Enough was enough, felt Monika Sood, who had her own apparel export firm, which she had started in 1996. “As a customer, I was feeling the pain of not being able to find trendy fashion jewellery and accessories in the Indian market,” she says. “Well-known brands like Accessorize and Aldo, which were of high fashion and good quality, were expensive. And street vendors only had products that were low fashion, bad quality and cheap.” The postgraduate in fashion design from International Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi, had come to realise that there was a clear space for trendy, affordable fashion jewellery and accessories, to be made available in high footfall areas.
So, she and her husband Ashish, who is an MBA from Switzerland’s International Institute of Management Development, decided to take the plunge and start an enterprise of their own. “We wanted to tap the potential of the fashion accessories category, which is the top specialty retail opportunity available in the country, with a market size of over $2 billion and an annual growth of 30 per cent,” says Ashish Sood. “And, ‘Youshine’ was the result”.
Modern retail was just hitting
20 per cent throughout the country during 2014-18.
And driving the ?15,000 crore market is the fashion-conscious Indian woman, with a large disposable income. What was earlier run by small manufacturers is now being dominated by organised players – who target the young women and fashion professionals in the 18-35 year age bracket. India has seen a major emergence of multiple brands since 2012, with specialty shops present in big cities, as well as Tier II and Tier III cities. And, they have been fuelled by DTH, Internet and smart, phones, which have helped spread the word and ensure growth.
“It’s an interesting business to be in,” Monika admits. “Through Youshine, we offer the highest quality of contemporary and affordable fashion jewellery and accessories to the Indian public. They are trendy and fashionable, ranging from ear-rings (for men too) and ear-cuffs, to chokers, necklaces, cocktail rings, bracelets, anklets and a wide assortment of fashion aids, such as hair accessories, handbags, clutches, scarves, leggings, sunglasses and caps.”
Realising the huge potential of the venture they were embarking on, Monika started the business with ?5 lakh from her own resources. In the same year, her husband and she invested an additional ?25 lakh from their personal savings to supplement the efforts. But they knew they had a winner here and did not hesitate to sell some real estate they owned and invest ?50 lakh more to fund further growth. “It was a hard decision, especially because we had a family to look after as well,” says Monika.
“We decided to take the plunge since we had faith in the Youshine story and in ourselves. So, in late 2011, my husband sent out an e-mail to his MBA classmates, hoping to ‘crowd fund’ the business. He received a favourable response, and, by February 2012, two of his classmates had decided to come in with $310,000 as angel investors in Youshine. Since then, we have self-invested and also
have received further investments from our angels to the tune of over $1 million. We’re now planning to* raise institutional funding in the next six months or so.”
Youshine has kept on going, as the duo knew they had a good market in the young cosmopolitan Indian women, between the age group of 18-32 years which, according to RNCOS, is the youngest population in the world – 400 million-strong and, more importantly, tech-savvy and in tune with international designs. So, their marketing was hybrid too, an omni-channel, ranging from digital marketing, print advertising and loyalty programmes, which offer instant cash gratification for purchases made by their customers, whether offline or online.
But the main focus was social media, because, “We realised that the target audience was Internet-friendly, relying on digital content 20 hours a day.” says Ashish. “And so, our design team is continuously following the fashion trends and adapting them to cater- to our clients. We have a robust design-to-procurement-to- market launch process in place, which ensures five new products launched on a daily basis across jewellery and accessories. As a result, our customers find something new every time they walk into a Youshine store or shop online from our portal.”
The couple had started offline since, at that time, online was not so big in India. However, they warmed up to online as well, when e-commerce started to gain popularity. They still believe there is value in both offline and online and they are committed to both retail formats.
Currently, Youshine offline has 15 brick-and-mortar stalls in the best malls of India, such as Select City- walk, The Great India Place, Phoenix Marketcity, Elante Mall, Spark Mall and vr Mall, as also stores, in Delhi-NCR, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, etc, which contribute 65 per cent of their revenue, while its online activities contribute the balance 35 per cent. However, this figure is changing rapidly and they expect a 50-50 contribution by 2016. But Youshine’s biggest bet is the
e-commerce market, where it partners with Myntra, Jabong, Koovs, Lim- eroad, Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and others.
“Unlike traditional jewellery, which follows a certain pattern, here, you get to experiment, which is what the young generation likes,” says Wendell Rodericks, a fashion designer. Such activities have pushed Youshine’s turnover from ?2 crore in 2012-13 to ?3.5 crore in 2013-14. The Soods expect it to touch ?6.5 crore in 2014-15. Both are gung-ho about their progress and hope that, “we will become the No: 1 Indian brand in fashion jewellery and accessories by 2018. We will be 100 point of sales by then across India and the biggest online partner with India’s top 10 e-commerce marketplaces with revenue of U00 crore.”
“This success is due to Youshine being a purely mall concept,” continues Ashish. “So far, our target audience has been those who frequent malls for movies, food, shopping and to enjoy the temperature-controlled environment. We are careful about which malls we are present in, where our stores are located, as also our design and execution. Mall rentals being high, we go for small stores and optimise the space to generate the highest per sq ft revenues – so much so that our stores break even within 12 months of beginning the operation.”
Starting with Delhi-NCR, the duo
has expanded to Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune. In 2014, they opened their first Tier II store in Chandigarh, followed by Surat, where the response was excellent and helped attain the break-even quicker, because of lower rentals. And, while they are nurturing their Tier I footprint, they are also aggressively pursuing Tier II cities across the country and looking at Tier III as well.
“Their marketing is appropriate, because a mall is considered a leisure zone,” endorses H.R. Srivatsa, professor, marketing, T.A. Pai Management Institute. “In locations such as these, you are sure to get the customer.”
The company’s plans are to focus on saturating the Indian market by 2018. Thereafter, it will go in for an overseas expansion, starting with South East Asia and moving on to Africa and South America, while also expanding the product range. “It’s always good to let locals drive the business in their respective regions; but, we will consider partnerships when we go overseas,” says Monica. “Everything we sell today has the Youshine label. We may extend this to other categories, as we go along. We are targeting a 100 points of sale pan-India by 2018 and 1,000 points of sale in India, Asia, Africa and South America by 2021. We will stick to our core of fashion jewellery and accessories, but will go deeper into these categories, as there is enough for us to do here.”
♦ ROBIN ABREU [email protected]