Among the early ones in Kerala to realize the power of social media, Revathy Unnikrishnan successfully harnessed it to expand a small-town garment business into one with customers across India and beyond.
Revathy studied biotechnology, but landed in a world of garments. After she got married and moved to Kochi, Revathy joined a friend at her boutique, helping with online marketing that was in its infancy then. She got bored soon and left the job.
But she couldn’t sit idle for long as boredom struck again.
With the backing of her husband, Shyam, who worked in the IT field, Revathy soon became an entrepreneur, opening a shop in her hometown of Perumbavoor where she sold garments made of Indian fabrics.
To promote her venture on social media, she started a Facebook page.
Her experience in the business was limited, but she had a fascination towards fashion and garments.
Revathy traveled across North India to select stuff for her store. Photos of the latest items she brought were posted on the Facebook page.
Many of those who saw the photos called her over the phone, inquiring about the products. Many others visited the shop, seeking the same stuff that they saw on the Facebook page.
The customer response made Revathy realize the power of social media, and her focus turned towards harnessing it to the maximum.
By then, online retail had started to gain acceptance in Kerala. Many firms mushroomed to make use of this new opportunity.
To succeed in an increasingly crowded market, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest. That realization laid the base for her success.
Revathy started working on exclusive products. She developed her own patterns and got weavers to make those for her.
Since she already had so many customers through the Facebook page, Revathy needed to do little extra promotion when she opened a boutique store, Jugalbandhi, in Kochi.
Now she gets orders via Instagram besides Facebook. A website is ready, and its launch is set to happen in the New Year.
Payment through account
Every two weeks, Revathy gets professional photographers to take pictures of new products and post those on the Facebook page.
Customers place orders through the Facebook page, over the phone or via e-mail. Once the order is verified, the product is couriered to the customer.
Most customers pay through bank transfer though Jugalbandhi offers a payment gateway for card payments.
It provides the customer with the courier tracking number and ensures that the consignment has reached the buyer.
Revathy doesn’t charge the courier fee on the product price. Instead, the customer has to pay it while taking delivery of the consignment. Since courier charges are different in different places, this keeps the cost at the lowest for the consumer.
No big investment, staff or space is needed to start a business like this one online. It can be run from anywhere and social media can be leveraged for marketing.
But reacting quickly to changing trends in the market is key to success, and so is the way customers are responded to.
Revathy makes it a point to respond at the quickest possible time to any query on Jugalbandhi. If you responded late and the customer is abroad, for instance, she could see the response only the next day. By that time, she may lose interest in the product.
A key lesson in online marketing, advises Revathy, is that the seller must respond immediately to enquiries and complete the deal at the earliest.
Jugalbandhi makes Rs 8-10 lakh of business every month via social media. In seasons, this could increase to Rs 20 lakh. Profit margin in this business is about 30%.
Shyam takes care of the accounting side of the business while Revathy is in charge of design, production and marketing.
Even though Jugalbandhi employs designers, Revathy decides on the final nuances.
This, she says, ensures the character and taste of the brand which otherwise may change when the designer changes.
Jugalbandhi’s production unit is on the top floor of their house in Vyttila and the boutique is nearby.
While managing the business, Revathy finds time also to take care of her two-year-old daughter.
She is currently working towards opening Jugalbandhi’s franchisee outlets within and outside Kerala.