Be in a crowded market but create islands of design excellence to acquire customers
Debasis Chakraborty co-founded Namakh along with Anirban Chakraborty. Debasis passed out of NIFT and has around 17 yrs of experience in the apparel business. He started his career in manufacturing operations and has worked with countries like Bangladesh, Bahrain and Sri Lanka. After coming back to India, he spent some time on Sourcing and thereafter shifted focus on Brand Management. He was responsible for the success of the Men’s Formalwear Brand, John Miller within Pantaloon and Distribution. In 2011, he took the plunge into ‘starting something of his own’ when he moved into IIM, Bangalore for a one year course.
His first try was at Corporate Gifting business which he ran for six months. Even though he had a reasonable client base, he was not able to do much in the space. It was a crowded space, and had no design difference and the cost of sale was high. Thereafter, he along with a group of co-founders, started www.unamia.com which was selling kids wear online. This was a VC funded business which he was a part of from end of 2011 and till mid 2013. The products got sold reasonably well but there were clouds on the future of e-commerce at that time. Unamia shut shop in 2013. Debasis went back to a job and joined InMark Retail to start and grow their e-commerce initiative and foray into the Saudi Market. This is where he met Anirban Chakraborty, who has 16 years of rich experience in ethnic designing and management. He was responsible for launching ethnic wear brands for Lifestyle and Reliance. In his last assignment, Anirban was responsible for the Ethnicwear Business of Collectibilia, an Accel Funded business. Both of them gave birth to their dream project, Namakh at Inmark.
Namakh is intended to target the woman who is a ‘Compulsive Online Shopper’ – someone who will have fun by spending her time on shopping through mobile and laptop!!
Debasis, recollects that in Unamia, he faced challenges of reach and pricing. He had targeted mothers who were between the age group of 26 to 35 and had priced the product 30% higher than the market. Women were not happy with the price range and thus sales got affected. Another challenge was women were not very comfortable buying online and preferred the traditional method of buying from retail stores, especially their kids clothes.
Keeping the Unamia experience in mind, Namakh products are priced between Rs. 299 to Rs. 599. Also, Debasis shares that shopping trends have changed. Today women are busy buying online and do not waste any minute even if it means shopping while commuting or at work through their mobile phones.
The company started by selling Namakh products only in marketplaces – Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal. Later Namakh.com was also created to sell exclusive Namakh products and their new collections which are not available in other sites. Today they are happy to be visible on many marketplaces to leverage their customer base rather than just sticking to their own online store.
On the outreach, they were not very successful in the marketplaces initially because sales is a function of visibility. Debasis had to constantly keep changing the keywords and wait for around 30 days to make his product visible. He also used social media and was able to generate 1000 likes for the Namakh Facebook page. These initiatives helped boost sales. He took part in multiple schemes that Flipkart offers like “Fashion below 299.” Discounts and offers are favorite words for women. Whether she needs it or not, she will buy it. After all, this opportunity will not come again. Thus, these discounts helped create a market for Namakh and Debasis calls them ‘advertising money.’
On the choice of the products to sell, Debasis recollects some mistakes. Namakh started off as an aggregator for micro entrepreneurs who would be sourcing Indian ethnicity for them. They appointed three people in Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi and sourced specialty sarees from each one of them. The POC bombed as the product price went high because of middlemen. The stock is still there with him and he is unable to dispose it.
Since the brand is currently focused on women, they also want to give her the freedom to earn money. They would like to convert some of their enterprising customers into Womenpreneurs, where a woman can sell the apparel in their social circle, Kitty parties or in their neighborhood. Women have a multiplier effect on any business. Debasis believes that if a woman likes any product then she will most likely tell others about it. Namakh is setting up systems to scale it up. The next avenue they are targeting is television. They plan to partner with certain teleshopping channels to sell their products. They are also exploring working in the rural markets. Even though they will not buy as frequently (once in six months only) as their urban counterparts, the sheer volume of the market makes the size very tempting.
The most common thing women say ‘I don’t have anything to wear…’ She is never happy with what she is wearing and will somehow find nothing in her closet to wear. She always wants to wear something new because new clothes give pleasure to her mind and soul! Debasis says that Namakh fulfills this desire of women. They have kept the price point strategically at INR 599 or less to give a guilt free shopping experience to women so that they keep coming back for more. Fashion for women comes with an expiry date and Namakh fuels that by offering fresh designs every month.
Debasis’ suggestion to early stage founders ‘There is nothing wrong in being in a crowded market place. Blue oceans can be created within Red oceans. If you are hunting for customers, it is better to be in a space where they already are. The pioneers create the market and the followers win. One has to design “Islands of Excellence” within the Red Oceans. Don’t spend money in acquiring customers as it will be too expensive for startupsNamakh http://www.namakh.com/) has 7 employees and a sourcing base of Jaipur and Bangalore. They service 100 orders a day all over India.