It would have been hard to imagine a few years ago that the Indian online lingerie selling space would look a bit crowded. With the venture capital backed Zivame being arguably the biggest player so far, we’ve seen others like ShopImagine come in, which led us to write about the secrets of the blooming lingerie business in India.Here, we meet another player in the field- Cloe, co-founded by Neha Kant, Suman Chowdhury and Sunanda Agarwal, to discuss the company's potential for growth. We spoke to co-founder and CEO Neha, who is a math graduate from Delhi University, with an MBA under her belt from the Fore School of Management, Delhi and has previously worked with India today.
The idea to start Cloe, says Neha came when they realized the missing link between demand and supply in the intimates segment. "Most women shop for lingerie when they travel abroad because there simply are no options available in India" says Neha. Besides aesthetics, the other thing lacking with intimates in India, is quality. "We import most of our fabric and also a special kind of underwire for the bra, to ensure maximum comfort and to make sure the quality of our product is not compromised" says Neha. The company has a manufacturing unit in India, where the raw materials are processed and given 'the right shape'.
Cloe, is currently being distributed exclusively through their online store. We ask Neha why she chose to start with online retail exclusively. Besides the obvious ecommerce bloom, Neha says online store for lingerie makes sense in India, since women are still largely shy about walking into a store and buying lacy innerwear. "Also, 25-30% of our callers are men, looking at buying something for their girls, online store caters to all these segments" says Neha. Neha believes online store is also a great way to ‘test the markets’ before they take the store offline, to regular retail channels by middle of the year, when the bridal season begins.
A product based company, partly sourced and partly manufactured, entering into the ecommerce space, with exclusive retail through their own online store. 'How does the economy of scale work?’, we ask Neha. "Managing inventory, at competent prices is a challenge" she admits. But the company has expansion plans. Besides their plans of introducing offline retail, the company is in talks with online platforms like Jabong and other players who are not into the discounting model, to retail cloe products. Helping them grow, are investors Mountain Apollo India, the new accelerator set up in India by Mountain Partners, Switzerland in association with the Apollo Group. "Our designs and the manufacturing unit is in place and with the right investor backing us, we are gearing up to expand operations majorly in the next few months" says Neha of the investment that was made into the company, few months after its inception in June 2012.
Besides the logistics of setting up, the investment has been utilized to hire the right team, which is now at a strength of 25. "The response to the products have been good so far. We already receive about 100 orders a day. We also have a client service hotline, for any queries that shoppers may have" says Neha, of the extent of the team’s work. In the next one year, Cloe is aiming to be retailing in about 50 offline stores and targeting approximately 500 online orders per day.
The one thing that always goes hand-in-hand with growth and expansion is marketing. So far, the company has been marketing their products only online through social media platforms. Offline marketing, Neha says will co-incide with the launch of their products in offline stores.
The market for lingerie is growing in India. Whether this growth matches the number of new businesses entering into this space is yet to be seen. However, what sets one player apart from the other in a crowded market, besides the product itself, is competitive prices. Cloe, backed by its investment, surely buys itself some time to strategize the right way ahead.