From measurements, styling, to order fulfilment – this woman entrepreneur’s app offers an online/offline model for tailoring services
Susmitha Lakkakula grew up seeing her mother stitch clothes at home on her Usha sewing machine. An ardent fan of personalised fashion, she always preferred stitched clothes, but when she moved out of Bengaluru to Hyderabad, finding a tailor, placing an order, and following up to get the dress you wanted on time seemed to be a pain point with everyone.
With a master’s in software engineering from BITS Pilani, a master’s in information sciences and an executive course from IIM-Kolkata, Susmitha’s first job was at Wipro Technologies followed by stints in Quantum and Dell.
In 2016, she started her first venture, Earlybird, for movie/serials content production. When she discovered the multibillion-dollar tailoring industry was vastly unorganised, she discussed it with her husband Rudra Pratap, also a software engineer, and looked around for a tech solution to simplify the whole “tailoring process” workflow. They launchedin December 2020.
Susmitha says, “Since Rudra and I were both software professionals, we first started learning about women’s fashion while speaking to multiple boutiques, their staff members, sewing equipment dealers, trims and fabric suppliers. Since we were through the thick of COVID-induced regulations then, we had to adopt multiple strategies to continue our interactions and to collect vital data points.”
“Rudra used to document the steps and the learnings and made the first set of app wireframes. In March 2021, we both decided to quit our full-time jobs for Cloud Tailor, since we were convinced of the upside of this domain and the unexplored opportunity in professional ladieswear tailoring. Since we were based in Hyderabad, we started out from a PoC fulfilment centre in Hyderabad. It was a cosmopolitan proving ground for us due to its IT base and cultural diversity,” she adds.
Unique offline/online model
With Cloud Tailor, the founders have built a unique ‘offline-online’ model for order creation and fulfilment.
She explains “We offer a ‘Fabric-to-Fashion’ workflow, which includes measurements, styling, fashion designer interactions, and order fulfilment. Our loyalty club also ensures that all orders and referrals are rewarded and redeemed for all future purchases. We offer the same pricing for both domestic and overseas customers. We also offer ‘lifetime free alterations’ and a ‘stitch anywhere – alter anywhere’ benefit to all our customers.”
All the orders are fulfilled at company owned centres manned by full-time staff including tailors, masters, hemming and special embellishments team members.
Cloud Tailor also offers national and international shipments for all orders. Doorstep measurements, pickup, and delivery are offered in the serviced pin codes where it operates. The startup is also expanding to Tier-II cities such as Patna to structure its local operational model. Cloud Tailor has its in-house built ERP for order fulfilment as well as separate mobile apps for masters, tailors and pickup / delivery executives for productivity tracking and order assignments. It also uses machine learning for relevant and customised style feeds for customers to enable a faster and relevant order placement cycle.
Susmitha looks after company strategy, day-to-day operations, and hiring, and Rudra is responsible for handling the tech in the mobile app and inhouse ERP, and the third co-founder Mahesh Patel is an expert at GTM, branding, affiliates, online sales, and business partnerships at a global level.
Cloud Tailor caters to women in the age group of 22-45 years globally.
“Lately, we have seen an uptick in the orders for ‘Mother – Daughter styling combos’ and multiple upscaling orders from our customers. Cloud Tailor app offers a single window order cycle for all styling needs at a reasonable rate with options to save your choices, wish lists, and measurements. We also seek to offer a relevant tailoring solution to the Indian diaspora residing abroad, so they can have the fashion of their choice custom-fit in their own hometown or any of the eight Indian cities where Cloud Tailor has fulfilment centres. We also plan to set up overseas centres to offer alteration and measurement services to our global clients, while fulfilling such orders from India,” she says.
Being different in a competitive landscape
Customers are charged for the styling, stitching, embellishments, and enhancements added to the garments. All orders are pre-paid before dispatch.
“We are also working to bring fabric marketplace options on the app through our partners, so we can enhance the value offering of Cloud Tailor and reduce the turnaround time as well. We also would like to expand into the boutiques marketplace option in a few quarters,” she adds.
Over the last nine months, Cloud Tailor has served over 12,000+ personalised fashion orders across India, the US, the UK, Australia, and Singapore. Susmitha claims its repeat customer ratio is over 75 percent and average order value is much above the industry average.
Personalised fashion is served by both the upmarket and friendly-neighbourhood boutiques so far. Hence, at a ground level, Susmitha believes every other boutique in India is in their competitive landscape.
At an organised level, players such as Binks, Darzi On Call Locally, and eshakti at a global level are in a similar space.
“We bring substantial differentiation by opting from a tech-first approach both in the order creation and the order fulfilment cycles while using in-house proprietary tech to ensure fastest turnaround for orders placed based on timelines, location for delivery, and the complexity of the order. We offer a real time engagement of the order fulfilment to our customers from the app. Also, for the first time, we are bringing an interface for all the fashion designers to join Cloud Tailor as consultants and serve our customers from anywhere through on-app video chat and text chat,” she says.
Cloud Tailor is bootstrapped and is in the final stage of discussions to close a Pre-Series A round from institutional investors. The three founders have invested around Rs 60 lakh to build the technology, interface, and the first PoC fulfilment centre in Hyderabad.
Centres in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Delhi, Pune, and Patna are in line to be made operational by end of February 2022. Cloud Tailor is planning to close this fiscal with Rs 50 lakh in revenue.
Since Cloud Tailor offers touchless and doorstep-based services for tailoring, the app saw a surge in orders during the pandemic and post lockdown in Hyderabad.
“This emboldened us to push ourselves to reinforce our business model and add more features as per the customer feedback and our expansion plans,” Susmitha adds.