"We Aim to Grow 5X in Revenue by end of FY 2020": Saroja Yeramilli

In an exclusive conversation Saroja Yeramilli, CEO and Founder, Melorra talks about expansion plans, and recently acquired funding from from VC Lightbox.
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Saroja Yeramilli

What is your assessment about the online jewellery market in India? According to you, what are the factors propelling growth in this segment?

I would look at the industry from the consumer’s perspective. For the modern Indian woman, jewellery is not something confined to her locker anymore. She wants to express herself every day through what she wears, including jewellery. She is becoming more experimental with her wardrobe and accessory choices, and there is a shift in herfine jewellerybuying preferences too – she looks for gold jewellery that’s lightweight and for every day wear instead of bulky and traditionaldesigns.

And, this is an area that offline retailers have failed to address. Huge inventory costs don’t allow offline jewellers to experiment with designs and cater to the millennial segment.In fact, no other online jewellery retailer also caters to this need wholly,since a large part of their cataloguetypically consists of traditional, heavy pieces and a very minimal percentage would bedesigned for everyday wear.

This is because the Indian jewellery industry is conventionally conceptualized around creating traditional designs and focuses on elaborate pieces that can only be worn on special occasions like weddings. For example, the current designs created in the industry do not allow a woman to wear them with a dress from Zara or Mango. In fact, Melorra was launched in May 2016 to bridge this gap and address “the wardrobe mismatch”, as I call it.

If I were to view in terms of growth, despite being less than a decade old, the online jewellery retail segment in India has seen tremendous evolution. Estimates1 by McKinsey and Company indicate that the share of the online jewellery market in Asia is set to double from 6% to 12% by 2020. About 18% of the sales are expected to be made online by 2025 taking its worth to about $79 billion annually.

Apart from the factors above, another major reason for this growth is the fact that the demand for fashionable fine jewellery in the country had largely remained unaddressed until recently. The contemporary woman has always been looking for designs that can match with just about anything in her wardrobe – from her casual t-shirts to her party dresses but the market was not fueling this need. Melorra caters to this demand and offers fine, lightweight, and trendy jewellery suited to the daily wardrobe of women. Our inventory-free policy gives us the freedom and resources to focus on technology and innovation tointegrate the latestinternational fashion trends into our designs, launching one new collection every week. This is not possible in other business models.

The fact that we are a brand with a huge online presence enables us to reach out to not justTier 2 and 3 cities but also Tier 5 and 6 towns, something thatI feel may not always be possible in the case of a brick-and-mortar outlet.

Tell us about Melorra’s strengths. Also shed light on your entrepreneurial journey, what inspires you to launch Melorra?

We have a strong team of over 120 members as of November 2019, and our business is based out of Bengaluru, which helps us attract quality talent in all areas including technology and digital marketing. We are a fair opportunity employer with a healthy gender diversity and our leadership team comprises of people from top-notch institutions such as Purdue, IIM, and NIFT.

We recently raised $12 million funding from VC Lightbox and family offices of some of India’s biggest business houses. With this capital infusion, we aim to enhance our capabilities further and become the largestdaily-wear fine jewellery brand in the country.

My entrepreneurial journey has been interesting with a lot to learn and unlearn. I feel grateful for not having faced conventional entrepreneurial challenges when I started out, and having received one of the largest ever seed rounds raised by an Indian venture.

How do you plan to utilize the raise funds? Going forward, what are the plans to raise more funds?

This is the second time we have received funding to this tune, and we plan to utilize it to bolster our market reach, enhance technology and innovate further. The funding will help us penetrate deeper into our target markets and propel us towards our goal of making Melorra India’s largest daily-wear fine jewellery brand. Funding is integral to the growth of any business and we will look at raising more funds as and when the need is felt in future as well.

According to you what are the major challenges of online jewellery retailing? Any plans to foray into offline channel anytime soon?

The challenges aren’t many, if you are addressing a consumer need correctly and are constantly innovating.Our zero inventory (made-to-order) business model and consumer-friendly policies have helped us reach out to consumers across the length and breadth of the country, which have contributed to our growth and success. Consumers in any part of the country can order from the comfort of their home and be assured that they receive fine jewellery, which is not only certified but is also designed as per the most recent international trends. We offer a Cash on Delivery option to over 26000 pin codes across India – which is one of the highest in the e-commerce sector. Our Card on Delivery service is available in metros and Tier II cities. What also makes us a preferred online fine jewellery brand is a best-in-industry Lifetime Exchange policy, with a 90% exchange value across alljewellery categories. We offer EMI Option as well and a 30-day return option through a simple, hassle-free process. At a product level, we are disrupting the manufacturing process of the jewellery industry with Just-in-Time production. We innovate by using cutting-edge 3D printing technology and direct casting method.

The modern Indian woman isvery comfortable purchasing finejewellery online and we do not have anyplans to enter the offline channel.

Tell us about your bestselling collection. What kind of business is generating from your best sellers?

We have over 6000 designs and are seeinga high demand consistentlyacross the categories of rings, pendants and earrings in plain gold and diamonds. From our recent Autumn/Winter 2019/20 collections, The High Sobriety Collection and The Parisian Poise Collection have been the most-loved and most-bought.Both these collections are inspired by the French Bourgeoisie global dressing trend and include sophisticated, minimal designs in geometric motifs.For us, the collections that contribute as bestsellers change every month as we have a fashion-forward approach and new designs get launched every 7 days. Overall, our latest fashion season launches contribute to 31%percentage of business.

At last, kindly mention your growth plans.                                       

In the three years since founding Melorra, we have been able to create a mark in towns with a population of less than 10,000 to those above 1 million, delivering to over 1300 towns in the country. We have also recorded a year-on-year growth of 400% in FY 2019 and are expecting to grow 5X in revenue, in FY 2020.

Right from the outset, Melorra has been a technology-driven business. And, we will continue to blend technology, fashion and fine jewellery to offer trendy designs at a fast pace to consumers. We have invested in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and 3D printing technologies. This gives us an edge over others in terms of high precision and accuracy in creating uniquejewellery pieces. In the future, we are looking at investing in technologies that enrich our consumer-experience such as AI led, voice-enabled interface that understands vernacular languages and is expected to take the consumer’s shopping experience to a totally different level.

Being a brand with universal appeal, we also plan to enter the overseas markets in the years ahead. In the next three years, we are poised to become one of the largest digital consumer brands. Melorra will be a 400-crore revenue company in FY 2021 and is on the fast-moving track to profitability.

With our innovative positioning and business model, Melorra has the potential to disrupt the Indian jewellery market as it stands today.

 

Saroja Yeramilli
 
 
 
 
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