“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
If you’re a Harry Potter “fan”, you know exactly where the above came from. “Fans” are unique creatures and they always go too far to show love for their heroes. In a diverse country like India, where so many things happen culturally and socially, almost everyone is a “fan” of something or the other. Most of us live and breathe the religion of cricket. There are more than a few temples for movie stars in the country. And, fans of superheroes know more about the quirks of these characters than they probably know even about their closest friends.
There is an overwhelming emotion of pride among the fans for their heroes. So much so that it starts to flow into their personality. Their fandom is easily spotted on their social media feeds. They are also constantly seen passionately arguing in some or the other "my hero" V/S "your hero" debates.
However, when they want to "show-off" this fandom in the real world through their apparel, it gets tricky. They are faced with 2 really bad options, either buy cheap but low quality rip-offs OR very expensive merchandise from international brands that retail in India. In fact, most franchisees or characters that Indians love, especially after the advent of OTT are not even carried by the international brands, which unfortunately leaves only cheap fakes as an option.
There was no one serving the everyday fan in India until “The Souled Store” came into being. Vedang, Aditya, Rohin, and Harsh are solving a problem that they themselves faced as super fans of Star Wars & Harry Potter. We could always see the superfan in them throughout the 8 years of executing on this problem, and that got us really excited.
Being the TG themselves, they knew from Day 1 that one can't talk to a fan in the same way as an average customer. Every small detail matters to them. You lose their trust if you miss details. On the other hand, if you nail those details, these fans become super loyal to you. In their early days, The Souled Store launched its "Big Bang Theory" collection with a twist. Along with every package, they sent "Sheldon's Roommate agreement" designed with perfection down to the last detail, which earned them a lot of love and virality in those early days.
It is these small things that have led to the creation of what we believe is a “cult-brand” today. A cult-brand has a special appeal to its customers, intriguing them and keeping them loyal at a dogmatic level (yes, this shows up in their retention cohorts). People see cult-brands as a part of their lifestyle choice rather than a purchase. When we spoke to the customers of The Souled Store, almost all of them talked about coming to The Souled Store for their favorite franchisee merchandise, falling in love with the experience (assortment, quality, purchase journey etc.), and repeating for amazing fabric-quality and fit.
The company today is operating at a GMV run-rate of INR 200 Cr+ and has been growing 100%+ YoY every year. Almost all of this revenue comes from its own website, app and stores today, making them one of the largest D2C brands in India. The strength of the brand is also evidenced by almost 120k+ members signing up for the company’s paid loyalty membership program in a naturally flirtatious category like apparel.
However, it’s not just the choice of category that has helped the company be successful. The company has never had the luxury of a lot of capital in the past and has therefore innovated on multiple dimensions in the backend to reach this stage. One of the biggest strengths of the business is the ability to do data-driven merchandising which helps them stay lean and operate with minimal working capital requirements. The company has been EBITDA profitable in every year of operation so far and has never had to spend money to buy growth.
With these ingredients in place, The Souled Store is looking to further accelerate its growth and become the one-stop destination for casual-wear in India. We, at Elevation, are super excited to partner with them on this vision and will continue looking out for similar cult-brands emerging out of India.
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