Here’s how this innerwear brand survived the first wave lockdown right after its launch to now compete with Jockey and XYXX

Freecultr launched its first innerwear collection in February 2020, right before the nationwide lockdown. From getting 40 orders a month to 12,000 at present, here’s how they have become a sign of comfort.
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Lockdown clothing - a category that gained much prominence during the pandemic outbreak and its resultant work from home norms. Loungewear had never seen such high demand, and brands, both new and old, tried to match up to not just huge orders, but expectations as well. 

In an interaction with SMBStory, Shrey Luthra, who co-founded loungewear brand FREECULTRin New Delhi just before the pandemic outbreak in February 2020, talks about how the company started with just 40 orders a month, and before they knew it, were catering to much more orders than they could manage. Today, the company receives around 12,000 orders a month, and has seen itself grow an astounding 25 percent every quarter. 

When they started up, Shrey and his friend Harshit Vij launched Freecultr with an aim to solve intimate clothing problems for men in India.

“We famously talk about our ‘Car-o-bar’ eureka moment - an evening when the two of us were sitting in our car sharing a few drinks. We saw a young man struggling to adjust his underwear, in public. We quipped how this was such a common sight in India and wondered why this still continues to be an issue. And that was it, an idea clicked in that moment and the rest is history,” recalls Harshit.

While Harshit is the CEO of the company, Shrey is the Chief Strategy & Product Officer. In just 18 months, Freecultr has experienced massive growth thanks to the pandemic circumstances, and Shrey and Harshit claims the company now records an annual recurring revenue of Rs 15 crore. As per RoC filings, the company clocked a revenue of Rs 3 lakh in FY 20, barely two months after they first launched. 

Making a mark

“Shortly after we launched our brand, the country went into lockdown, and the work from home (WFH) culture dawned on us. We noticed that consumption patterns had changed as people wanted clothes suitable for all-day wear at home,” explains Shrey.

That’s when the duo shifted their product strategy from innerwear to the already planned loungewear line, albeit earlier than scheduled. 

Being a digital-first brand, experimenting was easier, and this reaped good results. During the initial days of the lockdown in 2020, when the nation came under a complete lockdown and supply chain was restricted to essentials, Freecultr got only 4,000 orders between February to May 2020.  

“Although our brand did get quite a bit of attention, the orders stood at an average of 40 a month. We realised it was given the COVID-19 scenario. As the restrictions were eased, we saw a jump in our orders every month,” Shrey tells SMBStory.

Recalling a brand value

Besides the increasing demand for comfortable loungewear and innerwear, another success factor for Freecultr proved to be brand recall value. 

The brand Freecultr existed as a fashion brand in 2011, and Shrey and Harshit bought the title in an auction. 

“Freecultr shut shop in 2016, and the business was undergoing some inventory loss issues. When we decided to launch our innerwear and loungewear brand, we were having a hard time to finalise a name. That’s when we heard about the auction of Freecultr’s brand name.”

As the brand name already existed in the market, the duo felt this could be leveraged for appeal and brand value. 

Shrey says even now, they receive emails from customers appreciating their “re-launch,” to which they explain this is an altogether new brand. 

Creating a market

Freecultr provides sustainable and comfortable clothing to solve daily clothing problems.

“Our signature blends are  powered by our proprietary technology, BreatheTech, that derives Bamboo rich and Nano air model fabrics. They are sourced from vendor partners who engage in responsible afforestation and ethical farming,” explains Shrey. 

The garments and fabrics are procured from vendor partners who source the raw material from nominated vendors so as to save carbon footprints at every stage. 

Freecultr’s products include vests and undershirts, bottomwear including boxer shorts, briefs, and trunks. It also offers accessories like masks, bandhana, and more. 

Challenges and competition

Innerwear category is an overlooked category, with customers tending to usually cling to the brands they have been using for years. Ever since digital buying has increased, Shrey says that new-age customers are willing to try new products. 

Harshit claims that Freecultr competes with the likes of Jockey, and XYXX, both big players in the Indian market. He says Freecultr’s USP lies in its signature blends. 

When asked about challenges, Shrey points to the constraints in reaching customers who are in remote pincodes around the country. 

Future plans

Shrey and Harshit plan to extend their product lines to actively cater to all the products in the A.S.L.I. (Active, Sleep, Lounge, and Inner Wear) category. 

Harshit also hopes to increase the contribution of its web store sales to the brand’s overall revenue, and to such extent that third party platforms contribute only marginally to the topline. 

“We want to hire the best talent, scale really big, and hope to become the D2C industry leader in the A.S.L.I. Category,” Harshit concludes. 

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Edited by Anju Narayanan