After spending over 15 years shaping brands like Reebok, United Colors of Benetton, Madura Garments and Spencer’s retail, when Anurag Rajpalis was thinking of what to do next, entrepreneurship seemed the most attractive option. His past experience with apparel has also been instrumental in helping make this decision.
Anurag started American Swan.com – an online portal to sell apparel, accessories, footwear, beauty & fragrance and home products. Besides its own online presence, American Swan is also available across portals like Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart and Snapdeal among others. “When American Swan was conceived there was a gap in the market for an international, authentic casual wear brand at an affordable price point. We aim for a differentiation through our brand relevance and to offer affordable luxury to an aspiration-led audience that seeks international quality and fashion,” says Anurag.
The brand was launched in January 2013 with a seed invested of Rs 40 crores in seed funding from Four Cross Media, a digital media firm. Anurag claims that American Swan had sales of over 2,00,000 units and Rs 40 crore worth of goods within the first year only. He says American Swan has an average inventory sell-through of 75%. “It has been a very fruitful and encouraging journey so far for us. Our sales and customer response to the products have been the highlight for our brand since we launched: brand recall, trials and repeat purchase have all added to the encouraging response,” says Anurag.
They offer a variety of products, and akin to international fashion trends have a distinct collection in every season. Introductions to the product line are constantly monitored by tracking consumers experience trends, and new additions are done after consultation with the consumer panel. “Trends are tracked and analysis on key looks, items, colors and fabrics are provided which are driving retail and e-tail today. It is important to stay ahead of the curve to be able to constantly innovate, adapt and offer differentiation to a potential customer,” emphasizes Anurag. American Swan has taken a two-pronged approach to the market, and alongside its online presence has also partnered with many multi-brand outlets to sell its products in offline retail.
To reach its target customer segment of 20-30 years old, American Swan is focusing on the digital and activation route to spread the word. “Online retail has seen a heavy overlap with social networking and search due to aggressive marketing and strong inclination towards social commerce. The industry can expect a larger portion of online retail from social commerce because of the fastest growing social networked user base and also larger size of social groups here,” says Anurag. This insight has led the company to bet big on digital marketing as the primary channel for communication. They are also looking at alliances with brands which are relevant to its target audience, to do mutually beneficial promotions.
On the basis of patterns they have noticed so far, Anurag says the typical American Swan customer is the 20-30 year old urban, semi-urban youth. And owing to their offline presence, Anurag says they are getting good response from Tier 2 and 3 towns as well. Casual trousers and shirts are their best-sellers, he says. American Swan has a presence across 130+ MBOs pan-India, including the online stores, and the company affairs are handled by a team of 40 people across different departments.
Getting this team was however not an easy task. Other challenges faced have been managing manufacturing of small order quantity at optimized cost. Anurag says there were also challenges encountered in product sales, as sales were primarily led by promotions and mark-downs. “E-commerce players, especially aggregators skewed the business owing to the need to increase volumes and expand businesses. Individual brands like ours had to match these players with equally attractive offers and promos,” he explains.
However, Anurag is now looking at the future and says their immediate goals are to scale up the business on both online and offline fronts, and to give the brand higher visibility. Entering new geographies both within and outside the country is also on the cards. Additions to product categories, strengthening media presence are other things that promise to keep this young startup on its toes.
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