In 1996, when brand marketing specialist B.G. Krishnan was reading Bill Gates book on ‘The Road Ahead’, on how it would enable anyone to build an international brand, he thought of deploying his long experience in TI Cycles.
Having worked in the marketing and sales field, Mr. Krishnan was convinced that Internet would create a level playing field for all, curtail geographical boundaries and reward those who create products with real benefits.
At the same time, Mr. Krishnan came to know about large scale export of ladies garment from India to the U.S. He decided to venture into that segment by using Internet as a differentiating factor. The result was the creation of eShakti.com, a customised online fashion clothing company for women in the U.S. for dresses, tops, skirts, pants and jeans.
“In India, fabrics are purchased through touch and feel method. We wanted to change it. Firstly by moving away from offline to online stores. Secondly by offering customised clothing made to your size, style and height. Thirdly by offering what is seasonal and trending,” said Mr. Krishnan.
eShakti came into existence in 2008 with an initial investment of $15 million from the founders and private equity investors. The technical and marketing team sits in Chennai, while core design team is based out of New York. Manufacturing is outsourced to six units in Gurugram and return centre is in Seattle.
“We have a large database of necklines and sleeve designs. A customer can mix and match the necklines, sleeve designs as well as the fabric as per her choice. She has to give her body specs, the design and the fabric she wants by logging into the company’s website. After that the dress is made virtually and then the stitching happens. The product is delivered within 14 days of placing order. It worked very well in the largest fashion market in the world,” said a beaming Mr. Krishnan.
According to him, 60% of the customers used customisation for size or style and 100% used customisation for height.
eShakti deploys technology at the front-end to get the correct size of the customer and back-end to process the orders. Even it enables live tracking of order by the customers from cutting to shipping. “We have been using the technology to disrupt the market by impacting the key matrix – customer acquisition, retention and adding life time value to customers. Our customers are our advertisers,” said Arasu Shanker J, chief technology officer, eShakti.
Asked about the differentiating factor, Mr. Krishnan said: “The $168 billion women’s apparel market has significant untapped potential due to variation in body shape, size and height. The market is unable to cater to these widely varied sizing needs. A large part of the market is under-served. That’s why we decided to get into this market. Our value proposition is customisation that is easy, affordable and fast. In the US, we are positioned between budget and moderate.”
The Chennai-based company carries inventory for 11 days. It does not advertise much. “For us, customers are our brand ambassador. We have a Facebook page, wherein if a customer rises a question, it is answered by several satisfied customers. That speaks in volume about our success,” Mr. Krishnan said.
Currently, eShakti is conducting pilot run in Australia and Canada. Next year, it will enter UK, France, Italy, UAE, Singapore, China and Japan, said Mr. Shanker.
To meet its growth plans, eShakti is in talks with private equity players to raise $25 million, which would happen by the fourth quarter of 2017-18. The fund raised would be used for entering new markets, expanding existing offerings, new offerings such as jackets, sweaters and bridal wear and technology upgradation.
“From $1 million in 2008, we have grown to $20 million and hope to touch $100 million in five years,” Mr. Krishnan said.