What it takes to build a successful online lingerie brand: PrettySecrets’s story
Over the past five years, online has given a new channel of sales to businesses and brands. While horizontal e-commerce players and multi-brand etailers sell goods by various manufacturers, some are launching pure-play online exclusive brands like Zovi, Freecultr and Yepme. On the lines of the above players, Mumbai-based PrettySecrets launched an online exclusive lingerie brand in 2012.
Founded by Karan Behal, whose family has been in the apparel manufacturing and export business for over three decades, PrettySecrets started off as a nightwear boutique on Linking Road in Mumbai in 2005. “The label quickly made its way onto store shelves across the country and was available in most large format department stores like Shoppers Stop, Globus, Central, etc as well as over 200 unorganized lingerie retailers,” say Karan.
While the brand saw tremendous growth in its early years, by 2009, a harsh reality set in. The market for high-end ladies sleepwear was very limited. While the demand for its products was always high, PrettySecrets faced challenges in building its retail base as the number of retail points of sale for lingerie / nightwear in India was very limited.
“Even the stores that retailed the brand were riddled with problems such as uneducated sales staff, lack of trial rooms, limited floorspace and poor ambiance. The intimate nature of the category requires a specific sales environment and sadly the unorganized market could not provide the right platform for the brand to grow,” adds Karan.
Karan also launched a chain of multi-brand lingerie stores called 'Lace' which aimed to solve this problem not only for himself but also for other brands as well. However, the reality was that as long as the lingerie market was controlled by unorganized retail -- store front and middlemen -- the market would not evolve and customers would continue to be underserved.
Pivot online: a leap of faith
In 2011, the company launched Mylace.in, a multi brand lingerie ecommerce site, leveraging its vast experience in product sourcing, retail and customer service. The response was phenomenal and it dawned on Karan that e-commerce allowed the brand to reach its customers directly without the burden of the offline distribution channels.
“Simply put, while the brick and mortar retail required a complex system of middlemen and distribution points, e-commerce removed all these bottlenecks and put the brand directly in touch with the only people who really mattered -- the customers,” points out Karan. Excited by this prospect, a leap of faith was made and he pivoted the entire company online. He withdrew the brand from 250 plus points of sale offline and closed the 'Lace' stores, followed by the launch of online exclusive lingerie brand -- PrettySecrets.com.
The idea of pivoting online was soon followed by an immediate need to capitalize the new company. Luckily, the story was bought by the Indian Angel Network & HBS Angels India and an angel investment was secured. Besides investment, people like Rehan Yar Khan, Anupam Mittal, Farooq Oomerbhoy and many more experienced investors and entrepreneurs joined the PrettySecrets family.
The company has since secured a series A funding from Orios Venture Partners and India Quotient, as well as received continued support from its Angel investors in 2013/14.
The lingerie retail market in India is estimated to be approximately Rs.15,000 cr. A CAGR of 20-25% makes it one of the fastest growing with an estimated market size of Rs.30,000 cr by 2018. Largely unorganized, the category is apt for online retail.
Conservative estimates suggest an online lingerie addressable market size of Rs. 1,200 cr - 1,500 cr within the next five years.
What makes PrettySecret unique?
“PrettySecrets is a purely online lingerie brand. Understanding that the online consumer's needs and consumption pattern are different is the key to the evolution of the brand. There is a dedicated focus to catalog width, competitive pricing, high fashion and targeting youth which is evident in the product range,” says Karan.
A catalog size of over 900 products (more than the top 10 lingerie brands in India combined) and product ranges across category verticals, including bras, briefs, nightwear, swimwear, shapers and accessories has meant that the brand is a breath of fresh air for young women (and men) online.
PrettySecrets aims to be the largest lingerie brand in India. Importantly, the company views itself as a brand company -- not an ecommerce one. “Ecommerce is simply the most efficient way to reach our customers. Providing customers with high quality, high style and reasonably priced lingerie is core to the brand’s DNA and will always remain so,” claims Karan.