When we think of where to shop online for our “desi” clothes, Exclusively.com immediately comes to mind. The site has been and continues to be one of the leading online retailers for those looking for fashion by Indian designers, but are outside of India. The site has an impressive list of top designers – from Anita Dongre to Ritu Kumar to Shantanu & Nikhil – as well as pieces by some lesser-known designers, too. Whether it’s a Payal Singhal lehenga right off the run-way or a Pankaj & Nidhi blouse from two seasons ago, it’s yours in a matter of a few clicks. And, Exclusively also powers the sites of India’s leading fashion men – Manish Malhotra, Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, and Manish Arora – that’s major! So, we were pretty excited to run into the couple behind this powerhouse e-retailer at last year’s New York Fashion Week, and get to know them a bit since then. Here’s our exclusive chat with them!
Mohini Boparai-Guleria – General Manager, Fashion and Lifestyle, Exclusively.com
Sunjay Guleria – General Manager, Business, Exclusively.com
Mohini & Sunjay
1. How did the idea of Exclusively.com come about?
Sunjay: Having lived in the States, the idea of Exclusively came about looking at the existing need for access to Indian fashion amongst the diaspora there. The Indian community back in the US does like to stick to the traditional roots for weddings and cultural occasions. And this is never complete without Indian outfits. For the longest time there was demand, but never direct access. Shopping for Indian attire was always restricted to when infrequent trips were made to India or was left to relatives, who would then ‘courier’ it.
Exclusively was initially established to feed this gap. We made it easy for Indians to buy the latest from veterans like Manish Malhotra and Tarun Tahiliani to young designers like Payal Singhal.
2. How difficult (or easy!) was it to start out in the fashion e-commerce business?
Sunjay: Back in 2010, it was not as challenging on the demand side. We knew we were the first movers and that our offering was directing the demand in the right direction. However, what was challenging was to educate the fashion fraternity that brick-and-mortar would soon be just one part of the business model and online was where the future was. But, once we on-boarded our first designer and results were there for everyone to see, the proverbial flood-gates opened. There’s been no looking back since then.
Mohini: Over the last few years, Indian fashion has not just become more organized as an industry but also more global in its outlook towards design. Once we were able to showcase this potential for the designers, we were on a roll! As of today, we have curated and brought on board collections by 150 designers. We are more of a fashion destination now than just an ethnic wear website. The journey has been great.
3. How do you define your particular style or approach to design, and how does this translate onto Exclusively.com?
Mohini: I am an architect by profession. So, when I look at fashion, I view it in terms of structure, fabric and attention to detail. I also look at it from the point of view of a consumer. Will this outfit make me feel beautiful? Can I style it with my some pieces from my current wardrobe? Every designer that we on-board needs to relate to the ontemporary Indian consumer. It’s about functionality as much as it is about fashion itself.
4. What would you say is your niche that distinguishes you from the rest of the online retailers?
I believe that what distinguishes us is the fact that we are really trying to cater to the global Indian luxury consumer: the woman who will combine a Jimmy Choo pair of shoes with an Anju Modi jacket and a pair of shoes.
5. What have been your major achievements since you launched Exclusively.com?
Sunjay: At Exclusively, we are clear about the fact that we are not just an e-retail website. Indian designers and brands are today, more than ever, aware of the potential that the online space offers. We are not here to compete, but to facilitate. We try to approach Indian fashion wholistically by helping enpower the ecosystem. Exclusively offers multiple solutions to leverage opportunity for premium Indian fashion. Be it showcasing designers’ new collections on our online store, powering independent websites for them or setting up an online ‘Boutique’ to facilitate leading premium-retailers – we offer customized business models to our partners based on their short- and long-term objectives.
Mohini: Our differentiation lies in the scale and quality of our offerings. Exclusively provides consumers a destination where they can shop from over 150 designers and 10 boutiques, with the click of a mouse. Exclusively has dedicated merchandising teams that continually liaise with the designers and boutiques to offer a careful curation of the classics and seasonal trends. The collections we offer span Indian and Western wear, Prêt and Couture and Accessories.
We also give our consumers hot off the runway access to the latest fashion collections. Shoppers are then able to pre-order the next season’s collection.
In addition, for custom orders, the Exclusively ‘White Glove’ service team will simply take your specifications like measurements, preferred color, required alterations et al to create a look that best suits you.
6. What would you say was the most important decision you made that helped your business get to where it is today?
Sunjay: The Indian fashion industry is very unique in the way it works. By embracing this uniqueness in a holistic manner we have created a robust platform that helps and celebrates the entire Indian fashion ecosystem.
7. Apart from running Exclusively.com and your busy schedules, how did managing the web operations for the topmost Indian designers – such as Manish Arora, Manish Malhotra, and Tarun Tahiliani – come about?
Mohini: We were inspired by the Yoox model in powering e-commerce initiatives for designers. Indian fashion has received a boost through Fashion Weeks and with Bollywood wearing Indian designers at international events. As a result, there has been a steady global demand. By setting up websites for designers, we wanted to create a home for their brands online. This has certainly helped in reaching out to chunks of the target group abroad as well as in Indian cities and towns.
Sunjay, Mohini, and designer Manish Arora
8. What have you thought of the emergence of style blogs, like Chiffon Talk, and do you think it’s affected the fashion industry?
Mohini: We live in the age of data consumption! Consumers are constantly connected on their phones and tablets. Thanks to the social-media boom and blogs like Chiffon Talk, shoppers are consuming fashion like never before. This in the end influences and thus contributes to their purchasing decisions
Thanks to blogs like Chiffon Talk, the consumer is able to filter trends for themselves. They have played a huge role in moulding perception, sharing information and celebrating individuality.
9. Since starting Exclusively.com and being exposed to many amazing designers, has it inspired your own personal style?
Mohini: For sure. Every day I am amazed and excited about what India’s designers are coming up with. I get to see the most beautiful garments, and the best thing is that this is my job :). Sunjay isn’t too excited about it, since it results in me shopping a lot on Exclusively!
Sunjay: Not mine, but certainly it has certainly helped grow Mohini’s wardrobe.
10.What is your dream for the future of Exclusively.com?
Sunjay: World dominance! 🙂
11. And just for fun – tell us what it’s like to work together as husband-wife?!
Sunjay and Mohini: It’s great! It’s a partnership in every sense of the term. There is a great comfort in the fact that you are working with someone who, no matter what, always has your back. It is super empowering.