Co-founder Navin Rao on The Kaftan Company’s Commitment to Sustainability, Comfort, and Style
StartupTalky presents Recap’22. This is a series of interviews in which we conduct in-depth discussions with founders & industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and their predictions for the future.
Kaftans are a type of traditional clothing originating in the Middle East and North Africa. They are loose, flowing garments that are typically made from lightweight, breathable materials, such as cotton or silk. They are often worn as a type of formal or semi-formal dress and are often embellished with intricate embroidery, beading, or other decorative elements.
In recent years, kaftans have become popular as a fashion item in many different cultures, including those outside of the Middle East and North Africa. They are now often used as a comfortable and stylish alternative to more traditional clothing items, such as dresses or skirts.
There are many companies that specialize in the production and sale of kaftans. These companies offer a variety of kaftans in different styles, materials, and sizes, and many also offer customization options to ensure that each kaftan is as unique as the person wearing it.
For this Interview, we invited, Navin Rao, Co-founder of The Kaftan Company and we talked about the growth, challenges, insights, and future opportunities in the fashion industry.
Navin: We are India’s leading brand for Kaftans. The Kaftan Company was founded in 2016 when the market was becoming competitive with several new brands. However, this was also when many similar products filled the market, and the founders were keen to create a unique product category that would be comfortable, high-quality, and stylish.
That’s where the Co-founder Prakruti Gupta Rao came across Kaftans. She found that the dress that has been a favorite of royals and celebrities for centuries afforded the right grace, comfort, ease of wearing, and style for all women. It creates the impression of someone who is free-thinking, courageous, and open
to new opportunities and experiences.
StartupTalky: What other products/features have been added in the past year? What is/are the USP/s of your products?
Navin: The Kaftan Company is the leading brand specializing in the design and creation of Kaftans in India. We have innovated and created a diverse range of loungewear, sleepwear, and kaftans for every occasion. We have expanded to loungewear, kids’ kaftans, and even a range of loungewear for men apart from traditional kaftans.
The brand’s commitment to sustainability accompanies the high quality and stylishness of The Kaftan Company’s range of kaftans. The brand has given a contemporary feel to the iconic kaftans and uses cutting-edge technology to make products that are environmentally friendly.
Departing from the conventional printing methods, TKC produces digitally printed kaftans. This helps in saving water, dyes, electricity, and even fuel. Further, it is almost a zero-waste fashion brand with ethical production practices and a constant focus on using natural fabrics that enable artisans to display traditional craftsmanship.
StartupTalky: How has the fashion industry changed in recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
Navin: The fashion industry has become increasingly competitive, and in the last few years, we have seen a lot of D2C brands come up in the segment. In the wake of the pandemic, there is a greater demand for comfortable and stylish dresses to wear at home or outside with equal ease.
Further, we are witnessing much attention on eco-friendly manufacturing and growing customer demand for natural fabrics and colors that don’t harm the environment.
At TKC, we have already been following a manufacturing process that minimizes raw material waste through digital design and printing. We use natural fabrics in our products and this emphasis on comfort and sustainability has made TKC a market-leading brand.
StartupTalky: How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in your industry?
Navin: We constantly follow global fashion trends and keep an eye on what style, pattern, or design dominates the popular international and domestic markets. We read style guides and fashion roundups and follow the fashion trends and leading magazines to remain updated. At the same time, we also regularly focus on innovating and creating new trends based on the kaftans.
StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to check the company’s growth and performance?
Navin: There are multiple metrics we look at when considering the company’s growth and performance. The standard and basic ones include various revenue-based metrics. Being a digital-only brand, we look at various metrics within the digital marketing space. These include monitoring the average revenue per user, lifetime value, customer acquisition costs, repeat purchase rate, etc. Ultimately customer loyalty program and their measurement also plays a significant part in
understanding the preference of our customers.
StartupTalky: What were the most significant challenges your company faced in the past year and how did you overcome them?
Navin: As we continue to grow and evolve as a brand, our messaging to customers was getting confusing with the various categories and names associated with our group of sleepwear and loungewear kaftans. (Women’s, Maternity, Kids, Men’s, etc…) As a result, we spent a lot of time consolidating and identifying a consistent image to portray to our customers in recognition of our brand. This meant creating new standardized logos, taglines, and essentially a corporate identity with relevant guidelines in place. We look forward to maintaining this image and providing consistency so our customers easily identify with our brand as we continue to appreciate their loyalty and support.
StartupTalky: Repeat purchase is one of the most important parameters on which most e-commerce brands are betting. How do you keep your customer engaged to stop churn?
Navin: Modern customers are very conscious of the quality, comfort, and value they get from the products they purchase. They are more focused on getting an enhanced all-around experience with the products they buy. Happy customers make repeat purchases and are most likely to help the brand grow organically. By creating, innovative, high-quality, comfortable, and competitively priced kaftans and other dress items for women, kids, and men, we have managed to deliver on
all these parameters.
StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack which you pulled off.
Navin: We are an eCommerce platform specializing in fashionable kaftans. We use social media marketing and search engine marketing to promote the products. Further, our most significant focus is on content marketing. We have a high-traffic website where we regularly publish fashion blogs, daily wear guides, and information pieces about innovations and new developments in the world of kaftans.
Further, we leverage influencer marketing by collaborating with celebrities and
social media influencers. A key growth hack for TKC has been the focus on quality which has led the brand to a more substantial repeat clientele and word-of-mouth publicity.
StartupTalky: What are the important tools and software you use to run your business smoothly?
Navin: We use the latest eCommerce, digital design and printing tools, and various relevant software to keep operations lean, eco-friendly, and smooth.
StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in your industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behavior have you seen within states in India?
Navin: India has vast market potential, and as awareness about sustainable, comfortable, and high-quality fashion grows, we are witnessing a rapid growth in demand for kaftans. When we started in 2016, there were only a few options to buy kaftans in India, and they were usually uninspiring and costly.
The Kaftan Company was the first brand to formally retail kaftans as its core offering in the country, and the growth has been spectacular. The market is rapidly growing in India and globally, and kaftans have become the core upon which loungewear, maternity wear, beach wear, etc., is now based. India is a vast country with diverse cultures and fashion sensibilities in each.
Some regions are very warm to kaftans, and others where we see very little awareness about the kaftans. However, the market is opening up through sustained content marketing and user experience for kaftans. Several new brands have come into the arena. Even though they don’t match our kaftans in quality or creativity, these brands are helping build a competitive and national market for kaftans.
StartupTalky: What lessons did your team learn in the past year, and how will these inform your plans and strategies?
Navin: Our team has learned to handle adversity and change in the past year. The continued impact and uncertainty of current times combined with the continuous change in the digital landscape means no two days are ever the same. The team has understood that sustaining through the current business environment isn’t easy, and one must always be ready to embrace change in order to continue to grow.
StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the Customers, SKUs, and team base in the future?
Navin: We regularly introduce new designs and have been expanding our presence in the domestic and international markets through the eCommerce channel; we have also introduced a wide range of product categories such as kaftans pants, maternity wear, kids wear, and menswear, etc. The team is also steadily growing in sync with the rise in demand after the pandemic. We currently
have more than 500 SKUs, and the numbers will keep increasing as we go along.
StartupTalky: With so much hype around D2C brands spending on ads, what will be your growth strategy, organic or inorganic? How to plan to work around SEO and content marketing?
Navin: SEO and content marketing are two of our key marketing channels. The Kaftan Company has benefited from content marketing, and it will remain pivotal to our brand. Consumers not only want to browse through the diversity of products but are also keen to know why they should choose a product like a kaftan. They want to know about the various options, the manufacturing process, and the quality of the dresses on offer. Through regular usage of content marketing, we
advise our audience on what kind of dresses or kaftans they should wear on different occasions and in different seasons.
Navin: Embrace the changes in an uncertain business environment, and always be aiming far ahead while also learning from the past.
We thank Navin for spending his valuable time and sharing his learnings with all of us.