Interview with Sujayath Ali, Co-Founder and CEO

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Red Embroidered Lehenga - Rs.17%2c925

The festival season is officially here and the next few months are all about celebrations. And ethnic wear is an integral part of this season. So if you are wondering where you can shop for trendy clothes, head to Voonik a fashion marketplace with a focus on personalization. The company has built a sophisticated stylist recommendation functionality and using their in-house AI platform, users discover the most relevant fashion that suits their body, lifestyle, personality and budget. Customers can shop using Voonik Android App, iOS, website for sarees, kurta kurtis, dress material, dresses, tops, jeans, jeggings, leggings, jewellery, lingerie and more. Voonik is India’s first personal shopping app. The Bangalore-based funded startup was started with a vision to be “every woman’s personal stylist”. Voonik has a highly differentiated proposition of offering a free, online personal stylist in an app to its users. It also brings the convenience of multiple stores on one single cart. With over 15,00,000 products from more than 4000 stores including top online stores and 3000 brands are made available to discerning users interested in shopping for fashion that makes them look good. Voonik offers the largest catalogue of women’s fashion products.

Ruffles Ahead Playful Shirt
Ruffles Ahead Playful Shirt

Voonik is the leader in the unbranded fashion category with an annual GMV rate of over 120 Million USD. It has over 20 Million registered users, with 17 Million app downloads. Voonik has built best-in-class personalization technology that made it the most engaging ecommerce app in India. On the supply side, it has over 15 Lakh products from more than 22,000 sellers. Voonik has a highly scalable ‘lean’ marketplace business model where it operates without inventory and fulfilment centres.  Sujayath Ali, Co-Founder and CEO of Voonik, has over a decade of experience in Product Management, E-commerce, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Mobile Commerce and go-to Market strategy amongst others. He has demonstrated technical and leadership skills to spearhead the top consumer app, Voonik. An MBA in Technology and Finance from the Indian School of Business, he also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science Engineering from Mepco Schlenk Engineering College. He works with Navaneetha Krishnan CTO, who spearheads the IT department of the company right from its inception. In this exclusive conversation, Sujayath Ali, Co-Founder and CEO tells us more.

Black Winter Jackets
Black Winter Jackets

Tell us about and what makes it different?

Voonik is India’s first only for women, personalized shopping platform. We believe in democratizing fashion, helping women find trends suited for them and shop the trendy clothes without hurting their budget. Our high-tech personalization platform that takes 3000 variables to run a personalization logic, our highly curated merchandise and the best price best quality in online challenge makes us a differentiated fashion platform.

The e-commerce space is continually evolving. What are you doing to ensure you stay connected with your customers?

We are connecting with customers with the things they are interested in and through the media they prefer. Video content is the next big thing on e-commerce and that is why we launched our video commerce offering VoonikTV, to help customers discover categories through interesting videos.

Tell us more about “Voonik TV”.

Voonik TV is India’s first video commerce offering where customers can view interesting videos on their Voonik App and buy directly from those videos. Currently, all videos are either made by our stylists or our blogger community. But soon we’ll open it for posting videos for all sellers, boutique owners and users. Anyone who has a fashion product to sell can create a video and put it on Voonik TV. They will get the commission on the Voonik products sold through their videos.

Forever Festive Saree
Forever Festive Saree

What are the kinds of clothing lines that are doing well?

Saree is our key category, we’re seeing a huge demand surge for silk and embellished sarees. At the same time, a lot of customers are asking for ethnic wear with a modern take such as crop tops with Sarees and such. In men’s collections, sports shoes and casual shoes are our best performing categories and contribute to 50% + to MrVoonik GMV. Some new categories such as plus size and junk jewellery are also generating a lot of customer interest.

Which markets are driving business?

About 75% of our orders come from non-metros and smaller cities. Orders from State capitals such as Patna, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar are surging, and so is the demand from Northeastern states.

How do you handle competition?

We handle competition by giving the best price and best quality collections to our customers, which ensures that they are happy with the Voonik experience. Over the last 3 months, our NPS (net promoter scores) have consistently stayed above 40 across touch points.

Tell us about your loyalty program.

Voonik Primo is designed for customers who want value for their money. By just paying a nominal subscription fee a customer gets exempted from shipping and Cash on delivery (COD) charges plus get a host of other benefits such as one-on-one chat with a Personal Stylist, priority customer care and such. Our customers love the program, in just a couple of months of launch Primo has become a 35% contributor to revenue plus the subscribed base has crossed the 100,000 mark.

Pink Embroidered Lehenga
Pink Embroidered Lehenga

How is business from tier 2 and 3 cities?

75% of our orders come from non-metros and Tier 2 & 3 cities. With the consistent 3G/4G penetration, app downloads and shopping from these cities have surged. However, the pin code coverage, high rates of order rejected at the delivery point, and such remain key challenges.

How is the men segment doing versus the women?

MrVoonik is outperforming Voonik, it is almost 50% of our total business now. We are getting a consistently high number of orders in many categories such as sports shoes, sunglasses and fashion watches. Also the conversion rates, marketing efficiency and discovery is much better for Mr Voonik.

Tell us about your focus on handlooms?

We want to promote handloom across our platforms. We’ve tied up with head weavers in all the 8 major handloom clusters (Kanchipuram, Uppada, Pochampalli, Gadwal, Sambalpur, Banaras, Arani, Chanderi) of India. As a result, we are the largest online saree sellers in the country. After festival season, we’ll also bring out handloom products for men.

Do you have your own labels or plan to have them in future?

Our two acquisitions Picksilk and Zohraa are already established brands on our platforms. Picksilk which is brand of pure silk sarees offers India’s largest collection on silk sarees online. India’s rich handloom heritage, expressed through a multitude of weaving and embroidery styles is available at prices much lower than the retail markets, through the Picksilk brand. Similarly, Zohraa is now a popular brand on Voonik for designer styles and embroidered collection in suits and sarees. Over the course of next three months, we will launch our private labels for sarees, footwear, bags, T-shirts and men’s formal wear.

Do you see any interesting trends as far as buying apparel online are concerned?

One of the most interesting trends we notice in the ethnic apparel buying trend is the searches for indo western styles. Kurta with skirts, dhoti style bottom-wear with Kurtis, crop tops with sarees are some such popular searches. The trend clearly shows that Indian consumers are open to experimentation even in the core apparel categories such as sarees and suits.

What are your future plans?

In the next 12-18 months, we will keep focus on our key goals. Scaling up Voonik TV, increasing Voonik Primo subscriber base and launching our in-house brands in all core categories will remain our core projects.

This story appeared in the Nov 2017 issue of Apparel magazine here:

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