Lingerie has always been talked about in hushed voices in our country. It has always been a pain for women to shop from neighborhood stores as they were mostly run by men. To save embarrassment, Clovia, a full stack lingerie e-brand, is here to spice up the clichéd innerwear market.
“Clovia wants to redefine the Indian lingerie market and help customers choose beyond standard cuts, shapes, and colors. Lingerie is a critical part of your wardrobe and it doesn’t need to be drab and boring. ”, says Neha Kant, Founder, Clovia.
Clovia ensures 4 level quality controls and sells through a host of direct sale channels with discreet packaging to ensure their customers do not feel any sense of embarrassment. So in short, the brand positioning as an affordable-premium fashion-solution and the supply chain backed by superior mind-to-wardrobe and technology backend gives Clovia an unparalleled edge.
Excerpts from an exclusive interaction with Neha Kant of Clovia:
Background of Promoters
A graduate from IIT Delhi, Pankaj Vermani (Founder & CEO) is a serial entrepreneur and has co-founded and grown two companies in the past, which went through a successful acquisition and got featured in multiple global forums including Red Herring Asia 100 and Deloitte India Fast 50. In his previous role, he was heading the Incubator / Company-Builder Mountain Apollo India. Pankaj actively advises and mentors start-ups in the internet, mobile, consumer and education space.
I am a Delhi University (Miranda House) graduate and hold masters in management. After a decade of experience in corporate India, I decided to start on my own to address the absence of peppy, spicy, sexy yet comfortable wear in the Indian innerwear market. As a Founder and CRO, my objective for Clovia is to occupy the “most favorite brand” space in the minds of consumers as the space presently awaits an occupier.
Prior to co-creating Clovia, Suman Chowdhury (Co-Founder and COO) was working as an Assistant Vice President at SFIPL for Levis innerwear and About U Fashions Pvt. Ltd. He has also worked for other national and international labels like Lee Cooper, Steve & Barrys (launched collections for celebrities like Sara Jessica Parker, Amanda Bynes, Venus Williams under various sub-brands for Groversons Apparrel Pvt. Ltd).
The initial period- the challenges & the ecstasy of quick wins!
The brand was started with the objective of providing trendy and solution based lingerie to Indian women without comprising on comfort.
The biggest challenge we faced initially was to put the right team mix together. Even after all these years, lingerie is still a nascent space in India. The big task was ensuring that all the components of the team are in place to work towards building a global brand. They initially had to struggle a lot to work in low order quantities. The business traditionally requires you to build min 2000 units per style. But we did 200 units to give the audience a better mix. Now that we have cracked it, business has been growing at speed!
From the consumer angle, the biggest challenge we faced was that women didn’t understand bra sizing, especially the cup sizes. We had to educate women about how to size themselves, about sister cup sizes and their body shapes. We used our proprietary algorithm – ‘Clovia’s Fit Test’. We did extensive research and developed a test that asks a woman 5 questions about her body type and then recommends the right bra. Today, bras contribute to over 55% of our overall sales.
The journey so far!
As a working woman, I felt that the evolution of this category in India had not kept pace with the fast changing outerwear fashion. While travelling abroad, I had seen many solutions and fashion options available to women there. I realized that there exists a major gap in intimate wear for Women in India.
With the expansion of internet penetration in the country and the already existing gap in lingerie business, I decided to take the plunge into this business with the help of my husband (an avid tech entrepreneur). Then a very senior tech specialist and an experienced lingerie expert came on board and Clovia happened! We started in 2013 and since then there has been no looking back.
The journey as an entrepreneur has been a roller-coaster ride, I have had my share of highs and lows while being in business, the major challenge was to build a supply chain that can churn a large number of styles every week to keep up the freshness of our catalogue. But all the efforts paid off well and Clovia, today, is the fastest growing online lingerie brand in the country.
Strategic Alliances & Partnerships
Our strategic partnership with IvyCap Ventures has been a success. In the first 30 minutes of the meeting, both Pankaj and I knew that IvyCap could be the perfect partner for us for two things. One, they understood exactly what we were trying to do. They saw the opportunity & vision beyond the sales channels and the planned matrices. And secondly, they were as focused on the unit economics as we were. We wanted partners who would be aligned to build a rock solid business from grounds up and focus on the right matrices.
So far, Ivy has been a perfect partner in the true sense. They’ve been a great sounding box for ideas, challenged us with the role of a devil’s advocate when required and helped open many doors for us. Also the real alignment has been on the KPIs, which revolves predominantly around the customer experience for both the fund and the management.
The future, as you see, 3 years from now in terms of scope & scale of your business enterprise
India has just started to scratch the surface of the lingerie market. We have reached the same numbers in 18 months which most of the 20 yr old brands took 8-9 years to reach. And we did it with capital efficiency (i.e. grow on power of product and word-of-mouth and not on the power of cash-burn in marketing).
Today we are operationally profitable in all our sales channel post marketing. Not many predominantly online businesses can claim that in India today. Idea is to continue the growth, accelerate on offline channels of sales, which have been responding tremendously well to the brand. In the next 3 yrs, Clovia intends to be the largest lingerie brand in India.
While we are steadily on that path, we’re also encountering a host of organic/inorganic opportunities to grow internationally, which we are exploring and the next 3-5 yrs will also see Clovia’s presence in at least 4 more geographies.
Key moments of reckoning in business life
In terms of workers, we set-up a huge ecosystem of mini-entrepreneurs, who were shop-floor level managers in large factories. We funded these people with initial capital to set-up their own factories and work exclusively with us. Today, these guys are together employing more than 250 people. A trade magazine got in touch with us about a story of a shop floor guy, who is now an entrepreneur making 8 times his previous salary and has further employed over 40 people. That night we slept really well.
The feelings on getting the first big order / contract for your company
In a product business, when you receive your first order you know you are on the right track. And so when the response to our products was awesome it motivated us to do better and reach where we are today.