Launched in 2020, Saaki, a women's wear brand by Samantha Ruth Prabhu and former Miss India winner Sushruthi Krishna has fared well enough in the last two years for the founders to believe that they are now ready to slowly move from depending solely on Samantha’s reach and fan base to build the brand and for marketing. Now they are ready to explore other channels to connect with audiences beyond Samantha’s community.
In an exclusive conversation with Storyboard18, Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Sushruthi Krishna talk about celebrity brands and their scope of success, their brand Saaki’s consumer-centric approach and what it takes to own and run a women-centric brand. Over half of Saaki's workforce comprises women.
Samantha tells us, “We identify our consumers as the key drivers of growth since we have always taken our customers’ feedback and suggestions earnestly. This consumer-centric approach has helped the brand to grow exponentially in the last 2 years and has enabled us to scale to double-digit crores revenue annually with 70 percent of business generated organically from our much-loved community.”
Tell us about Saaki and its journey? There are a lot of celebrity fashion/clothing brands, how do you think Saaki stands out?
Sushruthi: Saaki as a brand is an appreciative representation of our Indian roots to the world of fashion. We are extremely proud to say we are a homegrown modern Indian fashion and lifestyle brand with a global vision. Today, we are redefining ethnic and fusion wear for a new generation.
Saaki’s unique positioning comes from the need to fill the market gap for modern Indian brands that caters to the new era of independent women. Hence, we started a brand that is inspired by the lifestyle of a new age Indian woman who is rooted in culture but has a global outlook.
Yes, there are a lot of celebrity brands in the market and we believe that each celebrity has their own set of consumers and followers. Similarly, Samantha’s brand equity in South has enabled Saaki to create a notable recognition from the first day of its launch. With Samantha’s remarkable debut in Bollywood (The Family Man), we see her brand value increasing further across the country which will make a significant impact on the brand’s growth.
We often see celebrities come up with new product lines be it in clothes or cosmetics or restaurants - but how involved are they in the day-to-day functioning of the brand? What role do you’ll play in the business?
Samantha: We do see quite a few brands which have celebs associated with them and each one has their own way of engaging with their brands.
While films are my first love and continue to be my focus area, I do spend a fair amount of time with the brand. This is where Sushruthi and I make great partners as we have very complementary skills. I am the face of the brand but also focus on brand building and ensuring that we capture a lot of trends.
Sushruthi focuses more on the business and growth side of things. She takes on the role of a co-founder-CEO and I take on a co-founder-CSO (Chief Style Officer) role. I am quite involved with the company and we ensure that we are both updated on everything, on a weekly basis.
How do you think your personal brand value adds to the success of the brand? Especially for you, Samantha - you have delivered smashing hits back to back. Did that have any impact on the business?
Samantha: As we grow the brand into being a household name, I do believe that my audience and community will be important to help us grow.
When we launched the brand, a lot of our early customers were people who have loved me in movies and made me who I am today. Hence, I believe that the more I deliver great content and films for my audience, the more love I will get which will ultimately support my brand too. We couldn't have come this far without them and I am grateful to my fans for this.
What according to you are the reasons behind the success of D2C brands today? How is Saaki cashing in on the trend?
Sushruthi: D2C is a fairly new business domain and has rapidly grown during/post the pandemic. There are multiple facets to the success of a D2C brand. We have to remember that digital adoption has accelerated post-pandemic, needs of the new age consumer have changed and evolved, and there is a dearth of supply to satisfy this newer demand, eco-system readiness with regards to digital infrastructure, supply chain, customer experience, marketing frameworks is far more advanced for brands to operate independently in the online world.
For us at Saaki, our vision to be a customer centric brand for new India has driven our success in the D2C space. We have stayed close to our community via social channels. We have well understood the needs of our customers in terms of the products and have done everything possible to cater to that need/demand.
What are the innovations you use when it comes to marketing the brand?
Sushruthi: Marketing for us at Saaki has been very exciting. During our first year, our marketing strategy relied solely on organic and word of mouth channels. We were primarily tapping Samantha’s reach and fan base.
As we maneuvered into the second year, we built marketing strategies that explored other channels to connect with audiences beyond Samantha’s community. Since Samantha was away for some time due to medical reasons, we had to explore a lot of new channels - influencer marketing, performance marketing, CRM amongst others.
These have given us the opportunity to understand customer behaviour much better. Now that she’s slowly recovering and will restart work soon, our marketing efforts in our third year will be an experimental mix of Samantha’s celebrity quotient and a comprehensive marketing approach to catapult the brand’s growth.
Who are your customers? How do you reach them?
Sushruthi: Our customer demographic is quite widespread. In terms of location, our largest customer base is in India (75 percent), followed by the USA and Malaysia. We have an equal split of 50-50 in terms of metro and non-metro audience. Our key audience age group is between 18 and 45 years with a majority being young working women in their mid-20s through early 40s.
Our key marketing and advertising channels remain digital, and we leverage ads on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat for our growth.
Help us understand your plans for the brand and what is the revenue target in the next two years?
Sushruthi: We aim to expand the brand’s presence across all digital touchpoints over the next two years. In addition, we hope to expand our category footprint with girls-wear and also introduce activewear and accessories. While we continue to grow our own website business, we hope to grow our business in the marketplaces. We aim to grow the business 5x of where we stand today within the next 2 years.