Sustainability is a big thought-provoking context and is on everybody’s mind at present. With a direct to consumer approach, the onus of sustainability falls heavily on the D2C brands and in order to reduce their carbon footprint and safeguard the environment, brands need to follow the sustainability route in everything they do. From production processes, products, branding, and marketing, everything should be aligned to the ethos of sustainability, which is primarily driven by consumers seeking to do business with brands that share their values. According to a recent report by Neilsen 81 percent of consumers believe companies should contribute to positively impact the environment.
This shift in consumer behaviour and with them growing more conscious, it is time for brands to adapt sustainable practices, bring to the front environment-friendly ways. This is the space that D2C brands are getting into to define their niche USP by getting conscious about every aspect of their business. Pioneering one such niche product line Satyam Singla, Founder, Sasha talks to us about his tryst with sustainability and how he expresses it through his products.
Finding the niche
Sasha, which sells a pair of handmade wood sunglasses between Rs 5,400 and Rs 6,800, claims sales worth Rs 3.5 lakh through their Instagram and Facebook pages alone since inception. A homegrown brand from India that creates environmentally-friendly wooden eyewear stands tall on over 30 years of experience working with wood. This experience and looking closely into the market made Satyam Singla realise the opportunity, he says “When I saw a lot of wood is getting wasted, we wanted to do something to stop this. We were keen on saving the environment and wanted to make this wood a part of our customer’s lifestyle. Thus, Sasha was born and through our endeavour we were able to move away from plastic because 99.9% Sunglasses are made from plastic. When I realized there is a gap in the market where we can create something designer and use our expertise to innovate and create designs that the consumer first looks at from a fashion point of view, and then realizes that they’re sustainable as well, we started using waste wood to create our eyewear. Sasha is about creating luxury products. And then the byproduct of that is that we are sustainable as well.”
Giving innovation a push
Eyeing to increase sales and rope in more customers from across India, Singla is trying to tighten the grip of the brand all across digital channels and on the brand’s own e-commerce platform. Sasha’s sunglasses –made of walnut wood and available in 15 different styles (each in four different finishes) – are also available at curated fashion and lifestyle events. However, the pandemic altered the brand’s market presence and made the team plan newer ways to stay afloat in the market. Talking about this, Singla mentioned, “the pandemic has taught us that people want convenience. Even before the pandemic, customers wanted to shop at a click and this trend was surely on a rise, which gained ample recognition with the pandemic. In order to give our customers the convenience they seek, we have differentiated ourselves from the market and have catered to the popularity of Instagram, we have created Instagram filters with the actual designs and colour finishes of our products and people can try the product and see how it’s looking on their face. This gives a lot of clarity to the customer and it helps them make informed decisions, right on their portable screen, without having to step out.”
Further, carrying forward the idea of sustainability Singla wants to diversify the brand offerings and says, “ We are planning to start our line of sustainable clothing by creating clothing out of recycled polyester, which is made out of plastic PET bottles, but every product that Sasha will come out with will be fashion first and then sustainable. That is what our sole focus is, I have done a lot of R&D in the last four years. And I have seen a lot of wooden sunglasses from international brands, but I have realized that everything is highly machine made. However, we are 80% labour intensive and only 20% machine or capital intensive. So I think , Anything that is made by hand offers a magical experience to the buyer. In fact, when made by hand, every wonder is possible. We have also patented and trademarked our designs and technology.”
Sector growth is on the cards
The fashion and lifestyle segment is one of the most promising segments within the D2C universe and the sector is growing at a fast pace too. But, what is growing alongside is the customer sentiments, which is evolving every passing day. So, analysing the current trends and the customer sentiments, Singla says, “Virtual trials are going to be the next big thing in the next decade, with innovations favouring it getting done into the metaverse. Well, everything is going to be online. I think it is very important for brands and companies to start getting ahead of the curve. I feel by the year 2030, brands that are not environmentally conscious, or are not on digital platforms will eventually die out.”