UK-based online fashion brand, Koovs, wants to stand out amidst the ecommerce crowd by offering affordable western fashion sensibilities. The company’s CEO, Mary Turner, is clear that she’d have done well, if she occupies even 10 per cent of the Indian fashion ecommerce market, within a few years.
“Two years ago when we looked at the market in India, we saw a white space in the authentic western, affordable fashion for the twenty-something audience. And, that became our key differentiator,” says Mary Turner, CEO of Koovs, the online store for western fashion. She has a point. Before Koovs hit the Indian market there was no other online store that catered to an authentic, western affordable fashion sensibilities. Ordering clothes online would take days, even weeks and while ASOS was (and continues to be) popular in this segment, it wasn’t easy on the pockets. However, now, due to its unprecedented economic boom, India is closely following China in becoming one of the largest e-commerce markets in the world.
Turner has been a non-executive director at Koovs since July 2014. Prior to this, she was non-executive director at ASOS PLC. She carries over 20 years of experience in the consumer Internet space, having worked with brands such as BTLineOne and Tiscali UK. “Everybody else was focusing on the premium market and we were on the other hand trying to make our products affordable. It‘s the same philosophy that runs deep in Koovs as well; we keep thinking of ways to make fashion affordable for everyone,” she says.
An Eye For Opportunity
While Koovs’s product line comprises private labels, they’ve been making deeper inroads within the fashion community by focusing on collaborations with well-known labels and designers. In the recent past, they’ve collaborated with Manish Arora, Henry Holland, Patrick Cox and Giles Deacon. In fact, they’re also in talks for collaboration with Hattie Stewart, a supremely talented graphic designer. “About 50 per cent of the brands that you see on Koovs are exclusive to us and this is what makes us stand out,” adds Turner. The brand’s product mix comprises 60 per cent women’s clothing and 40 per cent men’s wear.
Eventually, the company plans to build its private label further by increasing its library of in-house brands, most of which are built based on a need-gap in the market. For instance, although the existence of the first kind of espadrille shoes is documented to around 1322 in Europe, Koovs claims it saw this existing gap in the market, reinvented and brought the espadrille shoe to the market.
Typically, its designs are developed in the design studio in London by a team of 20 designers, most of who have worked for brands like River Island, ASOS and Selfridges. “Our designers visit fashion shows in New York, Milan, Paris, Los Angeles and London looking for inspiration and then authentically design clothes and manufacture them in India,” adds Turner dressed in a classic crisp white top and pants.
The Tech In Distribution
Although developing infrastructure has been a major pain point for e-commerce platforms, with the influx of brands like Amazon, the market has opened up. Over the past couple of years, customer care and delivery services have developed ten-fold and this encourages the rest in the game to step up. “We outsource most of our distribution and over the last two to three years we have seen an improvement in the service levels provided to us by our distributors”, explains Turner. Turner sounds optimistic about same-day deliveries, a trend which India needs to pick up from the UK. “85 per cent of our delivery in the National Capital Region (NCR) is same day – this was inconceivable two years ago. Today, 70 per cent of our payments are via cash on delivery. The other challenge is to push 70 per cent of the market towards same day delivery, on wallets. These changes will happen organically as more and more transactions take place”, opines Turner.
There is no doubt that the acceleration of the online e-commerce space will be more dramatic in India as compared to what the UK saw. “The sheer idea of sitting at home, avoiding traffic to drive to a shopping mall is what will work in India. Luxury shopping will remain in stores and malls but affordable brands like ours will give youngsters, who are busy driving their personal and professional lives the opportunity to shop effortlessly. Online shopping is a leaned back affair – and it gives you the variety,” says Turner.
Right from customer service executives, wish lists and a soon to be introduced real time chat feature, Koovs is doing it all to ensure that it remains ahead of the curve on the customer service front.
“Everybody else was focusing on the premium market and we were on the other hand trying to make our products affordable. It’s the same philosophy that runs deep in Koovs as well; we keep thinking of ways to make fashion affordable for everyone.”
Into the Future
The brand’s near term priority is to continue to build the brand and product line. In fact, in April this year, Koovs PLC raised Rs. 212 crore to fuel its India growth. “Our plan is to achieve three fold growth from the previous year”, added Turner. Will there be a champion that will emerge in the western, affordable category five years from now, if so, who will it be? Will someone else see a white space in the market for a particular category, and cash in? We’ll have to wait and watch.