Interview with Sonal Abrol

Sonal Abrol
Sonal Abrol

Market too huge to focus on unnecessary competition
Saiesta, e-tail studio exclusively for women, features a wide range of prêt and eveningwear for formal or social occasions, mirroring the personal style of today's fashionable young women. Sonal Abrol, COO of Saiesta, tells about the expansion plans of the company, its business model, and why it is only catering to womenswear.

Please tell us about the growth story of Saiesta.

The e-commerce industry is on the cusp of tremendous growth in India as awareness and Internet penetration is growing within the country. More importantly, mindset of people for buying online is slowly evolving. The business model of Saiesta is simple, and the sun will never set on our brand. Our export business currently forms 90 per cent of the chunk, and Saiesta is 10 per cent. We expect Saiesta to achieve similar targets. Till date, our focus was always on India. Now, starting with Summer 2016 collection, we are expanding our global footprint to the US, Canada, the European Union and Australia. We are a B2C brand, and we provide runway styles to women across the globe from small cities like Agra to rural states of America like Iowa and the backwaters of Australia. We want Saiesta’s garments to be known from Main Street America to the smallest towns in India. We want to build a truly global online brand, without any brick-and-mortar stores. The world is our oyster. Since, we already had years of manufacturing and R&D experience, in-depth fabric knowledge and had worked with a host of international designers, we had the confidence to create our own brand. Our aim was to reach out to the young, independent, trendy woman with a line of clothes having a stronger look, affordable pricing and great quality.

Who is your target audience?

Women in urban cities of India in the age bracket of 18-35; may be, even older women who want to look young. The price range starts from Rs 1099-3999.

What is the scope for mobile apps in your business?

We do not have an app, but mobile business is growing as Internet speeds get faster. It is important to have a mobile app. But for a young brand like ourselves, we need to first create a sizeable following and create strength in numbers, before going mobile.

Please share a brief about your competitors.

More than technology, we focus on building TQM (total quality management) systems, where we make sure that garments delivered to our customers are of the best quality and not returned back. We are not trying to compete with anyone in the market. Rather, we are just trying to set benchmarks in terms of quality, delivery and designs. We feel that every brand is special in its own way, and the market is rather huge for us to focus on unnecessary competition.

Many start-ups close down shortly after they start. They are not able to break even. What is your advice to start-ups?

My advice to start-ups is to stay lean, focus on overheads and have proper mentoring. As world economies go through some rough winds, consumers across the globe are tightening their budgets. But still, they want to buy garments which look good on them but at an affordable price. Value for money was, is and will remain the key for any successful fashion brand. We are a start-up, and like all start-ups, we will have this gestation period before we can break even. But, we are getting close. I am hopeful that within the next six months, we shall not only start breaking even, but also start showing a healthy profit.

Who do you consider the fashionable young woman today? What are the top trends dominating this sector?

Women across the world are now independent, and working hard to maintain a good lifestyle. I feel this makes them fashionable. The trends keep changing, but fashion never goes out of fashion. Today we see a comeback of all that was hot in the 70s and 80s like tie-dye, floral prints, etc. The designers we work with often look towards the past for inspiration. Just remember, what really stays with you is your own style and not some fashion forecasts given by designers.

Will you cater to menswear in future?

Unfortunately, we have only made women's garments in the past. We will stick to that core competence of ours. However, we might at some point, move to kidswear as well.

What will be your USP for future?

We have over 20 years of manufacturing experience, and we are leveraging that to provide a high quality trendy garment at an affordable price.

Who are your designers and suppliers?

We have our own complete set-up, catering to all departments from design development to production to warehousing to delivery. We are not dependent on any outside designers or suppliers. The only suppliers we have are for our fabric and trims requirement. This helps us in keeping total control over quality of the end-product and overall services including delivery. Since, we have our own team of in-house designers, our designs are totally unique to us and you will not find them with any other brand.

Have business practices and supply chains improved or worsened over the years?

It has definitely improved! New systems and new protocols have been added for the benefit of customers and brands. Slowly and steadily, the market is getting more mature and sensitive to customer behaviour. Accordingly, we are able to style and produce great designs, along with improving our work systems. Also, improvement in the market also means more avenues for creating businesses - both domestic and international.

With increased global connectivity, how can we ensure that a brand does well globally?

The world is becoming smaller and smaller; technology has now connected each part of the world to such an extent that a brand can be accessible globally. As long as there is good quality control and customer service, a brand will do well globally.

What is your strategy for digital communication?

We are extremely active on all social media platforms, and are reaching out aggressively to our consumers through online marketing.
Published on: 10/05/2016

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