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Prospering in the pandemic

  • Published at 08:32 am August 14th, 2020
sakura and  groove
Photos: Courtesy

“Being a good lawyer would be enough for me. But you know, times and conditions change so rapidly that we all try to achieve our aims to have a consistent and focused future,” said Tamanna Mou. This very thought led her to start her own venture called S A K U R A – Simply Organic, in 2016, claiming to be one of the country’s very first luxury skin and hair care certified boutique brand. Following that, she also started another venture called G R O O V E (Designer coalesce of ethnic and luxury prints and casuals).

Who is it for?

In 2015, the concept of “luxury organic boutique formula” for skin and hair was pretty new. When most of our people were dependent on the local or foreign cosmetic formula, still there were some sources for those who were into organic delicacies, and due to the lack of authentic and trustworthy brand/s, we had to buy it from abroad while travelling or through other means of online sites. That was the very moment, I realized and knew that there were opportunities to explore in this market -- though the market is not considered ‘mass’ but ‘niche/premium’. In no time, S A K U R A got all the social acceptance for its hypoallergenic formulas effectively.

The main tenacity behind launching G R O O V E was very different. My prior theme was prioritizing local heritage and using deshi fabric that is part of our culture and creating a designer line within an affordable range. When we see the slogan ‘Wear Deshi’, we can mostly see the local designers’ lines being super expensive and not meant for all. Hence, creating a line and inspiring people into the local culture seemed quite a meaningful prospect for me then.

How big is it (roughly in terms of employee count and average customer base in pre-Covid times)?

S A K U R A and G R O O V E both have their designer outlets and also a lifestyle studio at Baridhara DOHS.

We had a very good number of active clients in our database -- of almost 150 to 200 clients monthly for S A K U R A. I think this happened because once a formula suits someone very comfortably, they hold onto it. Moreover, since all the products available at S A K U R A are for both men and women, we always had a good response in the pre-COVID-19 times. G R O O V E also has its dedicated client base with a very small portion of random clients. We are mostly into customized designs rather than launching new collections for the mass throughout the year. Yes, launching collections on festive seasons and occasions are a part of the site too but that ratio is smaller compared to my customized client base.

How did you envision 2020 for your business before the pandemic hit?

A year to grow and expand more. This Covid-19 was a big blow for all of us and every industry was highly affected for sure. But I must say, I was not exactly panicking, because we often forget, business is not only about running it or making profit its more than that for me. So, I tried to be methodical enough to keep it running.

Can you walk us through the highlights of the past three months?

Obviously the past three months were more about sustaining. Sustainability was a question for all of us! Definitely, we had to go through a period of economic turmoil, and we still are going through a lot, but we had to show responsibilities to the establishments and employees. We had to face unprecedented workforce disruption, re-graphing the online sales modules with ‘no-human system minded approaches,’ launching different kinds of ‘fit for purpose’ plans, facing critical supply chain disruptions to launch new items and carrying on old designs, short term liquidity challenges, sudden changes in volume, and real-time decision making -- managing everything during the pandemic was certainly difficult.

Now both the immediate and near-term outlook seem like a challenge. This pandemic has portrayed well enough how strongly we all are interrelated and now we all have to go for aligning our businesses with the evolving demand and identifying new pathways to growth.

For now, the focus should be not on our future, but the present. And immediate action is needed to address short-term liquidity challenges, also to minimize costs where possible and increase profitability and generate funding to invest in new opportunities. Because the actions taken now can only have an immediate impact on our survival and how quickly it rebounds from the downturn, and help us go forward sustainably.

How is the current situation impacting your business and what are the steps you have taken till now to fight back the situation?

The average customer base has fallen in for G R O O V E more than that of S A K U R A, as designer clothes are luxury items for people, whereas skin/haircare items are essentials. Definitely, consumer demand patterns are shifting as this crisis is fundamentally changing how and what consumers buy and is accelerating immense structural changes in the consumer goods industry. And as we are mostly selling designer products, our challenges are more, because we hardly have any chance to build and run the experiences on what people need and want -- our items are somehow categorically fixed.

Also, right now we are focusing on the theory of Ford – “The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” We are trying our best to adapt with customer needs and making sure they get a risk free service. Also, as the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic mean consumers are less inclined to spend more, with many expecting their household incomes to continue falling in the coming months, so we have launched few ‘Handy & Handsome’ packages.

There is no way we can mitigate the business risk entirely but there are a few urgent stairs we are focusing on climbing up, which are – cutting down unnecessary business costs, keeping our employees safe by maintaining all COVID-19 safety protocols, creating smart modelled pandemic preparation plans, keeping alerts on future financial risks, rebooting for major supply chain disruptions, shifting to all local suppliers, and keeping eyes on the deliveries.

In this situation, I think our best resource is our team and the teamwork, because during this pandemic, the team members are equally struggling with worries about their own childcare, employment, or illnesses. So, we are trying our best to provide them with extra support in line with workplace policies. The team is doing ‘work from home’ schedules and visiting the office only according to the roster. Being the owner and head of the brand, it is important how well we are acknowledging their support during this time.  I maintain regular communication with my team members and try to boost up their mental health. 

Any tips to share with your fellow friends to come out of this situation together and motivate each other?

Even if this corona period comes to an end, we all need to know and learn to work together to save our business sector. Business is all about ‘risk management,’ I believe. We all need to remember, the biggest investment in any sort of business is patience and mental strength, rather than money.

Lastly, I want to say stay home stay safe and shop online to save our local businesses.

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