Actor Samantha Ruth Prabhu on entrepreneurship and scaling her brand Saaki
Over the past decade, celebrity brands in India have begun to emerge, with a great deal of them popping up in the last five years, clearly after the success of brands by Virat Kohli, Hrithik Roshan, Salman, Akshay Kumar among others.
And it’s not just men celebrities—Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, and Anushka Sharma have their own successful brands, too.
But it takes more than hype to build a successful fashion brand as they aren’t just competing with each other, but also competing with domestic and global fashion houses.
One such brand is Saaki, a direct-to-consumer ethnic fashion brand co-created by South Indian actor Samantha Ruth Prabhu & former Miss India winner Sushruthi Krishna.
Founded in 2020, Saaki has already scaled to a revenue of 2-digit crore annually with 70 percent of revenue coming in organically through its community. The brand delivers to over 15 countries internationally and is growing rapidly with new categories, and distribution channels.
FashionNetwork.com spoke to actor and entrepreneur Samantha Ruth Prabhu about her brand Saaki, expansion, growth, and more.
FashionNetwork.com: The Indian ethnic wear market is estimated to be over USD 10 billion however very few brands have managed to tap the full potential of this market. How does Saaki plan to change that as a relatively new entrant in this space?
Samantha Ruth Prabhu: Till about 2 years ago the customers buying and interacting behaviour was very retail-driven, wherein the customer would reach a destination to discover a brand but now with the influx of D2C, brands can now grow and expand independently. This is also a major reason why many retail-driven brands are unable to utilise this new space. As a D2C brand we hold a crucial advantage of being able to connect to our customers directly and can evolve quickly and constantly as per our customer’s needs and requirements which helps build customer affinity, with our multi-channel strategy gives us an edge.
FNW: The ethnic wear market has been growing at a rapid pace in India with a host of companies getting into this space for growth. What is your assessment of the market and what is the USP of Saaki that makes it stand out from some of the established brands?
SRP: Well, if you look at how India has evolved, you’ll notice that our consumer has also become more globalized and so have their fashion needs. The ethnic wear market has seen a significant change from traditional ethnic wear to a more modern and contemporary take on all ethnic styles. Fusion and indo-western have become a big part of today’s fashion, with the current trend we can safely predict that for the next 10 years the customer's requirements will keep evolving and will get more specific about what they want. Having launched at a time when customer style and the market trend is constantly evolving has been a big plus for us as that was our targeted audience, the other plus for us as a new brand is able to build and mold as per the present customer needs and requirements.
FNW: In a short span of time, the company is clocking revenue in 2-digit crore with minimal ad spend. What is the growth strategy going forward and by when can we expect the brand to hit the 3-digit crore mark?
SRP: These first 2 years have been great, and we have been able to grow organically with the love and loyalty of my fans and their belief in me as well as their trust in the brand and the products. Our plan to achieve our 3-digit mark in the next 3-4 years is to keep building on our customer's loyalty and keep a direct line of communication with them in terms of what is working, what they would want and developing styles that are relevant. We are also looking into broadening our distribution to make the brand more accessible to not only our social media audience but a larger audience and market whose fashion style fits in this space.
FNW: What is the expansion plan for the brand in India and abroad? Which markets are you looking to tap next for growth?
SRP: We saw the potential of tapping into the Indian market abroad at an early stage, the Indians living abroad are aware of Indian cinema and our brand is in a space that caters to ethnic wear for Indian living outside India. we are currently delivering to 16 countries, Malaysia, Singapore, USA, Canada, UAE, U.K & France to name a few. We also plan to build and improve on the services, delivery time and costs, easy accessibility, and other models of online and offline expansion through local marketplaces and standalone stores.
FNW: How much sales are generated from your website and other digital marketplaces?
SRP: Sales generated is 85 percent from website, 15 percent from other digital marketplaces such as Myntra, Nykaa Fashion, Amazon, and Flipkart.
FNW: Saaki has been diversifying its product portfolio by entering new categories. How has the response been to the newly launched categories, and which are the new categories you plan to add going forward?
SRP: We have plans to add newer categories to our portfolio and plan to test these ideas with smaller or limited quantity stocks to ensure the style and fit work well with the audience, and once our loyalist customers find value in the product is when we choose to scale the category. We have recently launched our kids’ line, Saaki Girls, which is off to a good start and gives us the confidence to build our portfolio.
FNW: Saaki is projected as a celebrity ethnic wear brand with you the co-founder as the face of the brand. On the other hand, we see companies with deep pockets signing celebrities for their advertising/marketing blitzkrieg or rather launching brands with celebrities. As a celebrity entrepreneur, what are the challenges of building a brand from scratch organically without major financial backing?
SRP: As an actor and entrepreneur, I end up donning many hats and have to be at many places at once. This is why having the right partner in business who I can have a shared vision with, was what I was looking for. I found that in Sushruthi, and we’ve been able to scale the brand well in such a short period of time. We have chosen to grow this independently and organically. This has guided us to scale business sustainability. More importantly, this allows us to better own what the brand has to offer, really stay connected to our customers and give them exactly what they want. For me Saaki is personal and has a larger purpose of create new and relevant fashion that is accessible to all. This personal vision, our partnership, and the effort that our team put in to grow is what differentiates this from an endorsement.
FNW: We see a lot of designer brands being acquired by big fashion companies. Will Saaki be open to stake sale to fuel future growth or continue to build the brand organically and independently?
SRP: For a period, we will continue to grow it organically and independently.
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