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“Start Spending More On Branding And Endorsements To Help Reach Customers” Vedang Patel, Co-Founder And Director Of The Souled Store

The proprietary supply chain allows us to reduce lead times to under 25% of what the industry operations at while maintaining minimal stock.

1. Brief us about your business model like how did the idea come to start and how does it work (step by step procedure)?

Back in 2013 we realised that if you wanted to buy fan merchandise it was either not available or even if it was it was imported and was very expensive. The only alter native was a fake from like a fashion street which was at a tenth of the price. To the average Indian consumer if your options are between Rs. 200 and Rs. 2000 then those aren’t even real options at all. On the flip side the US merchandising industry was booming at a staggering USD 150 bn market size.

The proven model in the US and the demand for counterfeit merchandise gave us the conviction to the untapped potential of this market in India.

2. What are the unique key points of your company?

We’re a one stop destination for all things pop culture. With over 150+ licenses we’re India’s largest online merchandisers.

Our unique designs are what differentiate us from the competition.

The proprietary supply chain allows us to reduce lead times to under 25% of what the industry operations at while maintaining minimal stock.

We look at ourselves as a marketing data driven company and not an apparel company. We monitor various data points that we crunch through our algorithms. This gives us an understanding of what designs will do well, how much inventory we need, what’s selling, what are the conversion rates and who will buy. This unique advantage is what has made us one of the few companies in the apparel industry to see strong growth in the last 12 months.

3. How are you different from the existing competitors?

Design, Fit and quality are the building blocks of our brand perception. We make sure we do these better than the competition. Yes, there is a slight premium attached.

We make sure that our products are what fans want and wear. Nobody wants to be a human billboard for an advertisement for a movie. They want to flaunt their fandom but at the same time look good. We seamlessly merge pop culture into lifestyle and that’s our strength. The 10% + conversion rates on our app is a validation of this.

The quality and fit are also validated by a 0.1% defect rate and a 2.5% return rate. Numbers that smash industry standards.

4.What is the funding status and monetization model?

2020 was a tough year for all apparel businesses. But with the right unit economics that we maintain, the brand perception we built, and the right team we not only survived the year, but we saw high growth and the highest profitability we have ever recorded.

Now that we’ve proved that our business can not just survive but even thrive during a lockdown we feel it’s the right time to raise funds that will purely be used for growth and not “survival”.

5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?

For most entrepreneurs the challenges are unlimited and faced on a daily basis.

At the moment, the biggest challenge we’re facing is retaining company culture

with the growing number of people who haven’t been here for too long. We feel that the work ethic, doing what’s right, and the ability to delegate responsibility stem more from soft culture than an HR document outlining the rules. This is something we try as heads to retain.

6. What are the traction details (like users, app downloads & other achievements of the company)?

With over 2 million customers our sales has grown over 100% since June and are now at an annual revenue run rate of over Rs. 180 crores. One of our greatest achievements has been that although we launched our app less than a year ago, we have already seen over 2 lakh downloads with more than 60% of the company’s sales coming from the App.

7. How do you look at expansion?

Our next 12 months has a clear 4 step approach.

Increase product categories to increase repeat and customer base.

Invest in our proprietary supply chain that allows us from concept to a 5 day go to market.

Start spending more on branding and endorsements to help reach customers beyond our loyal fan base.

Have over 40 brick and mortar stores within the next 3 years.

8. What are your marketing plans?

We try and keep our marketing fun and don’t do deep discounting. A customer you acquire at a discount was probably never your customer in the first place. Our emphasis has always been on 3 things. The product, fit quality and design. The fun we like to have – we’re a very non serious fun. We want to enjoy the fandom of the merchandise we sell. And lastly the ESG aspect of the company. We care about the environment and have taken the right steps to reduce and eventually eliminate waste. We aim to be 0 plastic by the end of the year. We have also started product ranges that are made from recycled plastic. For example the IPL jerseys we’ll be making will be from recycled plastic. If you’re an exclusive member, you will get free Bamboo toothbrushes in your order.

We also talk and stand up for social causes. Ranging from food for migrant workers, donating masks, conserving wildlife and raising money for stray animals (a personal agenda as well), to name a few.

All these factors help us be a brand that’s relatable and likeable to our customers that help us have a loyal fan base.

9. What has been the biggest learning so far?

The importance of company culture. Initially we didn’t pay attention to this but once we started making sure the entire team was aligned to a single goal, we saw strong growth and achievements in the organization. We also saw people were happier when they could feel responsible for this progress. Having 300 people work towards the goal is far better than 300 people doing what is told by the one person who sees the goal.

10. What is the market size and opportunity?

The apparel industry in India is to touch a 100 bn USD in a few years with casual wear forming the lions share. We plan to disrupt this space with our ability to merge the pop culture that the youth resonates with into fashion.

Source: Business World

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