Lekhinee Desai talks to Social Samosa about the growth experienced by The Indian Ethnic Co. when they started leveraging Reels featuring women dancing in their new collection of sarees.
Sarees can be intimidating, especially when the heritage aspect is looming over a person's head while wearing them. Would this stain be permanent? Have I ruined this garment that was worn by generations in my family? Other issues are purely logistical. Would I be able to take a bus while wearing this? Can this be washed in the machine or would it require dry cleaning? Questions can be endless but some brands like The Indian Ethnic Co. are trying to make a small change with subtle advocacy campaigns, making people, especially women, feel slightly more comfortable in a saree. Lekhinee Desai, Co-Founder & Chief of Marketing at The Indian Ethnic Co. tells us that they cater to a very wide age group, from 25-year-olds to 55-year-olds. Lately, because of their contemporary designs and push via Reels, they have been seeing a huge demand for sarees among the younger generation.
Could you give us a glimpse into how Reels became a part of your social media strategy?
When we started with Reels, the lockdown had slightly opened up. We had always wanted to do videos as a mode of content to showcase our brand but since we were a very small brand operating from our home office and didn't have the resources to create content professionally, it wasn't possible. Personally, for my sister and me, dancing has always been an integral part of our lives. When TikTok got banned and Reels came in, suddenly everything on Instagram was about Reels and at the same time, we were also launching a category that was very new to us — Sarees. Before this, we were best known for our dresses and kurtas. The idea was to break through the clutter and inform people that we have launched a whole new category. As a brand, we like to work with real people instead of models as we want our content to be relatable. We wanted to stay true to this as well as do something more and different.
As sarees were going to be launched, I had called over my friends for a photoshoot. They, too, love to dance and feel comfortable in a saree. In fact, we have grown up learning classical dance. There at that time, we thought that since we have grouped, why not quickly shoot a dance video in sarees? We just shot the video within ten minutes in between the photoshoot on our phone and put it up — and the first Reel itself crossed over a million views! Our sarees were literally sold out overnight before we could even announce the collection or post individual images of the products. Even when we restocked, it got sold out in a day or two. I think people loved the idea of simple dancing, without the use of any trending song. I think the camaraderie between women, women dancing in sarees and just coming together was something that clicked. In the last six to seven months, sarees have become our number one category. It's been game-changing for us.
Do you feel that these Reels are working in favour of your product?
The sarees we make are not those heavy silk sarees that people, especially younger women fear draping. Our sarees are very fluid. They are made of the softest mull, which is a very light fabric. In our content, we drape it like anyone would and just tucked it in the side while dancing for the Reels. We wanted to demonstrate that if you comfortably dance in it, you can do absolutely anything in it. After our content went up, I could see women of all ages coming together, draping sarees, dancing and just being themselves in Reels. I think that is a very different kind of impact we inadvertently created. People are really now accepting sarees as a garment that can be worn whenever you want and that you don't been a special occasion to wear one. Also, that you don't need to fear a saree.
You said you cater to a wide age group. How do you create content that speaks to a 25-year-old as well as a 55-year-old?
We are not creating sarees that are only suitable for a particular age group. You don't have to fit into a particular age group to wear it. The idea of The Indian Ethnic Co. has always been to be a blend of something that is very contemporary but is rooted in tradition while reflecting the thoughts of the modern woman. While keeping the traditional block printing and craft at the roots, we are adapting the motifs to be modern and contemporary. We are working with a lot of fabric that cannot be classified as very difficult. Our clothing style and designs are not very traditional that a 25-year-old would look at and feel it's not for them or something that could only be worn by them. We try to make it very fluid and don't want to put ourselves in an age group because today, sustainability as a concept is something that people are much more aware of. Apart from people who are slightly mature, even the younger ones are adopting and starting to make conscious choices towards buying products that would last.
Could you tell us about your audiences on different social media platforms?
Since the age group we cater to is wide, we have a very different audience who interacts with our content through these platforms. We see a slightly more mature audience like a 40+ person who is very active on Facebook but not so much on Instagram. We have a very young audience interacting with us on Instagram. We get to reach out to very different audiences and get very different enquiries and engagements on both these platforms. While Instagram remained to be more engaging on an everyday basis, Facebook also has a lot of people who view the products and come to our website. There, we get queries from a more mature audience. It helps us reach a very different segment. We would have to continue using both the platforms and tailor-make our content going forward.
You are pretty active on Pinterest as well. How does that fit into your social media strategy?
While Instagram and Facebook are more of the e-commerce-friendly platforms where posting gets you some kind of leads, Pinterest is a platform where people look for inspiration. They go there to look for and explore beautiful products. In fact, we have got a lot of customers from Pinterest who have specific requirements as it allows you to find designs that are very specific to what you want. Although the number might not be big, it sometimes helps you get a very refined audience that understands the craft and the product.
Another reason to use Pinterest is that it's a lot of exposure for a brand our size because people recognise us when they see so many products. Even if they don't buy, it's a good brand exposure for us.
Apart from Reels, what are some of the Instagram features you like to use?
We have used Live and IGTV but Reels are what we use primarily. Usually, we try to add to our strategy whatever new feature is provided by Instagram. For example, the Shop feature. It helps people to interact with and easily shop from our profiles. As of now, we are using Reels and Stories because it's just quicker. People don't really want to spend that much time over content put up by brands. They are looking for information really quick. We use IGTV to deliver more informational content, which is to show the stories behind the brand and the crafts but it's not something we use on a regular basis. It's intermittent content that goes out twice or thrice a month.
What's next for The Indian Ethnic Co. in terms of marketing strategy?
Honestly, every day feels like a new challenge but I feel organic content creation is what we want to focus on. With so many concerns about security and the scrutiny around it, people are not as willing to share so much information. The best way to reach out to people is through high-quality organic content. Now we really need to focus on creating high-quality video content that speaks more about the product beyond dancing in sarees. We want to leverage all aspects of what Instagram and Facebook provide. More of long videos, IGTV, and Lives, so that we can constantly keep the organic customer base that we have acquired on our social media platforms because on Instagram and Facebook, if you have a very high engagement with organic content, it almost always translate directly to sales. That's what we want to leverage and not rely only on paid platforms where performance fluctuates on a day-to-day basis. We don't want to rely on paid platforms as the main avenue for e-commerce sale generation.
Could you tell us a bit about your marketing team?
To date, we have only hired an agency for PR but that was briefly before the second wave hit. During that time, we were unable to bring out a new collection and were a bit stuck. Everything else though is managed in-house, including social media marketing and paid marketing. Now we have a professional photographer and videographer on board to help us shoot videos. We also have a team of two who manages posts, reply to comments. and create content but about seven-eight months ago, it was just me doing everything.