“I Buy Expensive Suits, They Just Look Cheap on Me”
– Warren Buffett.
That statement was made by Buffett, when he was rebuked for his scruffy appearance.
For those of us, who are just starting out, and can’t afford expensive suits, these two brothers, Bharath and Moolesh Jain started 108 Bespoke to wring and turn over that statement over in your favor.
108 Bespoke is a startup which brings customised, affordable men’s clothing to your doorstep. So “You Buy Affordable Suits, if matched well with your persona, you will make them look expensive”
I visited their store at Seshadripuram, and got a chance to observe the team at this Bespoke Clothing company that may transform Seshadripuram of Bangalore to Savile Row of India !!
So Bharath, How did you take the plunge ? What made you start up ?
Back in 2013, my brother Moolesh was in the wholesale business of textiles. I was a hardware engineer at Intel, Bangalore. Moolesh, had 12 years of experience in textiles, and always felt that there is a big gap in the customized clothing segment. Due to the lack of made-to-fit personalised services, most people ended up buying stock outfits which do not always suit their individual personality and style. There are no styling experts to help and advice the customers even in big reputed stores. Moreover, the whole process was so cumbersome that despite a minimum of 3 visits to the store, the clients usually settled for ill fitted, readymade outfits.
He proposed the idea to me and we started our research. I quit Intel in Feb 2013 to start working on the 108 Bespoke concept along with Moolesh.
Why 108 ? What’s in the name ?
We pondered on a lot of names before sticking to 108. After sometime we felt having a number as a brand seems different and better. Thinking about numbers we came across 108 which has a great significance. The number 108 is considered sacred by several Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and connected yoga and dharma based practices. The best explanation is : The individual digits 108.
1, 0, & 8 signify “The Union”, “Nothing” and “Everything” (Infinity), representing the belief of the ultimate reality of the universe as being (paradoxically) simultaneously one, emptiness, and infinite. After this we had decided, that this will be our brand as it is very synonymous to our mission of making it a universal brand.
Coincidently 108 Bespoke started on 10th of August which is 10.8.
What is your Business Model ?
After all the research, we agreed on three key factors –
a) Having a one stop shop which would make this process simpler and seamless.
b) Providing clients with the whole service: including the fabrics, measurements along with the finished outfit delivered at their doorstep. c) Realizing that having expertise in the field is the first step towards success. Thus, the idea of adding Fashion Designers as their salesmen was pitched, for they knew the science of clothes.
108 Bespoke is committed to providing a hassle free service in just 5 steps.
Step 1: Get an “at doorstep” service where a fashion stylist and master tailor come to your door, home or office, at a time convenient to you. They provide a choice of more than thousand fabrics from various reputed local brands and several high quality international brands. Customers can also stop by the studio for the above.
Step 2: Choose the Fabric with the help of the stylists who will help the customer design their outfits and choose from the wide range of quality samples.
Step 3: Get measured by 108 Bespoke’s Master tailor.
Step 4: Once the fabric is chosen and measurements are taken, 108 Bespoke gets back to the customer’s doorstep with a trial of the outfits within 10 days.
Step 5: After which, the outfits would be delivered; taking less than 2 weeks for the whole process.
What constitutes your target audience ?
108 Bespoke started with the idea of being a western formal clothing brand for both women and men. So the initial target were professionals, businessmen, bankers etc who wear business formals everyday. However being in a colorful country like India, which celebrates festivals and weddings on a grand scale, it was a natural move to dive into ethnic wear for men. We realised adopting Ethnic wear for Men was not difficult and it added immense value to our brand and business. Moreover the designers felt it more challenging and satisfying to create ethnic wear. And thus we now are a brand which makes every outfit that can be stitched for men and western formals for women.
So our clients are evenly divided into two categories :
1.Men – Office, Ethnic, Wedding and Smart Casuals
2.Women – Western Formals and Smart Casuals
How do you market your brand, and what is your current customer acquisition strategy ?
The Research had shown that the market opportunity for a concept like this is huge. Everybody who wants to make a statement with their clothes becomes a potential customer. We make outfits for each person with their individuality imbibed in it, in terms of fit, style, logo, initials etc. . Our clothing line is unique and impeccably crafted, fashion-forward but with a very solid core collection and aesthetic. The main targets include Corporates, Businesswomen, Businessmen, Grooms, Wedding family Men at present.
For this we are tied up with various Wedding Planners, Image Consultants, Service Apartments, Photographers, Venues and Banquet Halls to generate quality referrals. Most of our business is generated through Word-of-mouth, referrals and Social media Marketing targeted at engaged couples.
We also set up a one day stall at MNC companies and corporates which helps us get a decent exposure amongst the employees. Like, we are doing a “Style Marathon” at various offices of KPMG starting 7th Oct 2015.
What Constitutes the 108 Bespoke Team ?
We have a hybrid model. We work with a lot of partners as well as full-time craftsmen and stylists.
Fabric Partners: 108 Bespoke works off fabric swatches and thus makes it easy to carry fabrics to the doorstep of customers. Having a long family history in the fabric business makes it easy to have tie ups. The tie ups range from wholesalers, retailers to dealers. This gives a huge range of fabric to choose from. Around 1500 shirting fabrics, 2500 suiting fabrics, 1000 ceremonial fabrics forms their present collection. They basically spoil their customers for choice.
Designers and Darzis: All designers at 108 Bespoke are from reputed institutes like NIFT. This helps getting quality designers who have good knowledge about fabric and styling. The designers are also trained exclusively on fabric, tailoring, and customer service to add greater value.
Being from a corporate world helped me understand, that if a business has to grow, we need to run 108 Bespoke as a company. Thus all people associated including tailors are on a payroll and are treated as employees. We do not work on per piece commission with tailors like other businesses, we give them salaries instead, which gives the tailors a sense of security and solves 108 Bespoke’s labour problem.
How has been your journey so far ?
It has been awesome, and we are loving it. We have had around 800 unique customers and at least half of them are repeat customers. We have made clothes for around 300 wedding clients.
Pain is Inevitable. Tell us about your mistakes, challenges, pains, and struggle and how did you you overcome it?
a) Getting Customers – As ours was a “high perceived cost” based brand, it took time and hard work to bring awareness and get customers hooked. We knew that from the word “go”. So we were patient and let our diligence and concept do the work. Usually the term fashion designers/consultants scares people as they are associated with the famous, rich and ramps. We have fashion designers to enhance the outlook of the client. We made it easier for the clients to choose fabrics and get styled according to their body type, colour, persona etc. Fashion designers are to clothing what architects are to building.
b) Unnecessary Diversification – While we knew that the concept will take time to percolate with the target audience, the lack of revenue makes you impatient. makes you pivot too quickly. Impatience makes you pivot quickly. So in the first 3 months, when we ran out of money, we bought 100 Sherwanis with an idea to start Shervani Rentals. That was not a good plan, and we quickly realised that it is better to buffer /cushion ourselves for 12 months and remain focussed.
c) Embracing Technology: For a traditional business like tailoring, technology adoption is also a big challenge. We are using technology to cut down a lot of repetitive tasks like moving measurements of customers from tailor to designer to admin etc. We now use an app for these purposes. This eliminates delays and mistakes and keeps the entire team on the same page for smooth operation of the business.
d) Finding Right Talent Yet Affordable: In early days of a startup, when you go scouting for talent in colleges, you are sometimes not taken seriously. If you do not have deep pockets to pay the freshers, they tend to lean towards established corporates and well-funded companies who would give them fatter pay-packets. We figured out that the correct way is to persevere and make them realise the vision we have for the company, and whoever is keen to join us in pursuing it, is highly likely to stick around.
What has been your biggest break so far ?
On the evening of 20th Sept, 2014 (a Saturday), Moolesh got a call from a friend, Mac Srinivasan asking if they could make a blazer for Mr. Robert Kiyosaki. Robert wanted to wear a Jacquard Blazer for his National Achievers Conference Finale event on Sunday the 21st Sept. (the very next day). We could not believe their ears and of course said “YES”. We went immediately to the Hotel where Robert was staying, got his measurements in the first visit. Gave him a trial that same night and got his outfits delivered by noon on Sunday. Robert was very happy with the service and invited Moolesh to the NAC event in the evening as his guest.
What happened next just shows the humility of a great guy like Robert and easily made it one of the best days of our company. Robert called Moolesh on stage in front of thousands of people, holding the 108 Bespoke bag, and said “I used to buy all my clothes from Italy, but after I met Moolesh, I will get all my clothes from India”. That summarised the whole episode and we were glad to have made that difference.
Robert’s feedback: Robert loved the Outfit and wore it for his Bangalore Finale Event. He was so pleased with the outfit and the service that he ordered 7 more Shirts which were to be shipped to USA.
Other than that, we have got Suits done for Indian Team Hockey Players Raghunath VR and Sunil SV for their Commonwealth Silver Medal Felicitation by the Chief Minister. Actor Dhyaan (Sammir Dattani) always gets his outfits done from us in Bangalore while he resides in Mumbai.
What are your expansion plans? Are you planning to raise funds?
We plan on opening our next studio at Indiranagar which has become the shoppers paradise. This will give us a good visibility amongst the who’s who. The Indiranagar studio is going to be a flagship store and other studios are going to be replicated accordingly. And similar studios across Bangalore and other Metros.
Yes, now we that we have good scalable and profitable business model, we plan to raise our first round early next year.
Thank you Moolesh and Bharath for the valuable inputs. We wish you loads of success in using clothes to define persona and purpose !
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