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Want to build Snitch as the Zara of India: Founder Siddharth Dungarwal

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The brand, which runs with the tagline of ‘Made in India for the World’, grew over 150% in the financial year (FY) 2023-2024

New Delhi: Bengaluru-based D2C fashion brand Snitch plans to position itself as the Zara of India, its founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Siddharth Dungarwal told IndiaRetailing.

Snitch, which has been on an aggressive offline expansion, has opened over seven stores to date and plans to open the eighth store soon as a step towards reaching the milestone of around 30 stores by the end of this fiscal year. The company recently opened its 10,000 sq. ft. store in HSR layout in Bengaluru.

The brand, which runs with the tagline of ‘Made in India for the World,’ grew over 150% in the financial year (FY) 2023-2024 as compared to the previous year, its top executive said in a social media post in April.

In an exclusive interview with IndiaRetailing, Snitch’s founder Dungarwal talks about the brand’s journey, Indian market and the potential it holds.

Edited Excerpts…

Tell us the story behind the birth of Snitch and it’s unusual name.

I started my journey with a small retail store, then got into trading and then into manufacturing. In 2019, I decided to start Snitch again, this time as a B2B brand because that is what I was good at.

We used to manufacture products under the Snitch label and distribute to retailers. Within nine months of starting our operations, the pandemic hit, and we were left with a huge inventory. The first thing that came to my mind was going online, maybe a marketplace like Ajio or Myntra and try and liquidate the stock. But then I realized that we wouldn’t be making any money if we did that, and the brand would not get any recognition. That’s how the idea of starting our own website came up.

So, in July 2020 we launched with about 35 products, two racks in the corner of the office—our version of a warehouse—and a team of four.

The three years since then have been a rollercoaster ride for us. Today, we ship almost 12,000 pieces every day, largely through our own platform and e-commerce marketplaces.

The reason why we started Snitch is after speaking to many consumers, we understood what they were looking for. Especially during the pandemic, I had a lot of free time, so I could speak to a lot of people. What I observed was that youngsters, especially the Gen-Zs and the millennials, were not getting associated with the brands that existed in India. They were not resonating with Louis Philippe or Allen Solly or any traditional brand.

So, you saw a gap with an Alan Solly and Louis Philippe on one hand and the Zaras of the world on the other?

Yeah, there was nothing in between. The reason why traditional Indian brands were not filing the gaps in the market, was the supply chain was completely broken. So, we first worked on the supply chain.

What did you do exactly?

So largely, if you are a brand, what you usually do is you produce a collection and distribute to maybe seven, eight vendors. Get quotes from them. They would make samples, and prototypes. It takes about six to eight months for a brand to launch a collection. We said, no, we are going to launch products within 25 days. And for that we wanted free hands-on factories and free hands on the raw materials. So we built a team there.

So today, whenever we produce any merchandise, the first thing that we think of is the capacity of the factory and how we can work with them on a contract basis. So we give them sort of a minimum guarantee in terms of orders. We acquire the complete factory—We don’t invest in the factory, but we guarantee the entire capacity of the factory. We provide the raw materials, we provide the silhouettes, the CADs (computer-aided design garments), that is required. The factory has to just cut, stitch and pack. And by doing this, the ability for us to bring new products, more frequently within 25 days becomes easy.

How did it work?

Like I told you, the first thought was obviously to go to marketplaces. But when I opened the apps and I saw there were 10,000 brands, I asked myself, how is anyone going to look at my brand?

How are we going to differentiate as everyone there is chasing discounts? And we were sure we did not want to be a discount-oriented brand. Plus, it was all cluttered and one was not even making money. So, why not start our own website even if we don’t make money, we are building a brand?

But how did people discover you?

Initially, it was largely all friends and family. Then we learned how to do performance marketing on Facebook, Instagram and we cracked a lot of content there. We knew how to engage with Gen Zs, millennials and the sort of content they consume. We learnt how to bring the brand into that sort of content. The biggest factors were: timing and customer experience. From day one, we were clear that we want to keep the company customer centric.

What did you do differently in customer experience?

To compete with the likes of Myntra and Amazon, we knew that our experience needs to be really crisp, especially with the reverse logistics. The biggest reason why consumers don’t buy online is because return or exchange is not hassle free. We assured consumers that ours would be. As soon as the product is picked up from their doorstep, they would get an instant refund, even before the product to reach our warehouse.

There’s a quality control process. So that takes almost 15 days, which is frustrating for a person who’s paid money. We understood such small insights of consumers. What is it that will make them come back? And I think that was important.

It’s not just the product, but the speed of all experience. Product is about 30% of the business…. 70% is the experience and how you make it aspirational for them. Zara is an affordable fast fashion brand in Europe. When it came to India, it became a premium fast fashion brand. The positioning changed. We want to build the Zara that was built in Europe for India. We have taken a lot of insights from consumers. For example, Zara follows one fit for the entire world. We said, no, we are catering in India. Indian body types and climatic conditions are different. And we made a product, which were relevant to the Indian consumers.

For instance, Indians don’t wear slim fit shirts. So we kept the silhouette right. In terms of the fabric blend as well since there are no extreme winters here, but extreme summers, we had to be careful in choosing the fabrics that we play with. Also, we are very strong in design and we understood trends much better than any of the competition.

If somebody were to ask, what is your strongest point, what would you say?

The number one thing is the product. We kept our pricing sharp. Our positioning is exactly in between a Max and an H&M, where we are maybe 30% upwards from a Max, but giving the product quality and the aspiration of a Zara and H&M. And for consumers of Zara and H&M, we are more like a value brand with the same sort of aspiration and product quality.

And how big is your design team?

Our design team is small with seven designers. What we largely focus on is the supply chain itself. You know, as soon as a design is made, how fast can we get that onto the market with a very small MOQ (minimum order quantity) and then start building business.

Did you face a challenge initially convincing mall owners to get store spaces.

It has changed now, especially over the last six months. We started our offline journey about six months back with an offbeat store in Jayanagar in Bengaluru. The store is performing is phenomenally—we do close to about Rs 1.25 crore in net sales a month and it is not even on a high street. So now malls have started recognizing us and it’s become easier. We are building the team for the offline journey as well.

Right now, you are focused on menswear. Would you look at women’s wear as well?

We want to stick on to the men’s space because I think there’s a lot more that we have to do here and at least for the next 18 to 24 months, I don’t see us sort of pivoting from here.

D2C brands report increase in online sales when they open and expand offline stores. Is it the case with you?

For us, it has increased even more because now when they visit a store, they actually know the brand. But sometimes it also goes down because people conveniently go to the store and buy. For me, the entire business is what matters, not online, offline. What is the sort of unit economics the whole business is running at and what sort of numbers are we doing.

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