This Tirupur-based 2nd generation entrepreneur says Flipkart helps sellers build a brand, not just a business. Here’s why

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Mohammed Imran’s menswear clothing brand earns a month’s worth of revenue during Flipkart’s Big Billion Days Sale each year. This year, the brand’s sales were 2x compared to last year. “The Big Billion Days is a huge opportunity. We are able to expand our customer footprint easily during this period. Flipkart, for its part, pushes out branding and marketing which enable shoppers to discover brands like ours,” says Imran.

Like most Flipkart sellers, Imran and his team started preparations well ahead of time in June to ensure that they were well-stocked. To ensure the safety of employees and customers, the brand limited warehouse accessibility to only those who were authorised. “By implementing all the safety protocols and preparing for the sale period well in advance, we managed to dispatch over lakh orders on time and safely in five days,” says Imran, beaming with pride.

The shift to online selling

Imran is a second-generation entrepreneur from Tirupur, which has earned the moniker of knitwear capital of India. His family owns a garment manufacturing facility and has been in the men’s clothing business for the last 30 years. This was Imran’s window into the trials of entrepreneurship and the workings of the textile industry. “Early on, I learnt how sales didn’t immediately translate into better cash flows since one had to constantly follow up for payments to be made. I realised how challenging it was to build a brand offline. But, at the same time, I also saw how without establishing myself in the market, it would be impossible to get distributors on board.”

As someone who always wanted to go beyond just managing his family business, Imran felt he was stuck in a catch-22 situation. It was while attending his graduation that his professors explained how online selling was changing the market dynamics. “It was my moment of truth. At that moment, I knew I had a way to build a brand of my own.”

But Imran had no peers or people from the industry who could teach him about building a brand online. Those who did have the expertise did little to help even when the young entrepreneur reached out, shares Imran. But he was determined.

After completing his graduation in 2015, Imran launched Maniaclife, an online men’s wear brand on Flipkart. “From whatever research I could do as a 21-year-old, I came to the conclusion that Flipkart had the best market share in the fashion category.” The initial days as a first-time entrepreneur weren’t a bed of roses in spite of the fact that Imran was selling the products that were manufactured in-house by his family-owned business. “ My family was not open to exploring an online business. When I broached the topic of opening an online business they were reluctant and did not believe that I could do well in this space. In fact, during the initial days when I got very few orders, they insisted that I drop the idea and pursue the business offline. They did not see any value in continuing with the online business.”

Growing a business into a brand

However, help came in the form of Flipkart’s seller support services.

“The team was instrumental in building the business from scratch. In addition to helping me understand the basics and mechanics of online selling, Flipkart provided us with reports on the analysis of sales, price recommendations which helped in making changes to procurement and pricing. In addition, they ideated with us and encouraged us to list seasonal products for better sales,” says Imran.

All this helped him build the business from the ground up. It was just a matter of a few months when the orders began to grow steadily and the online sales graph began to see an upward climb. The evident contribution of sales made through Flipkart was instrumental in weeding away doubts about the value of online selling for Imran’s family and also ramping up Maniaclife’s product portfolio.

“When I started my business, I used to only sell t-shirts. But over the years, with the help and guidance from Flipkart, I expanded my categories to track-pants, shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and more to generate more sales and capture more customers. We thought if customers buy t-shirts from us, it makes even more sense if we expand and also sell other items so that they can buy other products from us as well,” shares Imran. Operating a business in the fast-fashion category means they need to be on top of changing customer preferences. Here, the market business analysis and intelligence provided by Flipkart helped them keep a tab on the changing preferences in trends and make changes accordingly. “The market intelligence support from Flipkart has not only directly impacted the sales figures but also helped them build a stronger brand.”

Today Maniaclife has created a presence as a curated street brand. “Our USP is that we have great products at an affordable price point. Our motto has always been to make sure we have loyal customers. The fact that we have over 1 lakh positive reviews and rating for our best selling t-shirt speaks for the brand,” says Imran. He adds, “This customer feedback is a key advantage that only online selling facilitates. If I were to pursue offline business and needed to understand customer feedback of my products, I needed to rely on a complicated distributed channel and there wouldn’t be any way to check the authenticity of the feedback. But, in online selling, it is transparent.”

Having established a brand presence in the casual wear category, Maniaclife is now looking towards exploring sportswear and knitwear. “With more and more customers moving towards knitwear, we want to capitalize on this. Not to mention that Tirupur is the knitwear hub for India, so this will be our strength,” says the young entrepreneur.

Time to move online and co-exist

Today, Imran has managed to dismiss any inhibitions his family had about a traditional business selling online. In fact, the products he retails on Flipkart are manufactured at the facilities owned by his older brothers. “Put together, we have a fine balance between offline and online business in the family. We would not have been able to achieve what we have in the last five years had I not taken the e-commerce route.”

Imran affirms that it’s time for offline businesses to start their online journeys as well. “I believe the two can co-exist and complement each other. The biggest advantage an online business brings is not just the reach, timely payments, or cutting out of middlemen who traditionally have had a stronghold in your business’ growth, but the business intelligence that transforms your business into a brand.”

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