Only giants will survive online battle; offline is here to stay says Pratik Agarwal

Breya, a brand thats rapidly becoming popular with working women and millennials has managed to do just that.
‘Only giants will survive online battle; offline is here to stay’ says Pratik Agarwal

It’s not often regular visitors to a shop become business partners with a brand, especially when the brand is just one-year old. But Breya, a brand that’s rapidly becoming popular with working women and millennials has managed to do just that. A bridge between traditional-ethinc and Indo-Western is what we are, says its co-founder Pratik Agarwal. In a conversation with Indian Retailer, Agarwal gets candid about the unhealthy discount wars online, why technology is important for retail and why offline is here to stay. Excerpts:

Tell us about your brand journey.

Breya was formed when we four friends came together to build something unique by blending both modern and ethnic fashion. I am a former investment banker and although I didn’t have any clue about fashion retailing, our creative designer Tanvi was in the fashion industry. We all collaborated on working on women’s apparel because there’s so much wide space in this industry. Most often, women apparel are labeled as modern or ethnic, but we wanted Breya to be the bridge between traditional-ethnic and Indo-Western. As we researched, we noticed that the demand for modern kurtis was huge and we tapped on this market. We launched the brand in Hyderabad in 2016 and currently we have 10 stores across India, with 4 in Hyderabad alone.   

How do you stand out as a new brand, when the market is dominated by biggies like Westside, Max, Lifestyle and others?

From the start, our focus was to bring global fashion at affordable pricing. We extensively worked on the designs which were simple yet smart for work wear and ensured that our designs were the differentiator. Our organic fabrics and minimal embroidery collections became an instant hit. Our overall product proposition is our USP.

Elaborate on why you think your designs are the differentiator.

Every year, we launch two collections- Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter. We bring over 250 designs in each of these collections and we work around the theme for specific collections. For instance, we launched the ‘tic-toe’ collection that revolved around on the childhood memories. We wanted to invoke childhood memories in our customers, when they were dressed in this attire. Similarly, we have brought vintage gardens and Irayat theme collections that were a tribute to the famous gardens around the world and Indian architecture respectively. Also, most our fabrics are designed for durability, which is actually attracting more people.

What have been your omni-channel strategies?

Omni-channel retailing has been our biggest brand building strategies. While we are present in Hyderabad, Bhopal, Jamshedpur through offline stores, we are present in tier II and III cities through MBOs. We will continue to replicate our model in other cities like Delhi, Cochin, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where we soon plan to expand, our online retailing through popular ecommerce marketplaces will continue. For now, our focus will remain on expanding through offline expansion.

Isn’t offline expansion more expensive than online retailing? Why do you choose offline over online?

Offline is way expensive, but we firmly believe it’s here to stay. For a brand like Breya, which is looking at Pan-India expansion, we think it’s the best route. Building a brand through digital marketing is comparatively easier, but it’s an expensive affair. We feel it’s not a viable strategy in the long run and offline market has a much longer stay than online. Maybe a few years or decades down the lane, only big ecommerce players will survive, whereas smaller players will have to struggle it out.  

What makes you think online market is a rough turf for smaller brands?

The steep online discounts are a big challenge. The online marketplace is driven by discounts and sometimes there is very less awareness about the quality of products in consumers. Bad products get sold easily at low prices, while a local player let’s say in Surat, who provides good quality items will have to struggle it out to sell his clothes. Also, the fierce competition in online space pays less attention to profits. The return rates are also sometimes higher. Hence, we need checks and balances in the industry for everyone to survive.

But what are you doing differently to draw millennial buyers to offline stores?

Technology penetration in offline stores is slowly gaining momentum in Indian retail and we want to work towards capturing customer experience. We are planning to adopt technology to enhance shopping experience and we have just started working in this direction.

What are your expansion plans?

We will continue to work with ecommerce marketplace although our focus will remain on expanding our brand presence through offline retailing. We are growing by 3x and we want to be present in 20-25 cities in the next 24 months. We want to have 50 stores by 2019 and we are following the franchising model to expand. For now, our focus will remain on what we are doing.

Pratik Agarwal