Bangalore, Oct 11: Vidya Nataraj isn't your typical businessperson. Dressed in casuals and adorned by a bright smile, she looks quite immune to the stress in the hectic business life. This confident young woman, who is the co-founder of the fast-growing men's apparel group 'Tailorman', is sure about the words she speaks, the work she does and the life she leads.
Vidya belongs to the family which founded the well-known 'Landmark group'. Anyone who thinks business was an obvious career choice for her, listen up: Vidya tried a couple of professions before finally landing up in the field of business.
Born in Srilanka, Vidya spent the initial years of her life in the island country. Her parents were from Chennai. After finishing her schooling, she flew to London to get a college degree in Mathematics. After graduation, she worked in London for a couple of years as an investment banker before finally returning to India. She then did an MBA from INSEAD business school, France. She was working as a consultant in Chennai when the marriage happened. Her husband Ganesh Narayan, who is the joint managing director of C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons jewellers, is based in Bangalore.
After shifting to the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, Vidya co-founded Bluestone, a, online jewllery store, before stepping into the world of men's apparels, an industry which is dominated by men. She co-founded Tailorman with Gautam Golchha who is Asia's largest suits manufacturer, making for brands such as Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren.
In this interview, Vidya speaks about her fast-growing start-up venture 'Tailorman', personal life and her goals.
What is 'Tailorman'?
Tailorman is a bespoke menswear chain which offers an out-of-the-way online shopping experience, says Vidya. It has a very prominent offline presence too, with stores in three Indian cities - Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai.
In Vidya's words, Tailorman bridges the gap between local tailorshops, ready to wear brands and international made to meausure brandstores.
"You walk into a big international brand store for a suit and find out that 'perfect fit' and high price is an issue. In local tailor shops, there is no guarantee to the quality of materials they use. Tailorman bridges this gap by providing tailormade suits-blazers, mens suits online and offline made of high-quality material at affordable prices"
And Tailorman makes shopping experience easier than ever. "Every detail like measurements and other specifications are digitally saved in our stores. So the customer need not visit the store again to make a second order. He can do that online at Tailorman.com".
Also, they have introduced this unique concept of 'bespoke visiting service'. Upon booking, a tailor from the store would visit the customer at home or office and take measurements.
How tough was it to launch 'Tailorman' ?
"It was challenging like all startups are", saysVidya. "We had to boot strap and deal with several operational issues. the whole challenge was to automate and integrate the whole process from manufacturing, offline and online business with seamless technology".
How does it feel to be a woman in the world of menswear business?
"For me, the product doesn't matter. The concept and customer satisfaction are the most important factors", she says. "I don't interfere in designing or other aesthetic part of the apparel business. We have people who are very experienced and talented in those fields. All I do, is the management part"
"This is entirely a team work. The credit of Tailorman's success belongs to everyone in the team"
"I have never faced any trouble in my entire career for being a woman", she says.
Who is a better worker - Men or women?
"Women, any day", swears Vidya. "In our factories, most of the workers are women. Women tend to multitask better and hence more efficient", she says. (Tailorman's factory is located in Attibele near Bangalore.)
But she thinks men are more loyal as customers. "Once they have found a perfect place to shop for their suits, they won't go in search of another place. They would keep coming back", she beams.
Does internet marketing help startups?
"Yes, very much", says Vidya. "We have a very active Facebook page through which customers can interact with us. Many people have approached us after getting to know about Tailorman through Facebook and our website"
However, a large chunk of our business come from offline stores, she says.
Tailorman provides very reliable online services. "One can order our product anywhere from the world. He has to enter the measurements online and place the order", Vidya explains. "Many students buy suits from our stores before going to UK/US for studies. We provide high-quality apparels at a price cheaper than what they cost in those countries"
"We have many celebrity customers too. Anil Kumble and Rohan Bopanna, to name a few"
"Customer satisfaction is the key"
What is Vidya's success mantra? "Customer satisfaction", she says. "We try to make shopping a hassle-free, fun and fulfilling experience for the customers. That's our key to success"
Tailorman has a very responsive customer grievance department too. "Resolving customers' grievances is very important. That builds goodwill", she says.
Now we ask her about her personal life. This pretty woman loves watching movies and working out at gym. "Godfather is my all time favourite movie", says Vidya.
Her husband Ganesh is involved in his family's jewellery business. The couple does find ample time to spend together. "We make it sure that we meet and spend time together every evening", smiles Vidya. Do they interfere in each other's professional life? "Absolutely no", says Vidya. "We are very much independent when it comes to our careers".
The road ahead
Vidya and her team 'Tailorman' are planning to open stores in more Indian metro cities in the near future. The next store will be in Mumbai and Delhi, says Vidya. Also, the brand has plans to launch a section exclusively for women.