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Interview with Sushmitha Lakkakula

Sushmitha Lakkakula
Sushmitha Lakkakula

The vital challenge for any start-up is the starting point
Launched in December 2020, CloudTailor is a D2C platform that provides personalised fashion and tailoring solutions at the comfort of people’s home. Offering an easier solution, it gives control, flexibility and choice of creating one’s own outfit in a more efficient way. The app provides end-to-end fashion and tailoring solutions at fingertips with access to fashion designers’ consultation, doorstep measurements and free lifetime alterations. In a chat with Fibre2Fashion, CloudTailor Founder Sushmitha Lakkakula explains the concept and future plans.

How did you come up with the idea of starting CloudTailor? What was the motivation behind it?

During my pregnancy, I faced a lot of challenges when it came to clothing and that’s when I realised that this issue is not just faced by me, but by every woman. And I wanted to solve the fashion and tailoring issues for all women. I launched CloudTailor along with my two co-founders—Rudra Pratap and Mahesh Patel—in 2020. Now, women can sit at the comfort of their homes, and enjoy the entire tailoring process at their fingertips. And since I am personally aware that women’s bodies go through a lot of body changes, at CloudTailor, we provide free lifetime alterations for all our customers.
We are a D2C platform which caters only to women. With a purpose to democratise fashion, we want to be the go-to brand for anything fashion.

When and where was the first service centre?

CloudTailor was launched in Kokapet, Hyderabad (India) in 2020. We started with 1 centre and 4 employees, and have now grown to 8 centres, 8 EBOs, 160 employees and over 40,000 happy customers.

What were the initial hiccups you faced? How did you overcome them?

Today everything is being digitalised and people have become accustomed to everything being delivered to their doorstep including fashion. But we realised that cloud tailoring is not yet a popular concept in the world. Online tailoring is a spin on the traditional form of tailoring where the customer doesn’t need to go through the hassle of travelling to visit the tailor and can access the tailoring services digitally from the comfort of their home or from their office. With online tailoring, the customer can access and place their orders anytime and from anywhere through their phone, laptop, or tab.
The vital challenge for any start-up is the starting point. This is usually in the form of a precedent or a similar company doing something similar. In our case, CloudTailor did not have a global phygital baseline nor did any company exist which offered a tech-based customer ‘fabric to fashion’ offering to the world.
Being a Master’s in software engineering, I learnt about the fashion industry and the process to digitise the workflow of tailoring, measurements, and fashion designer interactions. The initial phase involved going door to door to take orders and understand what their issues were. I found that some of the customer pain points are:
1. Unorganised boutique segment. No other ‘one brand for all styles’ exists.
2. Constant follow-ups with tailors 
3. High return per cent of completed orders 
4. Cumbersome order fulfilment cycle, no tracking, no visibility 
5. Pricing variations for all customers
6. No quality control protocols
7. Size alterations is a pain
8. Lack of instant access to qualified fashion designers
I personally went to take measurements of over 500 customers to understand the pain points before we put the pen to the paper and started documenting and doing the first UX and storyboard sketches. Eventually, our first hire was our head of tech as we were convinced that we had to shake the beehive with tech and disrupt the way tailoring was happening so far and solve the pain points with the ‘App + CRM + Offline’ asset-light hybrid solution. The challenge didn’t end with conceptualising. Once we launched, in the initial phases, the biggest challenge was measurements. Customers did not know how to measure themselves and that created a gap. We brought in a solution for this by giving our customers multiple options such as measurements at home, sending sample garments, calling for measurements, or submitting the measurements on the platform.
Another challenge was that not all customers had fabrics with them. Initially, we used to source fabrics ourselves by going to the local markets, but now we have tie-ups with fabric partners.

How does CloudTailor work?

We are operating on a phygital model. Our omnichannel business model includes: 
1. App/website where customers can directly place orders with us through any of our digital channels
2. Exclusive Branded Outlet (EBO) where customers can also walk into our physical experience centres and interact with our fashion designers to avail any of our services
3. SiS (Store-in-Store) model where we are tying up with large format retail stores and having our kiosks set up to provide tailoring services at the store
4. Fabric partnerships where we are partnering with smaller retail fabric outlets to provide tailoring services to them and their customers.

How many designers and tailors work with you?

We have 40 designers and 40 tailors who work with us currently. We are rapidly expanding and will be adding more talent.

Which are your major markets in India and abroad?

CloudTailor services globally and has fulfilment centres in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Pune, Patna, Ahmedabad, Siddipet, Tirupati, and Kochi. CloudTailor has already serviced customers from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Middle East.

What is the lead time once a customer places an order to stitch?

The lead time usually is 5-7 business days. However, we understand last-minute requirements and cater to express orders.

Do you plan to expand to menswear and kidswear too?

We already have our services for kids as well, mother-daughter twinning is a collection that is a big hit at CloudTailor as a lot of our customers prefer twinning outfits which define their style and their daughter. As far as menswear is concerned, we have no plans to expand to this segment soon.

What do you do in cases where alterations are needed post-delivery?

Once a customer gets an outfit stitched at CloudTailor, we provide them with free lifetime alterations for that garment. Customers can get the outfit altered from anywhere across the country and through any fulfilment centre.

What are the future plans at CloudTailor? What is next in the pipeline?

CloudTailor aims to be the one-stop shop for all things fashionable for women. In this journey, our immediate plan is to open 500+ EBOs and 1,000 SISs spread across 75+ cities in India, along with an international presence in 20 countries such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and the Middle Eastern nations.
Published on: 07/10/2022

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 Fibre2Fashion.com.