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How Nitin Chhabra is acing the retail game with technology

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R S Roy
R S Roy
R S Roy is the editorial advisor at IMAGES Group

Ace Turtle’s chief executive officer Nitin Chhabra is using technology to offer differentiated omnichannel experiences to customers of the brands he is operating in India and rewriting their success stories

Nitin Chhabra the chief executive officer of Ace Turtle which operates Lee, Wrangler, Toys“R”Us, Babies”R”Us and Dockers in India has successfully cracked the retail code with technology.

He has spent most of his career in leadership roles in retail with companies like Arvind Brands, VF Corporation, Reliance Brands, Reid & Taylor India, Brooks Brothers India and Iconix Brand Group before founding Ace Turtle in Bengaluru.

Ace Turtle is a leading tech-native retail company. The company is vertically integrated from design, local manufacturing and marketing to reach consumers directly. Ace Turtle is powered by its proprietary technology which uses data science from design to fulfilment to meet ever-evolving consumer expectations. Bengaluru and Singapore-based Ace Turtle is the exclusive licensee of iconic global brands Lee®, Wrangler®, Toys”R”Us®, Babies”R”Us® and Dockers® for India and other South Asian markets.

Early life

Chhabra embarked on his professional journey in 1998, joining Hindustan Unilever as a Territory Sales Incharge.

Hailing from Chandigarh, Chhabra pursued his education with a B.Com from the University of Delhi, followed by an MBA from Apeejay School of Management.

During his stints at retail companies in leadership roles, he realised how the web was impacting retail. He also saw the gap in developing omni-channel capabilities for a brand. E-commerce was just picking up in India during this period and price points were also improving, though it was largely discount-driven.

There were pockets of customers spread across the country, who might not be large enough in numbers to justify servicing through a store but could be reached through e-commerce.

To help businesses address that gap, he took the entrepreneurial plunge in 2014 to start Ace Turtle as a SaaS-based omnichannel enabler of retailers and brands providing them with its proprietary tech platforms and solutions. By 2020 it had grown to become the largest player in the segment with almost 70-odd domestic and international brands as customers.

However, the pandemic company changed course during the pandemic to adopt a new business model. Ace Turtle took over the India business of its SaaS clients Lee and Wrangler from Kontoor Brands on a long-term licensing agreement for India and select South Asian markets.

Business Milestones

In the financial year (FY) 2023, Ace Turtle achieved unprecedented sales milestones for iconic brands like Lee and Wrangler, marking their highest-ever annual sales in India’s 25-year history—as per the media, its turnover was Rs INR 280 crore.

Witnessing over 100% growth in FY23 compared to FY22, followed by a robust 40% growth in FY24, Ace Turtle’s success story continues to soar.

Expanding its portfolio, Ace Turtle introduced Dockers in February 2024, aiming to diversify and bolster its revenue streams in FY25.

Expansion Plans

With over 110 mono-brand retail stores currently under its portfolio, Ace Turtle is poised for further expansion.

In FY2025, the company targets the addition of 100 new stores, with 50 each dedicated to Lee and Wrangler.

Additionally, Toys“R”Us will see 12 stores by December 2024, while Dockers aims for five stores in 2024, scaling up to 20 stores in the coming years.

Tech-driven transformation

Rubicon, the company’s proprietary tech platform, has played a crucial role in bridging the gap between online and offline retail channels. Rubicon enables a single view of the distributed inventory for the company’s brands. This means that even if the consumer does not find the product of one’s choice at the brick-and-mortar store, s/he can either order it from another outlet or the webshop. The consumer also has the option of having the order delivered to the doorstep, or of picking it up at the store.

Rubicon has enabled Ace Turtle to automate tasks such as stock replenishment, which has helped it to reduce instances of non-availability of products.

Furthermore, the company has deployed several in-store technologies, reshaping the traditional shopping experience across its retail spaces. Smart mirrors at its Lee and Wrangler flagship stores dynamically identify items brought in by customers, offering real-time suggestions for an enriched fitting room encounter. Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) at all its stores (Lee, Wrangler, Toys”R”Us and Dockers) ensure a cohesive view of inventory and pricing, providing customers with instant updates on discounts and promotions. The Endless Aisles seamlessly bridge online and offline channels, enabling flexible ordering and pickup options.

Meanwhile, the Wrangler flagship store in Indiranagar, Bengaluru showcases an augmented reality (AR) mural, captivating customers with an interactive visual experience. Complementing this, Wrangler’s AR-enabled smart mirrors transcend traditional fittings, offering personalised recommendations. The company has also integrated QR codes into the store’s sale windows, which is a simplified way of integrating technology. This comprehensive integration of smart mirrors, ESL, Endless Aisle, and AR technologies is one of the steps taken by Ace Turtle to blend innovation seamlessly with consumer engagement.

Today, the company has completely transitioned out of the SaaS business.

And targets only those brands which will appeal to the Indian middle class. Its licensed brand portfolio comprises legacy brands with strong brand equity in the Indian market targeted at the fast-growing middle class.

Meet the Maverick

Chhabra’s profound understanding of the Indian retail landscape and the transformative potential of technology has been pivotal to the company’s success.

Nitin Chhabra’s journey epitomizes the fusion of entrepreneurial spirit, technological prowess, and a relentless drive for innovation, shaping Ace Turtle into a trailblazer in the Indian retail landscape.

The maverick will share invaluable insights into the ever-evolving retail landscape and how technology will drive the next phase of transformation. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from a trailblazer at the Phygital Retail Convention (𝐏𝐑𝐂) 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟒.

Stay tuned for more updates and witness the transformative impact of his expertise on the future of retail!

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