Think socks, and think of the nasal voice of the quintessential overbearing mom of the 90s ad, crooning –“Beta, sweater pehno.” Socks were plastered on you when your mum was perhaps freezing, even reduced to a weapon to combat the funk in your feet. The little girl in me who carefully picked out the perfect pair with upturned umbrella laces for her birthday outfit even watched on in horror, when socks were forced to go undercover as ankle-length bootkins, rolling in the deep (of the shoe). Anusha Jain, a Delhi-based fashionista who was studying the subject in-depth, couldn’t fathom why our socks would be anything but covered in artistic explosions of colours, figures and fabrics.
Making it her business
Studying B.A. Honours in Fashion Retail Management from Delhi’s PEARL Academy, and procuring an MBA in Family Business Management from Mumbai’s S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Anusha Jain was ready to take on the archaic stereotype that family businesses can only be passed down to the sons of the family.
“In India, it is a tradition that a son takes over the fathers business after he retires, but women are becoming more and more qualified and independent with changing times. I was raised to be ambitious too. So here I am!” says Anusha, now 25 years old.
Bonjour, launched in 1984, was a simple fashion business dealing in traditional socks meant for utility, rather than flaunting. Growing up with the Bonjour business family, Anusha had been watching its progress like a hawk, simply waiting for the age and opportunity to relate the ideas for it that she was brimming with.
“The problem was the lack of demand, as we were just another player in a ‘uniform’ (pun intended) market. I had lot of innovative ideas around the products we offer. Socks were never considered a fashion accessory in India. I conducted some research and found there is a huge demand for fashion and style in socks. Thus, I took up the mission of categorising socks as fashion accessory, of course, with nowhere better to start than our own enterprise. Since I had the platform ready with Bonjour, out of the box designs and innovations in the products was my agenda. I would like to change the way people wear socks from an option to necessity also giving them reasons to flaunt the socks they are wearing.”
No sock in the park
She started her journey with Bonjour in 2012, when she was all of 21 and still in college, assuming the role of Key Facilitator New Initiatives.
Carefully honing her business skills through on-the-job training and later, through her MBA, she infused modern systems into her business by bringing about TG focused product development.“We deeply study the consumer demand. Socks are a neglected category, and it was difficult to convince people to spend on socks. Personally, my biggest challenge was to work as my father’s daughter in his organisation. His reputation was at stake at all time, and if I fail, everything he has worked for will be diluted. Of course, being young and inexperienced, I had to face friction from people who were senior to me, and more set in their ways. It was difficult to counter them and make them adapt to cultural changes that I wanted to bring about.”
Anusha’s prime mission was introducing offbeat styling and designs in their socks. “My socks had to become fashion statements.” The first collection, under her tutelage, was Bonjour Bold. “The collection focused on youth and trendy people. I used neon colours and eye-catching designs. It was very well accepted and appreciated in the metro cities.” To launch their neon line, they organised a neon themed party, which granted them top-of-mind recall with the youth.
Further, she created a line to please the little ones, splashed with contemporary cartoons like Ben 10 and Doraemon, which also became a rage. Another important innovation, with careful thought put into it, was crafting 100 percent cotton socks. “People had to be made aware that cotton is the most comfortable and provides the best value for money, when it comes to socks.”
No more sock-ups
Apart from bolstering the design sense and sensibilities of the organisation, Anusha was also gunning to modernise their processes. She has an aggressive approach in mind to deal with competition, be identified by its products, and emerge as a market leader. Bonjour had never advertised in all these years. “Seeing the consumer awareness and international brands gaining more clout, I felt the need to immediately push the brand into advertisement, and directly communicate with the consumers. We first started with print ads in leading dailies like TOI, which fetched us a lot of publicity, and few ads strategically placed in magazines. Being a traveler, I also introduced some international concepts in packaging, which worked their magic, as planned.”
Today, Bonjour is a success story with presence in more than 10,000 premium stores, malls, and multi-branded giants across India. It has an impressive global footprint, growing at a healthy rate of 25 per cent. They have also opened eleven exclusive stores in North India in Noida, Ambala, and Delhi.
The young gun also convinced the brand to go on air, on the cloud to be more specific – and www.bonjourretail.com has become another touch point for their customers.
Her main challenge, now, remains to make her brand a formidable player. “FDI allowance in India has been a gamechanger for domestic brands. Since international brands have the goodwill as well as deeper pockets to spend lavishly in a market like India, they tend to pull customers away from domestic brands – who are also up against the mindset that everything western is superior. My goal now is to emerge a clear winner. And we will do so by embracing change in real-time, to keep up with evolving trends in design, marketing as well as business development,” she says.