From handlooms to Banarasi, this online saree retailer goes the whole nine yards for customers
For the founder of SareeVenue.com, the history of manufacturing sarees dates back to 1970.
Deciding to take the family legacy forward, Aamir Ansari quit his MBA course from Lucknow University in 2014 and used his scholarship amount to start SareeVenue under Nex-Gen E-Commerce Pvt Ltd. with the tagline 'Traditionalism gotta new address'.
Since the retail price of Banarasi sarees is very high in Mau, a town in Uttar Pradesh, where most weavers reside and weave sarees for their livelihood, Aamir decided to provide a platform where one could get quality products at the best possible prices.
As sarees were sold on a credit basis in the wholesale business, manufacturers would incur huge losses if the products weren’t sold. Wholesalers would return them if they were outdated, and the payment cycle took too long.
To overcome these hurdles, he took the business online so that they could directly deal with end customers and reduce payment cycles as well. Aamir, along with Co-Director Mohammad Afzal, run their online business out of Mau.
Gaining customer trust
Since they manufacture a variety of sarees, categorisation was a huge challenge for the team initially. Also, they noticed that customers would add products to the cart on their website, but wouldn't process the order due to a lack of trust. Often, they had to call customers to find out what went wrong and convince them that theirs was a DIPP, Government of India- recognised startup, so that they would continue the transaction.
The team realised that people were more active on WhatsApp compared to other platforms, and so they moved to the WhatsApp user app. However, soon they realised that it was difficult to update status such as order processed, dispatched, out for delivery, etc.
That's when they came across the WhatsApp Business app and immediately made the move. WhatsApp introduced the Catalog feature in November 2019, which allows business users to create a virtual shop where they could add their products with details like images, description, price, and also a link to their website.
SareeVenue was provided early access to that feature, which helped them easily update customers about real-time information on their orders and new arrivals. Catalog is available 24x7 as the data is stored on the server instead of mobiles, so one can access SareeVenue’s Catalog anytime, anywhere, whether they are online or not.
"Using the Labels feature, we could also categorise customers according to their tastes like heavy zari sarees, plain sarees, check sarees, which helped inform them with customised arrivals without spamming them,” Aamir says.
Continuous growth through WhatsApp
The business has been growing year on year, and they get nearly 40 percent of their orders through the WhatsApp Business app.
"Since many of our customers don’t know online ordering on websites, they prefer to order offline on WhatsApp," Aamir says.
He adds, “The communication with customers is in real time compared to emails, which helps us deal with them more efficiently. Customers appreciate the way we communicate the order statuses to them.”
While there are several memorable customer experiences, Aamir shares one about a customer from Tamil Nadu who visited their website, but didn’t have much knowledge about online ordering. Moreover, the only language she understood was Tamil. Through the WhatsApp Business number provided on their website, she got in touch with them and told them about the product code she was interested in.
"With the help of Google Translate, we were able to understand her requirement, and got the product delivered to her. Since then, she’s been a regular customer," he says.
WhatsApp Business also enabled SareeVenue to lower customer acquisition and retention costs, as people are more active on WhatsApp compared to other mediums. For Aamir, WhatsApp has been a key ally in his journey of keeping the nearly 50-year-old family legacy alive and adapting it for modern-day consumers.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)