Indian women dancing effortlessly in stunning handloom sarees is nothing less than a visual treat. And this is exactly how The Indian Ethnic Co., founded by mother-daughter duo Hetal Desai and Lekhinee Desai, started flourishing. What started as an ‘experiment’ or a ‘hobby brand’ has now ‘danced’ its way to success in no time. After earning a business degree in 2016, Desai encouraged her mother to fulfil her dreams of designing. The duo put together a team of artisans, and started creating beautiful clothes out of a humble bedroom.
“We contacted a master artisan, purchased some Ajrakh fabrics worth Rs 50,000 and created about 10-12 silhouettes. The idea was that even if they don’t sell, they won’t be discarded, because they were made in my mother’s, sister’s and my sizes,” says Lekhinee Desai, co-founder of The Indian Ethnic Co.
To spread the word, Desai decided to use the power of social media and it worked like magic. For the first two years, the brand sold products only through social media, and it was only in 2018 that their website went live. Between 2016 and 2018, the company’s annual turnover was about Rs 24 lakh, which later skyrocketed to Rs 1 crore.
“My mother knew how to make beautiful clothes, but she did not know how to use these digital platforms. That’s when I decided to step in and help her showcase her work on social media. After we uploaded the images of products, two of them got sold the very next day. The cost of starting a business was almost zero. That’s what motivated us that if a small effort can pay off so soon, why not really follow this through?,” she adds.
Dance has played an integral tool in their journey to success. Desai believes that “before she started walking, she began to dance”, and that’s why she decided to utilise her creativity to make the brand stand apart from others.
“This brand is about real women. We didn’t want to use models like other brands; we always wanted to be relatable. On my father’s insistence , we decided to combine our love for dance and designing clothes, and that’s how the whole idea of dance marketing shaped up. We wanted to do it earlier, but we didn’t have the space to. In September 2020, when we bought the studio, we decided to put this into action. I called my group of friends for a saree photoshoot, just before the launch of our collection, and shot the dance in 10-15 minutes. Our first dance video went viral in no time, and got one million views. The saris were all sold out,” says Desai, adding that they continue to use this strategy to promote the launch of every new sari collection.
Today, The Indian Ethnic Co. has three offices and one studio. COVID-19 helped to accelerate sales for the company and the brand grew 2x within two months. Its revenue is about to hit Rs 10 crore, thanks to dance marketing and its beautiful design aesthetic.
(Interviewed by Geetika Sachdev; video edited by Nang Tanvi)