Smart So­cial Me­dia Mar­ket­ing Drives Mil­len­nial Busi­nesses

Con­sumer con­nect is a com­mon thread bind­ing th­ese brands. Bhagyashree Nair & Nishtha Saluja re­port

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature -

When Pratik­sha Te­wari, a young child psy­chol­o­gist in Delhi, wanted to wear some­thing dif­fer­ent for her friend’s wed­ding, she checked out In­sta­gram and set­tled on a beaded neck­lace em­bel­lished with sil­ver bells of NakhreWaali, an on­line de­signer jew­ellery store.

“It worked for me be­cause of the nov­elty pitch,” said Te­wari, adding that she can­not find such things at reg­u­lar on­line por­tals. “A lot of this stuff is sold on In­sta­gram and small sell­ers of­ten make cus­tomised stuff, which is good for peo­ple who like per­son­alised things,” she said.

NakhreWaali is one of the nu­mer­ous bud­ding on­line busi­nesses run­ning largely on the foun­da­tion of so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing in the coun­try.

Star­tups such as NakhreWaali, Va­jor.com and Pr­erto bet on unique, hand­crafted fash­ion prod­ucts that they show­case on so­cial me­dia plat­forms like In­sta­gram, Face­book, and Pinterest, cre­at­ing a niche mar­ket away from big ecom­merce mar­ket­places.

“Fash­ion con­sumers in In­dia want pieces that are unique, with a story,” said An­talya Varma, fash­ion an­a­lyst from The In­sti­tute of Ap­parel Man­age­ment (IAM), Gur­gaon.

She ex­pects such niche brands to steadily cre­ate a mar­ket for them­selves, rid­ing on the ex­clu­siv­ity fac­tor. “Th­ese brands pro­vide a healthy bal­ance in the mar­ket for fash­ion en­thu­si­asts and con­sumers,” Varma said. Most th­ese star­tups were founded on shoe­string bud­gets and are run with­out ex­ter­nal fund­ing.

NakhreWaali, for ex­am­ple, was started on a bud­get of just Rs 1.5 lakh. “We started off with our own funds,” said Gur­sakhi Lu­gani, its 24-year-old founder. “What­ever sav­ings I had­from­my­cor­po­rate­joband­somethatIhad earned from my work as a cre­ative head for an on­line fash­ion mag­a­zine was put into this busi­ness,” she said.

Lu­gani never had any for­mal ed­u­ca­tion in fash­ion. “A friend of mine and I hap­pened to at­tend fash­ion week, and we de­cided to cus­tomise our ear­rings for the event. The com­pli­mentswere­ceived­mademe­think­about­turn­ingth­is­in­toabusi­ness.We­took­the­p­lunge­and NakhreWaali hap­pened,” she said.

Founded early last year, NakhreWaali is al­ready one of the most pop­u­lar shops of its kind, hav­ing earned Rs 25 lakh in the last six months. Bol­ly­wood ac­tors Pari­neeti Cho­pra and Swetha Tri­pathi, co­me­dian Mal­lika Dua, and TV per­son­al­ity Miss Malini are among its clien­tele.

Lu­gani at­tributes her suc­cess to so­cial me­dia. “We’ve never sold any­where ex­cept on­line,” she said. “No one would know NakhreWaali if it wasn’t for Face­book, In­sta­gram and the likes we re­ceive.”

Th­ese busi­nesses have flour­ished greatly on the back of smart, eye-pop­ping mar­ket­ing on so­cial me­dia where peo­ple across the world have ac­cess to col­lec­tions, styles, colours, and prices of their prod­ucts. Sure enough, many brands are now pop­u­lar in mar­kets out­side In­dia too.

“A large ma­jor­ity of our cus­tomers are from In­dia, the UK, US, and UAE,” said Pr­erna Agar­wal, founder of Mumbai-based hand­crafted jew­ellery brand Pr­erto. “We also have stock­ist in New Zealand, Africa, Canada, Sin­ga­pore and sev­eral other coun­tries across the globe.”

Agar­wal, who has se­lec­tively opened the brand to a few fash­ion shows and ex­clu­sive multi-de­signer stores, said she has now man­aged to start an­other on­line busi­ness two month­sago with­her earn­ings­from Pr­erto.

Apurva Lama, di­rec­tor of ap­parel brand Ap­py­cat Street, said she owed her busi­ness to so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing. “In­sta­gram alone drives half of our traf­fic,” she said. “We’ve had sales from Kash­mir to Kanyaku­mari. We’ve reached corners of In­dia that we hadn’t heard of and have built a steady in­ter­na­tional cus­tomer base with a num­ber of sales in the US, UK, Dubai and Aus­tralia,” she said.

NakhreWaali has built part­ner­ships with en­ti­ties in Dubai and Mi­lan to en­hance sales in those citiesand­plan­toad­dmore­tothe­listverysoon. Con­sumer con­nect is a com­mon thread bind­ing th­ese brands.

Brands like Ap­py­cat Street and on­line de­signer ap­parel and jew­ellery store Va­jor.com have col­lab­o­rated with so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers like fash­ion blog­gers and mod­els who widen the mar­ket fur­ther for them.

Natasha AR Ku­mar, founder of Va­jor, said the brand placed high value in con­tent de­vel­op­ment and has worked with life­style and fash­ion blog­gers as well as peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life.

“We have a sec­tion on our blog called Va­jor Muse where we fea­ture in­trigu­ing and in­spir­ing women who are trav­ellers, writ­ers, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, artists who are do­ing all of this aside from their day to day jobs,” she said. Started in 2014 with­out any ex­ter­nal fund­ing, Va­jor has been grow­ing at an an­nual rate of 200%, Ku­mar said.

Ap­py­catStreethave­hadIn­sta­gram­starsand life­style and fash­ion blog­gers Komal Pandey (Col­lege Cou­ture), Nilu Yuleena Thapa (Big HairLoudMouth),andDol­lySingh(Spillthat Sass) help them reach a wider au­di­ence.

How­ever, de­spite their suc­cess and pop­u­lar­ity,many­ofthe­ses­tar­tup­sarefac­ing­somed­if­fi­culty due to lack of funds.

Hi­mani Singh, founder of on­line beauty store Ayca, said that be­ing self-funded has made it sac­ri­fice on things like cus­tomised pack­ag­ing, which re­quired huge vol­umes and cash flow. Singh and her busi­ness part­ner Mal­lyeka Watsa started Ayca by in­vest­ing Rs 5 lakh from their sav­ings. The brand’s turnover in the past six months has been around Rs 20 lakh and it has Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Harsh­vard­han Kapoor among its clients.

Ac­cord­ing to Varma of IAM, th­ese brands un­der­stand their cus­tomers in­side out and pro­vide them with ex­actly what they re­quire. “In­dia is an ag­gres­sive mar­ket, and with time com­pe­ti­tion is only go­ing to in­crease,” she said. “Th­ese brands need to fo­cus on what they bring on ad­di­tion­ally to the ta­ble other thantheir­ba­sicprod­ucts,throughtheir­brand im­age, sales and ser­vice.” Surbhi Gupta, an MBA stu­dent from Pune, said she was an avid on­line shop­per and she had started pur­chas­ing prod­ucts ex­clu­sively from smaller, cus­tomised web­sites rather than the big guns like Myn­tra, Jabong and Koovs. “The big web­sites of­fer main­stream stuff to their cus­tomers — things can be found in any mall,” she said. “There are so many smaller web­sites to choose from here, and the stuff they sell is pretty af­ford­able since we know where and how most of them are be­ing made.”

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