We Are A Brand That Was Made On Social Media: Bewakoof Co-founder
Despite being born at a time where the startup space in India had combusted and there was an increasing interest from investors and multiplying avenues to secure funding, the lifestyle brand steered clear of VC money
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"K K K Kiran," says one of the phone covers on bewakoof.com, quoting Shahrukh Khan’s iconic dialogue from Darr. With products like the phone case, a mix of uber trendy quirky merchandise seeped in pop culture references, viral memes and puns, and quality basics have made Bewakoof one of the fastest growing fashion and lifestyle companies in India.
The company which is all set to close the ongoing financial year at Rs 30 crore and projects that 2016-17 will see a revenue worth Rs 100 crore, at the least, was set up by two IIT-Bombay graduates Prabhkiran Singh and Siddharth Munot in 2012.
"We first did a pilot project selling t-shirts with slogans in college. That worked really well," says Singh who serves as the director at Bewakoof.
"We studied the market and realised that traditionally the branded apparel being sold was expensive, almost 5 to 8 times marked up from the manufacturing cost. We knew that we wanted to provide quality products at an affordable price point and realised that the best way to do that was to sell our products directly to the consumer via our own portal," says Singh.
This is something Bewakoof has continued to do controlling every part of its design, production and sale. Its website exclusively retails its products, attracts around 1.5 million users every month and has a subscriber base of 2 million.
So what has made Bewakoof click? According to Singh, it is a combination of the reputation it has built as a brand of offering a combination of quality and design which has keeps bringing and a back-end supply chain just which is just like Spanish fast-fashion retailer Zara’s, but only much swifter.
"We have no inventory. Everything is made in small batches. That way we can quickly move units and actually gauge what works and what doesn’t. This allows us to retire the designs which don’t find much traction and bring back what our customers want," says Singh.
If Zara takes a month to get its merchandise on the floor of its shop, Bewakoof, which doesn't need to ship it out, can take a week or so to get the design and samples ready and up on its website. This allows its design to be super trendy and be based on whatever is going viral at the moment.
"We are a youth relevant brand. A brand which was made on social media," says Singh, attributing word of mouth as one of the biggest sources of its growth.
Another move that has given Bewakoof a lot of prominence is its partnership as an official merchandise vendor with Bollywood production houses like Yash Raj and Excel Entertainment as well as DC Comics.
Building A Sustainable Brand
Interestingly, the company never gives discounts and there’s a good reason for it. Singh says that the team knew from the very outset that it wanted to create a sustainable brand and didn’t want to fall into the discount trap.
"When I was growing up there were a lot of promising homegrown brands which offered massive markdowns but they were unable to scale up. What happens is that at the beginning a brand might generate a lot of buzz because of the markdowns, but eventually it doesn’t create the right consumer base. People get used to discounts and even when fresh stocks come in they are willing to wait a few months for the prices to go down," he explains.
Avoiding instant gratification via discounts was not always easy as the website would experience a slump during traditional stock clearance periods but the company did not waiver.
Despite being born at a time where the startup space in India had combusted and there was an increasing interest from investors and multiplying avenues to secure funding, the lifestyle brand steered clear of VC money.
"The reason for this is that we were focused on the long run and once VC money comes in, the focus shifts to short-term results because they have to show results within 5 to 7 years," says Singh.
In fact, Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal are angel investors in the company.
Bewakoof currently has a 1.3 lakh square feet facility in Bhiwandi, on the outskirts of Mumbai of which it currently only uses 20 per cent, a signal of the plans the company has to scale up.
Singh says that the brand will be looking at the expansion of its product categories which are currently limited to apparel and phone cases and reaching more people.
In the pipeline is also a flagship store in Mumbai which Singh, while not revealing much, says could materialise in 8 to 9 months. However, he emphasises that the idea of opening up a traditional brick and mortar store is not based on the intention of creating another channel of revenue generation but on that of creating awareness about the brand.
When asked if there were plans of going global, Singh says that the company's sole focus was India for the moment.
In two to three months Bewakoof will be introducing its line of jeans.