Startup Clovia brings smart algorithms, augmented reality to fashion

Clovia started operations in 2012 and today is the fastest growing online lingerie brand in the country, says co-founder Neha Kant.

Lingerie has always been talked in hushed voices in our country. It has always been a pain for women to shop from physical stores as they were mostly run by men, we all have heard stories about women facing sarcastic comments about their choices and preferences of lingerie. “While travelling abroad, I realised that there exists a major gap in the intimate wear for women in India. With the expansion of internet penetration in the country and the already existing gap in lingerie business, I decided to take the less travelled road, with the help of my husband (tech entrepreneur Pankaj Vermani), a very senior tech specialist and an experienced lingerie expert on board, Clovia happened!” shares co-founder Neha Kant.

Clovia started operations in 2012. Speaking about the journey as an entrepreneur, Neha says it has been a roller-coaster ride. “I have had my share of high and low phases while being in business. A major challenge was to build a supply chain that can churn a large number of styles every week to keep up the freshness of our catalogue. But all the efforts paid off well and Clovia, today is the fastest growing online lingerie brand in the country,” reveals Neha.

The Clovia founding team is a mix of designers, product experts and sales and business operations. While Neha herself has a decade of experience in corporate India, Pankaj, who dons the CEO hat, is a serial entrepreneur and has co-founded and grown two companies in the past which were successfully acquired. Co-founder and COO at Clovia Suman Chowdhury has been associated with brands like Levis, Lee Cooper and has extensive experience in business operations, supply chain and business development. CTO at Clovia, Aditya Chaturvedi has been part of the core teams of multiple startups and has a track record of setting up and growing business operations and technology.

The team consists of about 110 members, primarily in technology, design and production. “The team is poised to handle over 6,00,000 pieces a month currently and are working towards multiplying this capacity,” says Neha. Sharing more details on how Clovia functions and their business model, Neha says, “The lingerie ecosystem in India has been operating with the age-old system of making a handful of styles a year and pushing it to the end customer through regular distribution channels. This model is extremely inefficient for this industry which has multiple sizes and solutions required by end consumer - quite contrary to the regular apparel industry. This is what makes online an extremely strong channel for the category. Moreover when you operate with multiple sizes and solutions, customer feedback plays a huge role in this model, which further gets delayed in the offline distribution model. As against a regular offline manufacturer which does 80-100 designs a year at best, we offer over 200 new styles of lingerie every month for our end customer with an online-first approach.” Neha adds that they design in-house, outsource the end manufacturing with strict quality controls of their own and sell through multiple channels, with online channels being their first love. “We don’t want to take more than 1 hop to reach the end customer - for faster feedback and quick inventory turn-arounds,” says Neha.

Clovia, explains Pankaj Vermani, is an amalgamation of fashion and technology, and they are well aware of the role that technology plays in providing a great shopping experience to their consumer. They have a proprietary technology engine, which analyses the speed at which the products are selling and the feedback on its products. “Basis the selling pattern to the customer and the feedback from the consumer, the system decides which design/style needs to be replenished and which should be discarded. Clovia inputs multiple styles across multiple categories of intimate wear in the market. Once put to sale, the technology takes over and manages the entire decision-making there on how much to produce next and when the consignment should hit the warehouse helping keep a lean inventory level,” he adds.

Vermani adds that the latest usage of technology by Clovia is via their ‘Fitting Booths’. “Clovia is working on developing Fitting Booths in 25 major Tier 1 and Tier 2 towns in India. It intends to help customers get basic information on size and fits through extensive use of augmented reality,” shares Vermani.

Speaking about growth plans, Neha informs us that India’s lingerie market is $3 billion (i.e. Rs 18,000 crore) and Clovia has the team, the mix, the ethics, the product and the head start to be the leader in this space. “There have been phases of apparel in this country that changed the way we dressed up and now, we believe is the time for lingerie. Clovia is the front-runner in capturing the customer mind share,” believes Neha.

The company is currently predominantly online and will continue to be because they see that this category with its width of products and sizes can only be serviced in full via this channel. To expand their network, Clovia has recently launched 8 shop-in-shop outlets at various airports in the country. In terms of funding, Clovia has raised two rounds – seed and series A.

Neha says that while most of the online lingerie stores are aggregators for different intimate wear brands, Clovia manufactures its own products and that it sets them apart. “We have an in-house designing team that helps us innovate and create products that are high on style and ultimate in comfort. We import fabrics, laces and satins from different parts of the world, but everything is manufactured in India. Clovia’s USP is the variety of solutions and styles that we offer to our customers. We launch 200+ styles per month and more than 75 percent of our inventory is less than 30 days old,” shares Neha. This is also achieved through their proprietary technology and its algorithms that Vermani highlighted.

Clovia is focusing on tier 2 and 3 cities as it tries to carve out a niche for itself in the Indian lingerie market. Realising that 60 percent of its sales are coming from tier 2 and 3 cities, the platform is coming out with new products and designs based on customer feedback from these cities, as it draws up an omni-channel strategy for these underserved markets.

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