Moneycontrol's Anchal Pathak talks to the founder of lingerie retail brand PrettySecrets about his business, life and some hacks for budding entrepreneurs.
What’s the story behind some of India’s most popular brands? How did mere ideas turn into tangible products and services that millennials across India use on a daily basis? Moneycontrol's Anchal Pathak traces the journey of these brands and their founders and finds out what makes them tick.
Welcome to Moneycontrol’s Start, Up and Away, a brand new video interview series which gives you a sneak peak into the minds of some of the country’s most popular entrepreneurs.
In the first episode, we catch up with Karan Behal- founder of PrettySecrets and ask him what it takes to be a man in a woman’s world. The 36-year-old who launched his online lingerie retail brand back in 2012, chats about some hacks for entrepreneurs, why he chose this particular venture and how he manages to maintain a work-life balance with a job that demands his attention 24/7.
So, if you are an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some business tips or just someone who loves a good startup story, be sure to watch Moneycontrol's Start, Up and Away.
Read the transcript of the episode here:
Q: Alright let’s start with the most obvious question that I want to ask you is why women’s lingerie?
A: My family has been in the business of manufacturing, exporting ladies sleep wear for about 36 years now. Although I never joined that business when I first started my career I saw that there was big gap in India for the kind of product that they were exporting and I started PrettySecrets back then in 2005 primarily as a high end nightwear or sleepwear brand but I think it came off from sort having supply chain access to my family’s manufacturing business and he gap that I saw in the market at that point. So, it’s a business like any other
Q: ….Business that you would get involved in….like you said, this was something which was very intuitive for you. But when it comes to lingerie I mean you know women don’t really talk about it. I am sure at a time when you started off, women spoke about it even lesser. It’s a very personal product. Lots of hours spent in the sitting room trying to get the right fit. What made you think that you could pull this off?
A: Consumers or women rather actually don’t have such a problem talking about lingerie and part of the reason is that a) it’s a functional and utility product, it’s a need. So, all women wear lingerie and unfortunately, they have to buy it in a certain kind of format of lingerie stores in India which doesn’t have privacy, doesn’t have ambience, and doesn’t have trial rooms. Rarely even has female sales staff. So, actually women have gotten desensitized to the way that they buy lingerie. So much so, that I have learnt that women in particular in India are very open talking about lingerie. It’s the men that haven’t come around that. The men still look at it as a taboo subject but for women it is not the case at all.
Q: Tell me about your first round of funding what was that like?
A: We raised our first round of funding in 2012. This was actually from the Indian Angel Network, Harvard business school alumni, Angels India and few more HNIs. So, it was an angel round per se. I mean, we did very well in that first round of funding and then raised subsequent series A. and then series B.
Q: Like you have mentioned PrettySecrets has had quite an interesting journey. It started off high end now you have become mid-market, affordable lingerie. So, how has the brand been evolving since you started off?
A: So, I think the PrettySecrets brand that you actually see in its current form is only about four and half – five years old. We were always a lingerie brand first, we don’t look at ourselves as an e-commerce company or a retail company or any of that, we are actually building a consumer brand for which there is a large customer base out there and you know whether it is online, whether it is offline, these are all just distribution channels as far as we are concerned and distribution channels evolve with the customer. Our intention is that we should be available where our customer would like us to be.
Q: So, the distribution channel that you just spoke of, I mean I have been reading up on few articles. Everybody is talking about that everybody has been lauding them. So, can you tell us something a little more about this?
A: Sure. So, I think prettysecrets.com which is our own website and the mobile apps that we have. The iOS app and the android app, this is mainly for our brand loyalist. They are as much a product discovery and content platform as they are in ecommerce channel as well. Cut to the market places where you know that’s one of our larger sales channel which is the online market places and you know through the online market places we are currently servicing 19000 pin codes in India. In offline, our business is divided into two separate verticals. One is our own stores which we opened…you know…our first two stores were company owned stores opened about a year ago. The idea was to sort of see if that model works. It did very well and in July- August of last year we started franchising. We have ended up opening now close to 25 stores and the idea is that by the end of this calendar year there should be anywhere between 50 to 60 stores and everything seems to be going in accordance with that plan. The fourth business vertical for us in distribution is actually offline trade sales and currently we have a presence with about 200 odd stores in the MBO space in about 15 shop n shops but deals have been signed to take that up to about 500 MBO’s and about 100 shop n shops by end of this year.
Q: Lots of grand expansion plans there and if I am not wrong the brand has also gone international there are some websites in the UAE which are featuring PrettySecret products?
A: Right. We are also listed on sites like Lazada and Zalora in addition to a Souk or a Vadi in the Middle East. I think here it’s been more opportunistic that the kind of business models that these places have built allow you to service them very easily from India. To be fair, we don’t have a concrete sort of expansion strategy in outside of India as of right now. The reason for that is that you know we have grown a 100% this year. I mean FY 18-19 sorry 17-18 and our target is 200% in FY 19. So, you know for us we have to be very clear that when the home market opportunity is so large every minute that we spend thinking about other markets has to be justified.
Q: As of now how much would you say the brand PrettySecrets is worth?A: I always take valuations for us or anybody else with a pinch of salt and if you actually see all the fund raising that we have done. We have never gone in public and announced it, because you know I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs and companies in India seem to look at rounds of funding as milestones which to me are actually not milestones. I mean, achieving revenue numbers or store foot prints or just getting more customers or building brand, those are milestones that one should talk about.