Amidst a raging COVID-19 pandemic, fashion never stopped. While online shopping was not new in India, the pandemic only accelerated its growth — with more offline retailers and buyers taking on the ‘trend.’
For luxury brands, especially for bridal lehengas, designer suits, indo-western dresses, etc. — where a consumer needs customisation and yearns to see and try the product before making a purchase — online shopping was not hunky-dory.
Mumbai-based Kalki Fashion faced similar challenges. However, this 14-year-old ethnic wear brand was quick to tackle the challenges head-on by turning into a video shopping medium.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Nishit Gupta, Director of Kalki Fashion, says,
“Live streaming allows shoppers to come closer to products and listen to someone describe what a product feels and looks like. Due to the changing phase of modern fashion sensibilities, we strived hard to keep emerging on the web as an ethnic wear brand.”
Despite its offline stores shutting down during the lockdown, Nishit claims Kalki Fashion clocked a turnover of Rs 50 crore in FY2020-21.
The blend of fashion and tech
Kalki Fashion was established by Nishit’s father Shravan Gupta in 2007 after he saw a gap in the designer ethnic wear market.
“If you go to a designer store, the products are premium and the price point is such that only a handful of Indians can afford it. On the other hand, some brands cater to the masses, but these are not liked by people who want a premium product at an affordable price — this is where Kalki operates,” Nishit tells SMBStory.
Lehengas by Kalki Fashion
Kalki Fashion opened its first store in Worli, Mumbai, and after its success, Shravan opened the second store in 2008 in Santacruz, Mumbai, and since then, the journey has only been upwards.
In 2010, Kalki Fashion formally established its online presence. The second-generation entrepreneur says, “At that time, ecommerce was picking up, and we spoke to players like Myntra. However, as our range was premium, we couldn’t get into terms with ecommerce and stayed on with our own website.”
At a time when video shopping wasn’t common, the brand opened the experience of trying out different outfits to its customers through Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, and now, Zoom.
The website has a dedicated page where customers can book an appointment to shop in video and try out different outfits.
At present, Kalki also does live streaming fashion styling with influencers and celebrities on Instagram Live. Through this, the brand has been able to find a fun and successful way to interact and allure consumers to its site.
“The influence of technology on the fashion industry will still help the market even during times of distress. Extending the industry’s reach to accommodate customers with digital services, all-new ways of technology will only create a stronger marketplace for ecommerce ROI,” Nishit says.
The making of Kalki
At first, Nishit worked part-time and joined full-time in 2014. His brothers Saurabh Gupta and Shishir Gupta are also directors in the company.
While the luxury-yet-affordable brand started with sarees, today, it sells a range of products, including lehengas, gowns, kurtis, salwar kameez, bridal collection, etc. It has also partnered and sells its products in other designer stores as well.
In fact, it also forayed into accessories, kids, and men’s ethnic wear.
From pure silk Banarasi to Jaipuri gotta, Lucknowi chikankari, and more, Kalki has over 500 artisans on board to create these traditional handcrafted pieces.
The brand also deals with a blend of artisanal and printed collections and makes tailor-made designs as per customers’ preferences.
The Indian ethnic wear market for online focussed brands is growing at a CAGR of 36 percent, while regional brands are growing at a CAGR of 13 percent.
Kalki Fashion has a total of five lakh customer base from both its online sales across India and physical stores in Mumbai.
Competing with the likes of Okhai, BIBA, Neeru’s, W, etc., Nishit says its competitors change as each category has its own USP.
Speaking about the future, Nishit says that the brand is experimenting with the digital realm while looking to revive and reinvent the experiential elements of its ongoing physical operations.
Kalki Fashion plans to leverage technology by including leading-edge processes, analytics, technological developments in digital marketing, commerce and sales, and service platforms.
The brand aims to learn about people’s consumption habits, behaviours, trends, and decision drivers by leveraging these processes.
As an immediate step, Kalki Fashion aims to use the digital space to showcase past and current collections to consumers, enabling sales for inventories that are stuck due to pandemic, and making ways for longer-term new collections.