Yogesh Kabra, Founder of XYXX had just returned after his MBA from the US and he was disappointed with the unrelatable brands, quality of products, and lack of product innovation that he found on the retail shelves in the men’s basics category.
As a consumer, he wanted more from his basics but soon realized that good-quality basics were either impossible to find in store aisles or almost unaffordable for the average Indian man.
So, he started XYXX in 2016 with the aim to make buying and wearing innerwear an enjoyable, fun experience for young men like him. Since he was clear he wanted to offer something differentiated he spent 6 months studying fabrics and fabric technology. The fact that his family was in textiles meant fabric innovation was dinner table conversation all his growing years.
“This knowledge and understanding of fabrics came in handy but everything else was an uphill task. The micro modal fabric production and the first designs were a labour of love. It took many months of trial and error to perfect the fabric, get the brushed back elastic right, and get prints done with the desired sharpness. Convincing customers during the testing phase that the product was made from naturally sourced materials was the biggest challenge,” states Kabra.
“We were working with small quantities of production so getting economies of scale was near impossible. I still remember my wife Harshita and I listing the products and packing our first-ever customer order for shipping. XYXX was instrumental in setting up the production and supply chain for micro modal fabrics for innerwear in India. The rest as they say is history,” he adds.
The brand, which started with the top 50 cities, now has a presence across the country. Within 2 years of introducing retail, the brand has established itself in 7,000 stores.
“We are a digital-first brand and we have received great traction from millennial audiences across India. We are looking forward to building our brand narrative and community on the tenets of clarity, trust, and conversation over the next year. We are undergoing a brand refresh and brand awareness building will be the key focus in the next 2 quarters,” he asserts.
“We speak to the new age consumer in his language sans the exaggeration and masochism that has been the traditional communication code for the category. We don't believe in cause-vertising but focus on normalizing conversations. Our communication and content are built on this,” he adds.
Marrying Technology With the Brand
Data mining and analysis are at the heart of everything that XYXX does. The brand studies every aspect of the consumer’s life to find new ways to innovate and develop products that deliver on a wide range of consumer concerns.
“We are ahead of the curve in our discovery and application of fabric technology. We use CoolIT technology to enhance our fabrics that help keep body temperature 3 degrees cooler. Our fabrics are also enhanced by N9 Pure Silver Technology for 18-hour freshness,” Kabra shares.
“We are also working to bring technology to our consumer interactions and there's no doubt in my mind that future changes will make it possible for us to engage directly with customers - no matter where they are, what they're doing, or what device they're using,” he adds.
The approach of XYXX to innovation has been fabric-first. The bedrock of a homegrown brand is to understand and craft for the Indian climate and consumer.
“Moisture absorbance is one of the most important factors for innerwear and being able to offer nearly 60 percent more absorption than regular cotton has been a big win. We understood through consumer studies how cotton underwear can cause chafing and skin irritation since it lacks the required breathability and elasticity. It also loses shape and softness after a few washes. We began by making innerwear with Tencel Modal fabric when it was unheard of in India. Each of our fabrics scores fantastically on a wide range of performance and comfort parameters. In 2019, we introduced underwear made from a Bamboo fabric blend which was the first of its kind. All products are designed to be gentle on the skin, eliminate all unwanted friction and stand the test of time. This level of attention to detail is in our DNA,” he explains.
The brand took the past couple of months to study consumer buying behavior on D2C websites and will soon be launching its renewed, simplified website that solves every pain point consumers face while shopping for apparel.
“Contrary to popular notions of ‘quick checkout’ customers actually spend time in product exploration and selection. We have a robust customer service team in place that not just supports consumer queries but also works towards consumer delight. For instance, our consumers get the experience of a personal shopper when they speak to our team if they have any challenges during the shopping journey. Our unboxing experience has become a talking point amongst customers and we receive great feedback comparing it to global players. Our aim is to build a world-class customer experience and make buying basics something men would look forward to rather than consider a chore,” he asserts.
“Our studies in customer behavior led us to understand that 80 percent of consumers tend to research online even before buying from a brick-and-mortar store. From the consistency of information to messaging we ensure the customer has everything, he needs to make a buying decision no matter where he decides to shop. We ensure he finds up-to-date and accurate details around the product as well as a brand at every turn. Everyone from our leadership team to our team on-ground speaks to customers multiple times every week so we never lose out on feedback and the pulse of the consumer. We are one of the few D2C brands that have had an omnichannel play from the early stages,” he adds.
The Indian consumer is not just in the 4 major metros and the brand needs to be where the consumer is. XYXX realized early on that Tier II and Tier III consumers will drive the D2C revolution. This thought process has taken the brand to establish a presence in over 7,000 strategic offline MBO outlets across India.
“For a new brand, it helped us establish credibility. We are one of the top-selling brands across all major e-commerce marketplaces including Amazon, Myntra, Flipkart, and Ajio amongst others. This has honestly given us early recall in the mind of the consumer. XYXX products can also be purchased on our brand’s website. Over the next year, we aim to scale our offline presence to 16,000 stores across the country,” states Kabra.
Betting Big on Sustainability
The brand’s commitment to sustainability from day zero has resulted in every fabric being plant-based and naturally sourced.
“We take required steps to ensure even during production that every garment is engineered to provide superlative comfort with minimal environmental impact. What’s more, our packaging is eco-friendly and made from recycled paper and corn starch. Our next step would be to explore low-impact dyes, lesser chemical treatments, and fabrics made from recycled material,” he states.
As the pandemic has made comfort wear and home wear a highly sought-after category, the brand is planning to further strengthen its comfort wear offering over the next couple of months.
“Consumers have been giving us a lot of interesting problems to solve for every interaction we have. For instance, performance underwear and clothing for different activities like running, cycling, weight lifting are highly specialized but non-existent in the market. This will be an exciting proposition to work on in the near future,” he shares.
The brand has been on a hyper-growth trajectory. It tripled revenue in FY2019 as soon as it established a retail presence. FY2020 revenue again grew 4X.
“In spite of the pandemic and offline retail almost being non-existent in the channel mix, we saw explosive growth in the last year with revenues jumping by over 300 percent compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Our aim for the current year is to double it,” he concludes.