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Fashion rentals is a complicated business: Anchal Saini of Flyrobe

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Anchal Saini, chief executive officer of fashion rental omnichannel player Flyrobe speaks about the complexities of the business, leveraging the C2C model and expansion plans

Bengaluru: ‘The closet is full, yet I have nothing to wear’ is a common conundrum women face. It’s not about having less clothes but about having something different for every occasion. This was the problem Anchal Saini set out to address when she launched Rent It Bae in 2016 under the parent company AARK World.

“Rental was the only solution. We started with renting western wear and accessories for women online. And eventually, the grand business turned out to be the rental of occasion wear category via the omnichannel route,” said the 37-year old entrepreneur.

The business grew and in 2019, Rent It Bae acquired a rival rental startup Flyrobe with a vision to multiply the business by 10 times. Founded by three IIT alumni Shreya Mishra, Pranay Surana, and Tushar Saxena in 2015, Flyrobe got merged into Rent It Bae. The merged entity retained the Flyrobe brand name.

“The reason for leading the business by the brand name Flyrobe is that enormous marketing dollars have been spent on branding Flyrobe and it’s one million users in over 30 cities know the brand well. The community created is strong. It made sense to stick to the name and grow it bigger,” said Saini adding that Rent It Bae brand still exists on social media so that its community too is retained.

Flyrobe soon went omnichannel and today it operates in more than 10 cities across the country and has three offline stores in Bengaluru, Gurgaon and New Delhi. It houses over 1,000 brands and has 35 employees.

In an interview with IndiaRetailing, Saini, chief executive officer of Flyrobe shares her inspiration behind the rental platform, business paradigms, expansion plans, and more.

Tell us about how Flyrobe works.

Flyrobe is a fashion rental service that rents out occasion wear outfits at 1/10th of their retail price for a period of four days. The company takes care of all the fittings and cleaning.

Although a simple idea, fashion rentals is a complicated business. Unlike selling, rental is complicated in terms of the back-end operations involved in it. For us, the front-end is also not simple like in a retail business. Firstly, a consumer needs to understand the entire rental process, then their numerous queries need to be addressed. This requires employees at the stores to be extensively trained.

Initially, it was a direct brand partnership but we have adopted the consumer-to-consumer (C2C) model as a way to welcome the luxury inventory including labels like Sabyasachi, Shantanu & Nikhil and Anamika Khanna to Flyrobe.

How did adopting C2C benefit your business?

The world is moving towards a shared economy and at Flyrobe, we are capitalizing on this consumer behaviour shift in the fashion industry for the past five years. Steering the business towards profitability was equally important as was being asset-light. So, an endeavour was made to expand the C2C model which turned out to be game-changing.

Flyrobe C2C model is where people can rent their own designer garments to make money via the platform. Everybody loves the chance to make extra money from their once-worn, never to be worn again ethnic wear.

Over 5,000 people are renting their ethnic products via Flyrobe to date and this number is growing. Spreading the word for us is key. Once they learn about us, they immediately follow the next steps as this is the only way to make money off one’s ethnic closet.

Does being omnichannel work for you?

Our users love to visit the Flyrobe stores. We will always be an omnichannel business as the stores do well for us both in terms of profitability and user experience.

How do you manage the maintenance and hygiene of products?

Hygiene is crucial in the fashion rental business. Customers might be trying the concept of renting for the first time, and we have to make sure their experience is fantastic. Strict quality check processes are the key. Every product goes through alteration, dry cleaning, steam ironing, and multiple rounds of quality checks before it reaches the user.

How do you manage the reverse logistics?

Rental is a time-sensitive service. The product has to reach the user and back to the warehouse and then to the next user on scheduled dates. Reverse logistics for us was a challenge in the initial years of business. But with more and more companies entering the space, it is getting organized and better.

How do you maintain operations in multiple outlets?

Technology helps us here. Whether it’s an online business or an offline store. Additionally maintaining robust processes keep it smooth.

How do you communicate with your customers?

Social media. We are a community of 1,12,000 on Instagram and 5,00,000 on Facebook, in addition to other social media platforms. Other mediums of communication are personalized emails and WhatsApp, which is the most preferred way of communication for our customers.

What is the marketing strategy of Flyrobe?

Mainly collaborations. To date, Flyrobe has collaborated with more than 350 influencers and celebrities. It is a continuous activity. When Sonam Kapoor on Koffee with Karan speaks out loud that celebrities don’t waste money in buying, but wear borrowed clothes, it did make a significant impact!

What are your expansion plans?

We are currently focusing on expanding through franchises across India. We plan to give our users a physical store experience in over 30 cities. Our aim is to reach 100 stores in the next three years. And we are planning to commence 30 stores in 2023 and continue to grow the C2C model and let our users access luxury at a fraction of the price.

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