In Conversation with Tanvi Malik
At what point should brands decide to transition from online only to omnichannel? In the case of FabAlley, how did you arrive at the decision of making the brand omnichannel?
In the context of FabAlley, I don’t think there is a set time for us to transition from online to offline. FabAlley was an organic process for us. Typically, more than 95 per cent of retail in apparel in India is offline. At FabAlley, our endeavour has always been to focus not merely as an ecommerce portal and an online shop. We have always been a brand in the making. Going offline, for FabAlley, was a good opportunity. We tried the strategy of going offline in premier malls in the metros. We had pop up shows that were between three to six months. We got an encouraging response and our products were appreciated just like they had been on ecommerce platforms.
The last one-and-a-half years prepared us to step into an entirely new domain, a new direction. It was a natural transition for us, moving towards offline without really thinking too hard about bottomline or about ‘scale’ economies. A major reason why the transition, or the growth in both online and offline domains, was successful was because we continuously monitored to get our strategies right even as we opened our stores in the high streets of Delhi. For the record, we will be launching in other metros soon. Our thought is to create a brand that is indigenous to India. We understood that for the consumer it doesn’t matter where she purchases the product from – whether the ecommerce platform, whether the brand’s official shopping website. Eventually, the brand’s product needs to be very relevant to the consumer. Fab Alley aspires to be just that – we want to be a brand that is relevant to our consumer, we want to create a channel that is relevant to our consumer. We want to create the space in the minds of the consumer.
What has been the consumer behavioural trend at FabAlley?
Before I comment on that, let me tell the readers about FabAlley. While that’s our flagship brand, we have Indya, another brand, and Curve, an extension of FabAlley for the plus-sized consumers. FabAlley is our affordable western wear line while Indya is a fusion line, catering to women who wear fusion Indian clothes. For both our brands, Fab Alley and Indya, we now have a total of 59 stores. Going offline, in fact, allowed us to observe and understand our consumer even more closely.
Both FabAlley and Indya have a slightly different target consumer. Fab Alley has always looked at the young profile / genre. These are women consumers in their early to mid-20s, those who are very informed but don’t have all the options in terms of clothing and fashion that she would ideally like. She is a consumer who has the exposure but doesn’t have the options within her budget. She is fashion forward but is someone who believes in ‘slight’ experimentation. A bulk of our orders for FabAlley are from the top metros so clearly our consumer for FabAlley is a metro girl. Indya’s consumer is slightly older – she’s between 27-30 years old (this is the sweet spot for us even as women who are older are getting connected with this brand). She’s the consumer who is suddenly finding herself involved in family gatherings, functions, weddings, etc. She’s someone who dresses in her daily life with a hint of traditional twist, enjoys fusion in fashion even as she keeps the ethnicity in clothing intact.
Will celebrity tieups continue for you? Your tieup with Masaba was appreciated. How do you plan to grow in this area of celebrity tieups?
I think a lot of value comes with celebrity tieups for brands. It’s a strategy to democratise fashion – while it brings the designers into the mainstream, it conveys to the consumer that the brand is serious, authentic. It’s a win-win situation for both, the brand and the celebrity with the result of reaching out to the consumer. We will continue our tieups, not necessarily with only celebrities but a lot of Instagram influencers.
Can you tell us about the innovation strategy in FabAlley?
I’ve often observed that sometimes brands with a cult following of over a decade or two tend to become irrelevant. No brand should make that mistake in my view but unfortunately a lot of fashion brands fall prey to that. They don’t realise that consumers are continually getting evolved. We have tried to build safeguards against it while ensuring that FabAlley, Indya is always fresh, new, and relevant. Here’s what we do: Besides looking at what designers are doing, or what the market trends are, we also look closely at our own data. Our lead time for our collections and lines are typically one month, which means that if we are looking at the calender months of January, we are ready with 100 products to launch in February. The entire design team is working continuously to ensure the consumer does not feel a lag or any sense of tiredness. I’ll say this with certainty: Any trend that is big in fashion is on FabAlley.
We believe in offering fresh designs to our customers. We divide our collections in to new and emerging, fast-selling items, speed of sales, etc. We do our assortments based on our data and trends of consumers who are shopping with us, online or offline. In our new and emerging category, for example, we may look at just five pieces initially to test the mark. If, however, we feel, it’s doing well, we increase it to 25 pieces or more.
What are the interesting insights based on the data analysis you’ve collected?
There’s an increase from Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets in terms of purchase. In 2013-14, what used to be marginal percent of our orders from these markets, today constitutes 65 per cent. Interestingly, a lot of women from smaller cities who have discovered fashion online are using our ecommerce platform for fast fashion. They are buying into this philosophy a lot more than before and that’s a very encouraging sign. We haven’t moved to a younger audience. Given our design ethos, we don’t want to be a replica of any other brand. We are clear about our customer profile.
I think it’s important to note here how data analysis can allow your brand to expand. Curve, in fact, was born out of a lot of data analysis and customer feedback that we got. There has been a huge under-representation of plus sized women’s fashion. We worked consciously towards making the brand all-inclusive by ensuring that plus-sized women don’t wear shapeless dresses and cover up because of being body conscious.
In 2018, what will be Fab Alley's growth strategy?
We currently have three offline stores as of now. There are two more in the pipeline and we will go to roughly 15-20 by end of next year. Typically, these stores are profit-making for us within three to six months. We also will start a collaboration with a large scale chain, details of which will be given out some time later. We will have more designer collaborations going forward. We will always be digital first in terms of our brand campaign communication.