Whenever we talk about traditional craftsmanship and quality, India steps up with a loud roar. India is amongst the world’s fastest growing fashion markets, apparel is the second largest revenue generator in India’s booming eCommerce industry. Fashion-maniacs in India are witnessed experimenting with colours, quality and price of the apparel. It is not about the price, but about the comfort; is what the fashion donor states. It’s still hard to find brands that offer exceptional quality products at affordable prices. Apparels from brands like Thomas Pink and Hugo Boss cost fortunes, which can be a huge dent on the pocket. Today’s fashion industry, especially in the premium and luxury segments, is ready for another disruption in the business model. Amid such transformation, Andamen flaunts the Indian heritage, storytelling based concept and design philosophy to stand out as a unique brand in the men’s fashion space. In candid with Retailer media, Siddharth Suri, Founder, Andamen discusses the secret behind the brand name, target customers and future plans.
Please share your background. Your education and whether entrepreneurship was something you always wanted to do?
Since college, it was my dream to start a venture of my own. But there were many other things I wanted to learn and do before that. I wanted to gain some experience in an established company because it would help me tremendously when I managed my family business, a business that my father had built over three decades and all of us were proud of. I wanted to travel and live abroad and pursue an MBA in USA. And before I went for my MBA I wanted to gain some experience and perspective of my family business. The startup ambition had to wait as, once I started I couldn’t leave it midway. And that has really been my journey till here. I smile when I think to myself, I’m doing what I had always wanted to do!
Is there a story behind the name you have given to your business?
The name and logo are what ‘the Andamen experience’ begins with. For us it was all the more important because our creative philosophy is that great design is something that has a deeper meaning. In India, an elephant represents dignity, power and pride. Our brand’s mascot ‘Rajan’ is not just any elephant! He is the only ocean swimming elephant in the Indian subcontinent.
Who is your target consumer? Could you please share how you have detailed your consumer?
Andamen’s target customer is the contemporary Indian man. He is someone who is upwardly mobile, 28-45 years old, is fashionable, sophisticated and easy. We are currently working to build a strong customer base in India and then want to grow into attracting tourists who visit India and also the Indian diaspora.
What is your current distribution in brick and mortar space? What are your future distribution plans?
We currently do not have a store, but are focussing on providing customers the opportunity to physically experience the brand and products through trunk shows, fashion exhibitions and curated events. In the brief three months since our launch, the overwhelming feedback from our customers has been that the product quality is better than what they perceived from our website. That is why we are exploring all brick and mortar opportunities.
Have you raised any funding so far? What are your plans to use this funding for?
We are self-funded right now and will be able to sustain our vision and business plan for a while. That is how we planned this venture as our focus is on building a sustainable business, not chasing top line numbers that are not necessarily sustainable.
What has been your A-ha Moment in the business? (The high point)
The moment when we first saw all the samples of our first collection put together in our showroom! For nearly a year, we had been working on refining our product styling to get the right sensibility, experimenting with various radical concepts and different techniques. In the fashion industry you typically see a lot of initial prototypes in substitute fabrics and components which can be very different from the original concept. On top of this, after three months, we had to change the factory we were working with, as they couldn’t deliver our standard, and start from scratch. So there was this long phase of nervous anticipation. To us it had almost become akin to building a house and seeing the collection come together was almost like the first day you moved in!
What has been your biggest challenge so far in scaling-up? How are you addressing it?
Getting people to try our shirts; Despite the startup boom in India, when it comes to physical products like ours, and especially at a bridge-to-luxury price point, Indians are still not immediately willing to try a new brand. And since we don’t have physical stores, it’s not easy for people to immediately believe we make different standard of shirts. I’d say about 60% of our customers are those who had seen 3-5 Andamen ads and/or social media posts before they decided to come back to our website and make their first purchase.
To address this we are focusing a lot on setting up our analytics and data gathering. Since our launch we’ve been experimenting with various targeting measures to know what type of campaigns and what sort of demographic and psychographic targeting works best for us. We constantly tweak our marketing strategies accordingly. For instance, when we launched we focussed only on men in our target age group, but two of our most successful marketing campaigns have been gifting campaigns targeted to women. It makes sense as well as our entire brand and concept is about meaningful designs and people like to give gifts that have an emotional connect or a story behind them.
How do you see growth scenario is this business? What are your future scale-up plans?
We believe there is a huge opportunity in India and globally. The fashion industry by its very nature always has place for new entrants as fashion is all about newness. But building a brand takes time and we have a very long term orientation and patience. As far as our immediate expansion plans are concerned, there are three important aspects: 1. to expand and improve our digital marketing to spread awareness about Andamen; 2. explore physical opportunities to provide touch and feel experiences to customers; and 3. we are also exploring the right ecommerce marketplaces – those that are not discount driven and will add to the brand experience not dilute it.
Our vision is to build a lifestyle brand. We have launched with shirts but in due course will be launching other product categories.