we were no different. We really thought we were in serious trouble.
After the initial shock we started to pull ourselves together. We started taking pre-orders with discounts on our entire catalogue on the website. We reached out to our most loyal customers asking them to buy pre-paid gift cards with lifetime validities. Our own customers bailed us out from the trenches through their very generous support.
I would say that we are pretty grateful to have been one of the businesses that managed to survive COVID-19. None of us got laid off or had salaries held. We managed to keep shop and sanity and adjust with the new normal."
Team Headphone Zone would like to recognize and thank those who were a part of our journey
Friends and Collaborators
Abhisek Sarda & Opposite
Aditya Mahagaonkar & WhatKnot
Aditya Marathe & WhatKnot
Anand Kulkarni & Flop Films
Apurva Kothari & NoNasties
Harsh Pareek & iBraine
Heeta Parikh & Silverspun
Liz D'Souza & Lizlyn
Nikhil Kumar Verma
Pradeep Gidwani & The Pint Room
Pratik Jain & Paxton Equips
Rahul Shah & Gadget Zone
Shashank Kumar & PushOwl
Shashwat Swaroop & Marmeto
Smita Rajagopal & Smitten
Sunil Kumar & TAMSE Associates
Udayan Arayan & GM Audio
Alumni and Contributors
Rajesh Kumar Singh