[00:01:22] Shivanee | Speaker: Thank you Jiten, great to be here. Thank you.
[00:01:26] Jiten | Xeno: Shivanee, I don't know where to start. Right. But I think the, the best way to do it is just to kind of touch upon your complete diverse and extensive career that you have in the fashion industry.
[00:01:36] Right. Just walk us through it and gives us your experiences, give us your learnings from there.
[00:01:41] Shivanee | Speaker: Sure, sure, sure. So, yeah, I've spent about 20 years in design, buying, merchandising, and marketing roles and through the process I've helped lifestyle brands across the world actually delivering some unique products and distinctive experiences to the consumers.
[00:01:56] So in some sense, you could say I'm a hybrid merchant, or a multihyphenate multi-category designer. That's the way I would look at myself, or as an advertising senior recently said, a super strong swiss knife in the Indian retail kitchen where something is always cooking. No jokes aside Jiten, compared to a lot of my tenure peers, I've had specialized, short and intense runs, I would say, which is also why I've, I've actually been able to sort of work with a lot of different brands, et cetera.
[00:02:27] And some of it was planned, some of it was serendipity, as you would say, but all of it, in terms of experience is all great because it's just added how I bring, what I bring to different advisory projects, et cetera. So the funny thing is, I did not grow up around fashion.
[00:02:44] I grew up in a small town where civil services, medicine or engineering worthy, preferred you know, professions. Right. And there was no organized retail per se. And fashion was something that if you traveled abroad right, you would get exposure to it. So, now the same city is a, is a thriving metro and it has produced some very strong retail leaders, designers, and it organized retailers actually exploded there. It actually pulls in the highest rentals in the market.
[00:03:14] So and the funny thing is when I actually told my parents that I'm going to do design at NIFT and I had cracked, I think LSR and St. Stephen's at that point in time, they were perplexed, but they said, okay, go ahead with it.
[00:03:26] And by the time I had graduated it, it had actually become an entrance of choice. So that is the, I would say that is the way, passion has actually exploded in India. Not just in terms of the skillset market or the EdTech, education market. But also in terms of organized retail. So both in terms of what's driving it on the front and the people who are powering it in the back on both sides, it's, from there to now, it's, it's, it's great.
[00:03:53] Jiten | Xeno: Right. Absolutely.
[00:03:54] Shivanee | Speaker: I think that's about it.
[00:03:55] Jiten | Xeno: You know, you've kind of spent time both in India and the US. You've spent time in the Amazon of the world. You spent time possibly in one of the, one of India's oldest fashion brands, which is Arvind Fashions. Yeah. You spend time in Levi's and of course till recently with Myntra, right.
[00:04:14] What, what really, one, of course is very diverse. I don't know if you're doing very similar roles, but if you, you obviously can walk us through that, and what were your learnings from here?
[00:04:23] Shivanee | Speaker: So, you touched upon a very interesting part. Two, two things, one is where, I wasn't with a particular firm for the longest time, but that's also a choice.
[00:04:32] And the diversity actually came in with the function changes as well. So I started off in design. I think my first stint and the four most memorable stints in my career that I would basically say was, where it all started was Allen Solly Women's Wear. I had the opportunity to be part of the launch team in a design role, and that's where my eyes open to sort of corporate design as a function within corporate retail.
[00:04:56] And from there, I would say the next big one was Levi's Strauss. That's where I sort of got in without a marketing degree. Everybody else was either very pedigreed from an IIM and the learning curve was sharp. Then onto moving, moving onto e-commerce, right? Which is of course in the US. Whatever I saw with, let's say name premium brands like FOSSIL, et cetera, which had stores which had wholesale as well as the dot com.
[00:05:27] That's where my whole digital piece started to now to Amazon and to Myntra. Right. So the, the, and moving from India to the states. And working with different geographies, which is Europe as well as Southeast Asia and China, which was largely with FOSSIL and then back at Amazon in India. And then Myntra.
[00:05:46] Of course. The, the few learnings that I would basically say personally for me, is that one has to have a very sharp understanding of the consumer to be able to traverse this, these different functions. That's a single threaded ask. I think I would say for anybody in fashion, retail, whichever the function one would think that designers sort of define it beyond the trends or the macro trends that you see with consumers.
[00:06:13] But I don't think that's correct because design versus art, design is your answering of problem statement. For the consumer art is when it is something that's created from from your ask. And, and it, it, it may find a market, it may find a product market fit. So the, the, the first part that I would say is sharp consumer understanding, absolutely critical. The second piece I would say, is the ability to sort leverage relationships. That's a superpower. I think that holds true in India as well as anywhere outside. And personally for me, because I was usually like the first Indian in the, on the team or, trying to relate to a market that is so different from the where I grew up or where I studied fashion, to be able to do that party.
[00:06:59] It was of course the skills, but also how you translated it in terms of a relationship. The third piece that I would say is, the power of edit. Curation is funny that it's, it was one of my late, my most recent roles, but, largely we think design is additive, right? Or any experience is additive.
[00:07:20] But I have realized a lot of it is innitive, which means what is it that's absolutely right for the consumer, for the product, and for the market. So that is another superpower that really helps because across all the names that you sort of made, all of them are very sharply curated. Not just in terms of product selection, but also in terms of the way it is communicated. And the last piece is I think, we tend to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of what we're doing generally because and that would be the case, right? When you're moving functions, when you're moving countries, et cetera. But the ability to sort of step back and take 30,000 feet view and also to stitch it together.
[00:08:03] So I, I often do this. I look back and I say, what is it that sort of worked across that really helps identify operators, maybe let's say when you have a 5% fix. That can actually give you a 50% lift. And that is true in most of retail and that brings me to the last point, which is technology.
[00:08:22] When technology comes in, it takes away the churn of you being involved in the nut and bolt and to leverage technology is another superpower because you're able to sort of do that. So that's kinda my 20 year view on having worked with a lot of these different brands. Yeah.
[00:08:40] Jiten | Xeno: So how can you explain the merchandise led revenue growth that, typically what happens is, at least from, I, I, I've been in marketing, I've been in customer, managing customer loyalty, CRM and all that, so forth.
[00:08:52] And we, we are so used to seeing it, everything on the front end, right. But what we call the front end, which is the store level or the floor level. Right, right. But for y'all, yeah. I had to see it from the behind the scenes. Yeah. What is it that that goes into it? And what, what the science or the whatever it is magic.
[00:09:14] Shivanee | Speaker: The both, both pieces. It's funny that you say this Jiten, because very recently I made a point in, this is something that I was working with my team also, at Myntra is, this whole idea about technology and artificial intelligence, right? Coming in buying, merchandising and design are probably the most human capital centric tools that you have in retail, and they really are the engine in some ways that drive the entire product development and the selection piece.
[00:09:44] And there is quite a bit that actually sort of fits in, in this piece and that actually has an impact. Right. A lot of the firms that you spoke about, they have very, very, set processes that have either been developed over time in, in the India perspective, or they've been borrowed from their global sort of counterpart so that they fit in some way, right?
[00:10:06] But the basics are very, very, simple, right? If it's a brand, or it's a platform. What is the product into market fit? Right? What is it that you want to offer and to whom? So understanding the consumer and the market demand is very critical. And one may, like I said, designers and buyers don't think about it.
[00:10:23] You start with an Excel sheet, which is, which is an OTB probably, and then you try and place it in terms of store. You take an offer, what, what, what you're buying internationally or you are producing and you are making a selection. But I think. That is a limited view. There's always a consumer understanding.
[00:10:40] Who is the consumer currently? Who is the consumer that you're going to acquire, right? And where is it that you really want to go and does it actually make sense, right? Because these are decision points or selection decision points that are made on a daily basis, I would say. Right? So what is the consumer market fit with supply, right?
[00:10:58] Okay. The consumer wants it and they want it at a particular price, but are you able to supply it? is it right? Does it make costs? Does it make sense from a cost perspective? Does it make sense from a margin perspective? Or is it right for the brand? That's another other platform, right? Is that where you sort of want to go. Then macro trends, that's something that, I'm, I'm really glad to see this. 20 years now, there's a proper science, there's proper understanding of forecasting and trend research, as a, as a separate function. But I'm talking about 20 years back. You would have specialists who would read the market trends, not just from a consumer macro perspective, but also from a passion perspective, because the distinctive part about fashion is it is above all taste play.
[00:11:43] Also, there's a very strong taste parameter, so you can get the demographics and the psychographics or even the qualitative piece, but defining the taste is a different nuanced sort of clay and that's where I think to build anything new, reading the macro trends in terms of fashion is also very, very critical.
[00:12:01] And the last piece is how does it all sort of fit in? From an experience point of view, because you could have, you could have bought the most, well-balanced line. You could have designed it, you could have placed orders, but if the supply doesn't fit in, if it doesn't fit into the stores that you allocated it into or into the experience because there's a sale experience that's going on, it will not sort of matter.
[00:12:29] Right? So the experience needs to very, very, aptly, almost like impresario in the fashion space. It needs to orchestrate and bring it all together. So I think that's kind of how it would flow. And here is where I think technology has a strong role to play, so, there isn't anything that comprehensively solved for this entire step or set of steps that are there.
[00:12:54] Yeah. Yeah. Got it.