What does one do when one can’t find fashion you want at the price you like? Launch a brand that sells your ideas and vision. Though it may seem a lot easier said than done, for go-getter PrashantiAlagappa, the founding member of Jabong, who has a rich experience of close to two decades in the retail industry,launching her own brand – Indian Dobby was the next natural step. As ethnic wear brand Indian Dobby expands its wings in the marketplace, Prashantitalks to Indian Retailer exclusively. Excerpts:
Years after Jabong, how did Indian Dobby happen? Walk us through the journey.
While I was still in Jabong, I used to often say in frustration that I would start my own ethnic brand because we were selling both Western and Indian ethnic wear, and although the ethnic collection did more volumes, it was easier to find right products at right prices in the Western collection. Even with good designers, we were unable to produce good volumes in ethnic collection, and if the products and volumes were good, we had to compromise on the price point. This constant friction led me to believe there was a gap in the industry.
Soon after I quit Jabong in 2014, I realized I could launch my own brand when I was helping out a family member in her business. By 2015, I launched my first test collection in Jabong and it received overwhelming responses. My second collection came after six months and it was a runaway success. After a soft launch, we are now available in the marketplace.
The Indian ethnic wear segment is crowded with many players in this segment alone. How do you differentiate your brand from others?
So, yes, the segment is crowded but there are two ways to look at this. First, yes there are so many players and such a vast number of products available, and secondly, even with so many players they are not able to get the products right, which means there is need for more players. For women who prefer Indo-Western kind of ethnic wear, there are very less options available in the market. And those available are priced at the higher end. What sets us apart is our products are not mass produced to achieve price point and most importantly we are bringing out products that are trendy, for instance, an ethnic wear that would suit a business meeting as well. While achieving all this we want our fabrics to be relevant for the climatic conditions in the country.
You played a big rolein launching women’s wear in Jabong. With your own brand launch now, how do you think the market has evolved and what are the major challenges?
The market has most certainly matured. However, when we started off with Jabong the online marketplace penetration was less and we made business plans with the help of data, although we had no rivals and there was no rival data available. With new forms of businesses taking place, now, there are new challenges. Now, a person can run a business even with WhatsApp. Which means it’s now that much easier to copy a design and bring it out in the market. As business models change, new challenges too arise.
Personally, what gaps do you see in the industry? What are your brand strategies to bridge them?
I guess fining good quality products at a value price point is still the biggest gap in the industry. Although many new players came with sharp prices, they could not sustain the prices and eventually moved up. I want to cater to the customers looking for a good kurta in Rs 999- Rs 1299 price range and I will work only in this category.
Are there any takeaways from your previous stint that you are implementing in Indian Dobby?
Well, many. In the online marketplace data is captured automatically and that often gives insights on customers. I learnt how to analyze data and how to make use of intelligence. For example, what fits customers like, what designs move fast and the need to constantly keep rechecking your products. Most importantly, I learnt to figure out trends that will stay, appeal to customers and at what duration the changes have to happen and so on. I am using all of it with my brand.
Also, you played a key role in launching private labels. How do you think the market is for private labels and do you think they will pose a challenge to new brands?
It is true that private labels often end up getting maximum space and promotions on the ecommerce marketplace. But these collections are not customer oriented, but mostly focus on trends. Since they are mass produced, they are meant for a wider audience.While there only target is to maximize sales, our target is to connect with our customers. Unlike them, we are closer to our customer tastes. As the interests and demands of the customers change, our collections change and it is not season or trend based. Hence, private labels do not pose any major threat to us.
What are your omni-channel strategies?
I have not ventured into full-time offline retailing, although eventually I plan to move into offline spaces. Since we mostly work with traditional, Indian fabric like cotton and others, I don’t think large format stores would be suitable for us. We would be expanding offline with niche stores but that’s not immediately. Also, we would be partnering with more ecommerce marketplaces.
How have you scaled and what are your expansion plans?
We have grown more than 100 per cent y-o-y and the target for the next year is to grow three times from this current year. In the next five years, we should be a Rs 30 crore brand. Meanwhile, we will continue to expand our partnerships with craft-oriented websites like Jaypore and others, while we will be tapping customers in smaller cities through pop-ups. We will soon be launching Western formal collection that will still be in sync with the essence of the brand. More product categories and more visibility will be immediate expansion plans.