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Sujayath Ali – Left Amazon to change the face of e-Commerce in India

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Sujayath Ali and Navaneetha Krishnan co-founded Voonik in 2013. Having secured $5 million in Series-A funding from Sequoia Capital and Seedfund in June 2015, Voonik has been expanding their horizons. In August 2015, Voonik had acqui-hired Trialkart, a virtual dressing room app. Hardly six months later, they acqui-hired Getsty, a curator of personalized fashion for men, following which in April they launched Mr Voonik, a fashion app dedicated to men’s fashion. So here with you we are going to share inspirational story of Sujayath Ali who left Amazon to change the face of e-commerce with Voonik .

sujayath_voonik

Q1. Tell us something about Voonik and the team behind it? What has been your driving force? Where does the idea come from and how did it get implemented?

Before Voonik, the Indian fashion ecommerce market was dominated by etailers like Myntra and Jabong who focused on bringing well-known offline brands to the fashion-conscious, trend-following and relatively affluent online shopper.

They did not address a huge mass of women who were not brand-conscious and had limited budgets. The only online shopping options these women had were horizontal players like Amazon and Flipkart, who sold clothing as one amongst hundreds of categories, along with mobile phones and kitchen mops.

In the offline world, these mass women shoppers had always been relegated to hot, crowded street-side stores because they could not afford the branded stores in an air-conditioned mall. It is interesting how this offline paradigm was replicated online, with the same barriers in place for them.

Voonik was born out of the realization that technology allows us to remove all these barriers for this mass Indian shopper. We call her the ‘real woman’. She is not a fashionista, doesn’t have a perfect body and constantly balances priorities and budgets.

On the supply side, India has millions of unbranded garment producers, who thus far had largely fought price-wars on horizontal ecommerce sites.

Voonik created a visually-rich, fashion marketplace app, bringing together this ‘real woman’ shopper and unbranded garment supplier, while delivering the experience they both deserve. To help  our real woman shop with confidence, we created an AI-based, curated feed. This ‘insanely relevant’ feed is based on an algorithm that factors in her body shape, lifestyle and skin-tone, amongst other parameters. Death to buyer remorse!

There are a total of 20 million women in India who own smartphones. Voonik’s Android app was launched in September 2014, already 10 million women have downloaded it we promise them that we will help them be stylish everyday.

I started Voonik in 2013, with my engineering batchmateNavaneetha Krishnan, now we have grown to a 500+ strong team.Business team is structured based on key business metrics. Technical team is attached to the business team and share the same business goals.We hire from all top B-schools and Technical colleges across the country.

Q2. Tell us something about your past work and Experiences? 

Before turning entrepreneur, I was Senior Business Leader at Visa. Prior to this, I was associated with Amazon.com as a Senior Product Manager. I started my career as a Senior Software Development Engineer with iNautix Technologies.

Q3. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I am passionate about solving consumer problems. When I came to India, I saw this huge opportunity in fashion e-commerce.  There was nothing that was catering to the fashion needs of everyday women. A majority of unbranded offline shops enjoy high level of customer loyalty and footfall across all tier2 and 3 cities in the country, but there was no equivalent of those high street markets, online. So I decided to start Voonik a fashion platform for every woman.

Q.4 Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business till now ?

Voonik had raised $500K in seed, $ 6.5 Million in series A and $ 20 Million in series B, making it a total of $27 Million in funding.

We plan to use these funds to enhance customer experience, strengthen personalization engine, and to scale up MrVoonik and Vilara.

Q5. Your Future plans?

By next year, we want to build our personalization engine further and make the style profile more intuitive so that we can show the best suited collection for every customer’s body type, lifestyle and preferences. Our other two ventures have also started very well – MrVoonik has crossed 5,000 daily shipments within a month of launch and Vilara is getting good traction from both high end users as well as from many designers & boutiques. Both the teams are committed to becoming the leaders in their respective fields. So I think Voonik ,along with MrVoonik and Vilara will be the largest fashion platform in the country.

Q6. How has the company been doing and how do you think the market will evolve?

Voonik has registered a growth of 26X 2016 over 2015, this year projection is 4.5X. MrVoonik is increasingly matching Voonik pattern of customer acquisition and repeat. Vilara is getting a good traction from both an elite customer base as well as designers and boutiques. I thinkall these 3 businesses are set up for success.

voonik team

Market is now maturing and the lure for getting a customer through discounts is on the decline. Investors are evaluating profitability rather market size. This trend will increase in the coming months. You will see that only companies that are strongly differentiated in product and offering will grow and gain market share.

Q7. Any advice for the Young Entrepreneurs out there?

I have only 2 suggestions for entrepreneurs.

First your business should be solving some problem uniquely and better than anyone else. Either you should be delivering a significantly different product or reaching to a customer segment that no one has targeted before.

Second, focus on one thing at a time. Instead of operating at mediocre level in many things, focus on being world class in one field.

Comments (4)

  • Mr. Sanu, You handled Unique Interview with Sujayath Ali, the personality of 2016. i am also a follower of him. your interview has motivated me to follow him ( the personality ) strongly.

  • Great Article!! Lot of info from the pro Mr.Sujayath Ali. Every growing business man must read this article for a reference. Thank You for posting.

  • Very inspiring story! Every early stage entrepreneur should follow this steps.
    Thank a ton, for sharing!!
    Best wishes!!

  • I have been learning a lot from your post, your post is great
    Thank you for the article

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