In a market where most multi-brand outlets offer boring and expensive innerwear options, XYXX is keen to change the way men shop for the basics.
At a glance:
Founder: Yogesh Kabra
Based out of: Surat
Established in: 2017
What is the best gift for a man, I ask a friend. "A pack of innerwear," is the instantaneous answer. “We never seem to have enough. The ones we have are either too old, or we have simply lost them.”
Turns out, this is not the case with just my friends, but a seemingly universal problem. A Debenhams report states most men buy new underwear only if they are starting, or about to start a relationship. Yogesh Kabra, the founder of XYXX, an online men’s underwear brand, felt the same.
He identified the issues in the underwear market for men – the dearth of choices, lack of comfort, and the right price points.
It started out, Yogesh says, like any typical startup story does. He had just returned from the US after finishing his post-graduation. Once here, Yogesh went shopping for underwear, but found it hard to find any choices.
A typical multi-brand outlet offered brands that were either boring or expensive; all used similar fabric, and most were poorly designed. Top fashion brands sold underwear for more than Rs 700 apiece.
“Then there are the more affordable options, which have extremely poor quality. I don’t mind buying fast fashion in general for apparel, but innerwear is always driven by quality and comfort. I really did not have an option so I decided to make my own undies,” Yogesh says.
Taking existing support
Yogesh’s family has a greige fabric business based in Surat. The business sources fabric from across India, and supplies it to customers in Surat. Yogesh started XYXX from his father’s office; his wife Harshita soon joined him, and the duo went on to hire 10 people.
Harshita was formerly an analyst with Axis Bank, and has a master’s degree in accounting and finance.
“I was born into a textile family so I had literally grown up with fabrics and yarns. My father is extremely passionate about fabrics in particular, so we would always talk textile on the dinner table and I learned a great deal from him,” Yogesh says.
While Yogesh’s background in the fabric business helped him, he found that men’s underwear was probably one of the most difficult garments to make. It needs specialised machinery to stitch and the sewing requires people who have worked on such products for at least a year to ensure quality.
Yogesh says most large underwear manufacturers in India have their own brands, and don’t work with third-party vendors. This meant finding the right vendor was difficult. Also, there is a minimum order quantity and as an early stage startup, the team found it difficult to meet this minimum order quantity.
“We did a lot of jugaad to work with these vendors. We made them understand our situation and instead of giving them a bulk order and run three to four assembly lines together, we told them we would only run one, which we committed to for the next six months. This was to ensure that the unit economics made sense to them,” Yogesh says.
He adds the team decided at the beginning to only work with units that have high quality standards, and are industry leaders in their respective categories.
The need to be certified
“Certifications such as ISO 9001:2000, GOTS, and OEKO TEX S-100 are mandatory and all our garments are made by women from the local community. All processes are tightly controlled, right from the fibre stage to getting the perfect garment, and we are continuously learning how to add more value across supply chains,” he says.
Also, the experience of purchasing men’s underwear online is still primitive as it isn’t believed to be an interesting category for major marketplaces. The customer, too, isn’t aware of the different kinds of fabric and styles available.
“For example, we use MicroModal fabric in our innerwear. MicroModal is extracted from pulp beechwood trees in Austria; it is naturally anti-microbial and therefore the best natural fabric for the hot and humid Indian weather,” Yogesh says.
The numbers game
Starting sales in January last year on online marketplaces, the team claims to have had sales growth of 50 percent month on month. Currently, monthly sales in unit terms are approximately 9,000 units, with a revenue of Rs 20 lakh from online marketplaces. The products range retails from Rs 199- Rs 499, varying as per styles.
According to a recent report titled, Indian Innerwear Market: Trends & Opportunities, the innerwear industry in India holds immense growth potential, evident from the entry of large international brands into the market in the last few years. The increasing size of the organised market and declining share of the unorganised market shows a distinctive shift from price sensitivity to brand sensitivity.
XYXX, which is looking to expand its product portfolio to lounge and sleepwear, faces competition from Chennai-based Buttalks, a subscription-based men’s underwear brand.
XYXX’s product approach is to deliver maximum value to customers by maintaining a fair balance between quality and price. The T-shirts in their upcoming range are made from high quality and rarely available Supima cotton.
“Moving forward, we will also be looking at servicing customers from our own website to enhance customer experience and help them make a decision more appropriate to their need, and not a one-size-fits-all solution,” Yogesh says.