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Founder Interview: Ray & Dale

As India gets more fashion savvy, startups are gearing up deliver new products and services. Here is the story of Ray & Dale – a luxury shirt manufacturer that aims to service the needs of ‘The emerging fashion conscious Indian man’.

Who is the team behind Ray & Dale and how did the idea come to be?

Ronil Dalal: After completing his post graduation in Finance from Cass Business School in London, Ronil was well prepared to take on the banking industry. However after a short stint into Investment Banking, a lifelong passion for fashion and a styling project by his brother Rayan caught his attention and the idea of Ray & Dale – the business was borne.

Rayan Dalal: Currently completing his Bachelor of Commerce, Banking & Insurance degree at HR College, Rayan has always had a flair for fashion and an inclination towards creating. This thirst for creativity led to a project in personalised clothing which was a great inspiration for Ray & Dale as we know and love today.

The brand was set up with the simple purpose of meeting the needs of the new age fashion savvy India. The idea was to deliver an aspirational lifestyle experience with easy access to all those who seek high quality and fashion.

Your target consumer is “the emerging fashion conscious man” – can you describe these users and their needs?

The male customer is often neglected and feared by many due to their cautious spending habits as a group but this is changing very quickly.

In the Indian scenario, men have always had to the ability to make purchase decisions and now men are showing the willingness to do so too. Quality and fashion are big factors in the purchase decision, ease of shopping with easy return and refunds are equally important. More and more men are keeping up with the latest lifestyle and fashion trends and the fashion market in India is on the rise with promising brands setting up in India every year

E-commerce has become very competitive in India – how big of an advantage (or disadvantage) is it that you are going after a smaller niche that is traditionally overlooked when one aims for fashion startups?

E-commerce has a huge potential and it is a good time to capitalise on the e-commerce wave. Spending by large companies encourages higher number of people feeling comfortable in using online platforms and surfing the internet for the first time to meet their needs. This opens the customer to the idea of shopping online and this benefits smaller players too. Loyalty is earned through quality, good customer service and branding.

Most of the fashion startups are solely focussing on women and these are hence not our competitors. Infact we have received a lot of help and encouragement by established fashion start ups focussing on womenswear and accessories as we are not in direct competition.

Many market places find it hard to find good menswear brands and hence it becomes easier to approach them and they are more willing to cooperate too.

What is your manufacturing and design process?

We have always persevered to give you products which are meticulously handcrafted / carefully selected to ensure you get the best in quality and fashion. The customer experience is always at the centre of what we do.

Manufacturing scale is modest at this point and we are growing with the niche. We are looking for a full scale up based on target audience response and industry experts feedback and assessment so that we might effectively leverage our strengths and do away with our weakness. We have been operational for a little over 6 months and we have added tremendously to the value proposition we set out to deliver.

We are also looking out constantly for talented young designers and manufacturers who share our beliefs and values for a mutually beneficial relationship bringing you never before seen or previously inaccessible products delivered to your doorstep.

How has the growth been since launch and what are the future plans?

It has been a little over 6 months since Ray & Dale has gone live and the response has been very encouraging. We have received a lot of appreciation for our style, fashion as well as our quality which is extremely positive. We have also been able to target a large amount of women through a ‘gifts for him’ marketing campaign which has been extremely successful. We started out with shirts and have since added almost 10-12 new product lines of accessories.

The focus will remain on quality rather than quantity and each product is carefully selected keeping in mind the target audience. Demand for fashion will drive sales and The E-boutique model will remain intact. A limited roll out on online market places will come into play too.Tie up with stockists across the country would also help improving our reach.

Efficient ROCE model and quicker inventory turnover will improve capability and costs. Larger operations will reduce costs.

What is your one tip for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Build a product you yourself would be happy and excited to buy at the proposed price and make sure you are not the only one who thinks so! Make sure you have a unique selling proposition and know your target audience well. Always know that the customer is your point of revenue and learning, so never take the customer for granted.

Don’t forget to register your brand and logo and meet all legal and accounting requirements in an efficient and timely manner. Avoid any black money transactions and pay your taxes effectively. This will go a long way if you’re looking to raise funding or sell your idea in the future.

Remember there is no substitute for hard work but be smart to make sure you’re using your time and effort in the most effective manner. A good team can do wonders – a bad one will destroy you.

Marketing is key and without successful marketing you will be unable to reach your target customer effectively having a good product or service alone will not suffice. Online marketplaces and social media campaigns are effective ways to reach large and relevant audiences at minimal costs. Writing to magazines and Newspapers can go a long way too in spreading the word.

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