A fitness enthusiast, a retailer by profession and an interior designer by passion. Meet Vinay Chatlani, the young artistic CEO of SOCH. As the Chief Executive Officer, Chatlani defines the road map for all creative design strategy, operations and marketing at the 52-store-strong specialist fashion chain.
A graduate from the University of Miami with a major in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Marketing, Chatlani kick-started his career in 2002 by setting up a promotions company along with his friends targeting some of the most exclusive restaurants, bars, lounges and night clubs in Miami. In a couple of years, the company was already one of the most successful promotions companies in the city.
In end-2003, Chatlani moved to Bangalore from Miami and joined his family business, with a vision to establish SOCH as one of the leading ethnic wear brands in the country. Driven by this objective, over the past decade, he has been actively involved in strategising, conceptualising, business development and branding activities for the brand.
“The business in Miami gave me multiple and interesting insights into marketing, especially at consumer-facing businesses such a restaurants, bars, hotels, etc.,” Chatlani says, adding that he has brought along some of those learnings to SOCH.
At SOCH, Chatlani’s responsibilities include store designing, marketing & advertising, visual merchandising, brand positioning and operations across its 52 stores in India. Under his leadership, the company has grown to employ over 1,400 people. Among his key achievements, Chatlani counts creating a niche in a highly competitive ethnic wear industry, capitalising on a predominantly unorganised ethnic wear sector, and adding freshness, variety, depth and fast fashion elements to the brand.
[“Most fashion brands typically work on a season-driven production cycle, with a six-month lead time. At SOCH, some of our product lines now have 45 or even 30-day lead times — from concept to store.”]
“I enjoy being in retail because it gives me the perfect platform to be creative and learn new things. It provides me with an opportunity to serve our customer with superior service and shopping experience. There is always room to learn and grow in this industry,” says this dynamic business leader, who also remarks that his biggest professional challenge is having only 24 hours in a day.
Chatlani’s input in SOCH comprises upping the technology adoption, driving product innovation and modern distribution systems. “Most fashion brands work on a season-driven production cycle, with a six-month lead time. At SOCH, some of our product lines now have 45 or even 30-day lead times — from concept to store,” he elaborates, referring to the fact that success of innovation also depends on its speed to execution. “Especially in fashion, where freshness is as important as innovation.”
“To achieve full potential, Indian retailers need to embrace technology, including mobile devices, social networks, apps, etc. Retailers must implement systems and processes that will help provide lean frameworks in their businesses. They should also go that extra mile to excel in customer relations and services,” he notes.
Going forward, SOCH will be launching international sales in the next few weeks through the online channel. “A new e-commerce site will be up shortly; I am targeting the US, UK, UAE, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and several south East Asian countries, to start with,” Chatlani reveals. As regards physical stores in new markets, SOCH is considering a maiden overseas outlet on Dubai or Qatar, he adds. “As to when that will be, I cannot confirm immediately; we are still watching and monitoring the franchise model in India, before deploying it overseas,” he explains. Out of SOCH’s 52 outlets in India, only four are franchised.
And how has business been impacted by the e-commerce march in India, especially with fashion being one of the highest selling categories on online stores? “I don’t see it as a threat; it makes more sense to leverage it. Having said that, I am not in favour of selling my products at different prices in online and offline stores. Therefore, we are looking at launching a separate line – with a strong value proposition – specifically for e-commerce,” Chatlani says.
Aside from optimising the online channel and international markets, Chatlani’s focus this year will be to add 30 more stores to the SOCH network in India, with about 70 per cent of the outlets being company-owned. This is in alignment with the chain’s target to up its FY2015 turnover of Rs 240 crore to Rs 310 crore by FY16. “And this does not include the international sales; those will be over and above this number, for sure,” he promises.
By Nupur Chakraborty