Experimental yet completely simple to use, Pret-Amoda is more than just an online store. It features shopping across categories to ordering front row fashion and offers luxury packaging and dedicated worldwide deliveries.In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, Ritika Walia - founder of Pret-Amoda, tells her tale of how she inspires every fashion-hungry style-seeker to explore their individual style and creativity.
Let’s begin with talking a little about you and how the Pret Amoda journey began.
Having completed an MA in Fashion Merchandising & Management in 2005 from Polimoda Institute in Florence, Italy; I decided to start my career in luxury fashion retail in the UK. I commenced my first role as Assistant Buyer for Ladies and Children’s wear at the London corporate offices of British fashion house, Burberry in early 2006. A year later, I joined the Menswear luxury & heritage brand, Alfred Dunhill where I led the Leather products division as Merchandising Manager for 3 years.
In 2009, I decided to extend my experience and know-how to the Indian retail sector. I joined the team of internationally acclaimed fashion designer, Manish Arora where I led the domestic retail and merchandising functions. Having interacted closely with several luxury fashion houses over the years and seen their success in the online space, I wanted to apply the very same retail concept to established Indian designer brands. I also wanted to provide an accessible space for the growing pool of extremely talented & commercially viable emerging labels; to give them an opportunity to showcase their products on an international platform.
After in-depth research into the market, I was motivated to create an e-commerce store that would be an exclusive retail channel, an interface that is simple to use and easily accessible for shoppers of Indian inspired fashion from around the world. Pret-amoda.com was launched in June 2010 to address this need!
What’s the narrative behind the name, Pret Amoda?
The story behind the name is rather unique. I wanted an internationally appealing name, something women could instantly relate to fashion, be it Indian or not. If broken down, Pret A Moda is essentially a play on French and Italian words meaning “Ready to Fashion” – it captures the exact essence of what we do – giving accessibility to curated collections of ready-to-wear fashion from India. There is also a Sanskrit derivation of the word Amoda – it means happiness. It boils down to a very common feeling among women when they go shopping, our user interface is designed to give women an enjoyable and entertaining experience.
How big is your team currently?We are a steadily growing startup with offices in New Delhi, always on the look out for diverse team members. We currently have 5 extremely talented and driven individuals based out of our Chhatarpur office and are continuously looking to expand with experienced, talented and fun people who share our passion and goal – to bring the best of Indian inspired fashion to the globe.
Where are your customers based?
Our customers currently span the US, UK, India, Australia and Singapore; ranked in terms of our sales revenue.
And what is your sales breakup within India?
Within India, our sales are concentrated in Tier II and Tier III cities. Only a fraction of sales (about 15%) come from Tier I cities such as Mumbai and Delhi.
What were the challenges you faced while starting a venture in fashion cum e-commerce space in early 2010? Tell us about your initial hurdles.
In early 2010, the concept of retailing fashion online was not entirely common amongst the mind-set of many established designer labels in India. As a country, we were used to relying on the internet as a source of information rather than purchase. We were just getting used to purchasing flight tickets and hotel bookings on travel portals like yatra and make my trip. The main challenge was to get the designers to see the huge potential of retailing online – the kind of international exposure and reach their brand would get. Having strong relations within the fashion fraternity definitely helped overcoming these initial hurdles.
Did you fundraise to startup?
Pret-Amoda is self-funded. More than a year since our launch, we have grown our revenues, market size and team.
Are you looking at getting funded now?We have some critical milestones to achieve before we start to raise funding. Given that we will meet our set targets for the next few months, we should be well on our way to funding in less than a year’s time.
How does the revenue work with the retailers (designers) you are tied up with?
Our mode of operation with designers differs by category. We usually work on a sale or return consignment basis for short minimum sale periods to ensure continuous flow of new products on the website. The terms of sale are determined at our discretion given what sales we forecast with that particular designer.
Are there other players in the market doing similar things? And what is your USP?
Pret-Amoda’s uniqueness lies in its ability to curate fashion with content. Our buyers bring a certain aesthetic and commercial appeal in their selection of products from across the country and combine it with suitable content that makes it a direct purchase for the consumer. We put together themes and looks based on our research and trend predictions and link it with stylised looks that gives our shopper a sense of how she would wear what. Pret-Amoda is for the trend setter as well as the fashion follower – a woman who knows her style and won’t hesitate to experiment with it.
There are very few players in the Indian online space that sell a similar story, one or two may come close (Exclusively.in for the US market, Strandofsilk.co.uk for the UK market).
In a nut-shell could you tell us how it is to start an e-commerce venture in this field?
The most exciting aspect of starting an e-commerce venture, assuming you’ve got the business model spot-on, is the pace at which it can grow. The journey that you undertake in your first year of the startup is definitely packed with highs and lows.
One of the greatest challenges is retaining your first-time shopper. Pret-Amoda makes a considerable effort in the ‘during purchase’ and ‘after sale’ customer service as well as the quality of the product we showcase online. We follow a strict mantra of – “We only sell what we love”. Never the less, what has worked so far has no guarantee of working in the future. The online shopper of today is well informed and quick to judge. A shopping experience is applauded as easily as it is dismissed and criticised if the shopper leaves your website with a less than a 100% satisfaction rate. We constantly analyse data to understand our customer’s changing needs and what we need to do to continuously attract new customers to the site. This could mean a change in our product portfolio or change in the online experience itself. We are working to strengthen our IT functions so we can proactively achieve what our customers want.
The other challenge is to try and engage this vast pool of designer talent that our country churns out. In order to achieve scalability, we plan to streamline our approach to incorporating products on our site with speed and efficiency. The transition from “Off the ramp” to “Online” needs to be a smoother and quicker process to ensure a higher turnover of sales, essentially achieving scale and growth.
What are you waiting for? Do check out Pret-Amoda’s e-store and share your shopping experience with us!