Interview with Shailesh Saraf

Shailesh Saraf
Shailesh Saraf
Managing Director
Triveni & Sakambari Silk Mills
Triveni & Sakambari Silk Mills

Aspirations of someone sitting in a tier III town are similar to those of someone in South Delhi
In 1985, Mr Giridhar Saraf moved to Surat, to setup Sakambari Silk Mills. Sakambari manufactured synthetic sarees under the brand name "Triveni Sarees". Today,, which was established in 2011, takes the fabulous Triveni collection worldwide. Shailesh Saraf, Managing Director, Triveni & Sakambari Silk Mills, opens up about the challenges and the opportunities of going online with his business.

How would you describe the online market for ethnicwear in the domestic and the international set-up?

Indian ethnicwear market is growing globally, fuelled by general curiosity about India and the influence of diasporas. Domestically of course, this is a part of the larger e-commerce growth story we have been
witnessing for the last 5 years.

As a pattern, apparel and fashion goes online after books and electronics. That this is a fast growing e-retail segment is a testimony to the e-commerce industry now evolving to a level of maturity.

You promote your collections extensively on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. What is the percentage of leads and sales conversions generated through such channels?

Social media helps keep our customers and clients informed about new collection releases, new updates and activities at Triveni. Most of the direct purchase leads are retail leads, or many home based re-sellers who reach out to us. Probably 5 per cent of new customers are generated through social media. Triveni is multi-channel - and is present strongly on all digital platforms and offline, and sees a strong traction coming in from other digital channels - including organic searches.

For our wholesalers and distributors, social media is again a way for us to keep them engaged - some new distributor or wholesale leads do come once in a while (probably less than 1 per cent).

What kind of features on the web and mobile make the online shopping experiences better? Do you plan to introduce any new ones?

Product offering and app or site speed are most crucial features in the ordering/shopping process, and then - product quality and services becomes important.

Specifically, for a draped garment like saris, two challenges - common for apparels otherwise, gets more complex.  First, is the look of the garment on the prospective customer, after it gets draped or worn. With jackets, shirts or even a dress the look is still al little obvious but not so for a sari.

Second are selecting or shortlisting products from the huge offering range, based on certain criteria or similar to specific designs.

Triveni has worked on some proprietary technologies for Virtual Trial room that works fine even for saris and image-based similar results. These will help users navigate through the wide offering much better, and improve the shopping experience quite a bit.

Which styles are trending for the festive season for men, women, and kids?

Clear dignified collections - based on georgettes, chiffons, brassos or jacquards, with exquisite embroidery or border work have been faring well especially for women. Colour contrasts, with subdued hues on the garment body and a bit of brighter ones for the highlights and patterns have been the norm. Styling and heavy all over surface work has moved to blouses.

We have worked a lot on subdued prints - geometrical or floral, with elements of brighter colours and borders added in.

Our collections have focused on loose silhouettes, interesting drapes, and blouses that are further inspired by Jaipuri Kurtis or tops. We experimented with a few lehenga-gown collections that have seen great response too.

Which regions in India and abroad do you generate the most sales from?

We wholesale pan-India, and we have seen strong uptake countrywide. A few years ago, customer preferences were distinctly different in all parts of India - but of late, they have converged.

Aspiration levels of someone sitting in a tier III town are similar to those of someone in South Delhi or South Mumbai, in spite of SEC category. Television, bollywood and Internet have made new trends and fashion is accessible to all.

Instead, local influences show up more in the designs themselves - with collections borrowing elements of Madhubani paintings, Ikat work, Chanderis, Kutchhi mirrow work and more. As a design house, we try to ensure our designs cover all potential inspirations.

Specific regions - especially for saris, the usual traditional bastions for sari are there of course - Central and South India - UP, MP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka etc - but other regions do make up a significant part of the sales.

What are the 3 major challenges of selling ethnicwear online?

Selling ethnicwear online selling has a few challenges:
1. Ethnicwear industry has been very fragmented, and brands are only starting to emerge. Customers are unaware of the brands fully yet - and are often driven to low quality products purely on discounts. Intellectual property enforcement in this sector is weak - with the number of styles and their shelf time, it's practically impossible to copyright each of them. This has led to a number of replica sellers - those who take an original brand design and make a significantly compromised version of it and sell online at a lower cost - using the original brand's image. 

2. Traditionally, ethnicwear has been brought on touch and feel in physical retail stores. With emergence of brands with clearly recognised quality, this challenge too is getting sorted out. 

3. e-Retail industry has been venture capital driven - and unviable discounts have made it difficult for more organically built business models to compete with the funded start-ups.
Published on: 28/11/2016

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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