How many casual college hostel 'crib sessions' actually turn into passion-driven business ventures? While some may pass it off as frivolous talk, Simeran Bhasin and Ivy Chin - college best friends - translated their conversation into a tangible reality. A discussion regarding the lack of a good Indian innerwear brand that began in the hostel of Lady Sri Ram College ultimately culminated into their own company - BRAG.
Bidding au revoir to their high paying corporate jobs, both Bhasin and Chin signed off as chief marketing officer, Wildcraft and chief financial officer, GE Water (APAC) respectively and began their journey as entrepreneurs. It may sound simple, but it took around twenty-odd years for these women to make their dream a reality. While a discussion on the lack of good innerwear may have held merit twenty years ago, is this still a pressing issue when brands like Zivame and Clovia are dominating this segment?
Bhasin tells us that the distinguishing factor is her company's TG profile which is solely focused on school/ college girls and early jobbers, "...we are the country's only teen innerwear brand. Other brands in the market, whether new age e-commerce players or the Jockeys of the world, sell conventional bras which have certain limitations. With our bralettes, we bring in a blend of comfort and fashion. We design our products like a layer of clothing since we believe that a woman should not be ashamed of her innerwear. In fact, our customers love showing them off by either wearing it beneath a jacket or letting a part of it peep out. Hence, we are not really fighting the Zivames and the Clovias of the world. We are in a very different space."
The bralette company which came into existence on April 4, 2016, has released its first concept based digital video titled, 'BRAG, set my body free'. Previously, the brand released two short ads which were solely focussed on its products. The recent minute-long ad however, looks strikingly similar to the Reebok ad featuring Kangana Ranaut and also resembles Nike's award-winning 'Da Da Ding' video. Hence, when brands tread this slippery path of looking like another brand, it could broadly mean three things: - first, a small brand may deliberately be trying to imitate market giants in order to create similar recall in the viewer's mind, while another possibility could be the compulsion of crafting an ad as per an industry norm which may ride over any resemblance factor. The third reasoning could be no reasoning at all and may indicate a brand's blunder in not timely realising the repercussions of aping other brands.
"It's not a happy accident as we are not trying to ape any other brand," explains Bhasin. "As a new brand in the market, yes we were aware that the moment we show a sports bra, the first thing that comes to mind is Nike or Adidas. That's the reality of a new brand breaking into the market and the initial sense will be - 'Oh I thought this was an ad for another brand!' For us, the credibility came first and we knew that whatever kind of woman we show, the first thing would be that it seems like a Nike ad."
When an ad triggers a different brand recall, won't it hurt the communication purpose? "You have a point there and thank you for the feedback. It is for us to repeatedly differentiate and drum out something unique and move away from that over a period of time. On one side, if people compare us with Nike, then it is positive. But on other side, it should not happen again and again. If people are only thinking about Nike every time they see us, then it is not helping us build BRAG," adds Bhasin.
22feet Tribal Worldwide is the agency behind the new video. Bhasin, who has dealt with the likes of Lowe Lintas while working with Titan's Fastrack, shares with us that the agency has become an "extended marketing team for BRAG". She elaborates, "For me, an agency where the team aligns and lives the brand, is always going to be the best agency. The 22feet team are bang on with BRAG's consumers and so it is instinctive that this idea came from them. It wasn't an idea which was briefed. We told them that we are a start-up and don't have the kind of monies that we would have put behind Fastrack or Wildcraft."
Bhasin tells us that she engages in debates with the 22feet Tribal Worldwide team every now and then. "Very often they win and I have to hand it to them because they come back with valid feedback, views and opinions. All you need to do is give a good team some freedom so they can run with their ideas," she adds.
Speaking about the media plan in her advertising mix, she informs, "We are targeting the top twenty cities. The reason why we are targeting only these cities is that we have budget constraints. But otherwise, within our age group, we talk to women across the country. We have girls from far-flung cities buying our products through e-commerce. Social media allows us to reach them."
The new video is only for digital viewing, "... given that our TG is a very high digital consuming audience. Being a start-up, I think it will be a little while before we are able to afford television advertising. Eventually, we will come to television as well," says Bhasin.
Bhasin is a well-known face in the Indian marketing circuit. With a career spanning seventeen years, she has nurtured brands like Fastrack and Wildcraft. "My entire career has been spent working with youth. That's the audience which I have come to love and understand as I have observed them keenly over the last decade and a half. This audience is the most challenging to deal with because they change so frequently. Understanding what makes them tick is what has helped me in putting BRAG together," she informs.
Bhasin credits her past employers for providing her with on-ground training in retail. Bhasin notes, "Both Wildcraft and Fastrack have a presence across multiple channels - distribution, exclusive brand outlets, online, offline as well as large format stores. Both companies have given me enormous learning and understanding about what you strategise in the four walls of your office and then how it plays out in the market where you are actually competing!"