Buying a suit can be a frustrating experience, as Heikal Gani found out. Sure, you can put that down to the typical male’s lack of fashion sense, but Heikal realized it was more than that. He was buying his first suit for a conference when he recognized that like him, many other consumers were confused, intimidated and discouraged by offerings of traditional suit designers. With this thought in mind, Heikal recruited his best friend Kyle Vucko and founded online menswear retailer Indochino.
The best pals initially met while studying at Canada’s University of Victoria – 28 year-old Heikal was doing a double major in psychology and political science while Kyle, 23, pursued a commerce degree. It was during their time in university when they wrote a business plan for an online menswear business a few semesters before graduation.
“Our initial idea was to focus on a certain category of consumers who wants custom-made suits but realized that customers in general have a common pain point that it’s hard to get a well-fitting suit, with great style and even greater prices,” says Heikal, who is originally from Singapore. “We received a nod for angel investment soon after, and we decided to put school on hold and started our clothing venture. It was the best decision we ever made as students!”
A Fitting Unique Selling Point
Heikal reveals that Indochino‘s unique single proposition to their customers is encompassed in their tagline, ‘we suit anyone’. “Men are generally frustrated by the textile industry – not being able to find suits that are well-fitted, well-styled and affordable. Indochino is able to custom make suit for any man, anywhere in the world.”
“In addition, we have a great policy of giving free alterations just in case the suit needs tweaking at the local tailors. We also give free remakes and accept returns.” Needless to say, their target market are men who want to look and feel great in clothing, especially the 25-35 year-old five suit per week banker or office professional who needs to “look like a million dollars but makes a bit less than that”.
“That being said, we really are focusing on making fashion and suits in general easier to buy and fit in for all men,” says Heikal. “This means really focusing on offering products that customers really want, and making the whole suit purchasing more simpler and accessible to the individual. We are also constantly expanding our style book or fashion resource section on the site and this is really helpful not only for our current clientele but anyone who needs styling advice particularly on formal wear or suits.”
“At the end of the day, Indochino is a client-focused business.”
“Recession has been a bonus for us. People are looking for value and people who used to only buy US$1000 suits are trying us out. They generally have been surprised by our quality and turnaround speed. We have also seen our sales ramping up for the past six months and correlated with the tough economic times.” The single largest purchase ever made on Indochino‘s website was a guy who was so happy with his first purchase, he bought ten suits at US$3265 to fill his wardrobe. Perhaps he wasn’t planning to dryclean them too often.
Indochino is a registered entity in Canada’s Victoria, British Columbia, but its operations – website management, customer service, suit production, for example – is mostly based in Shanghai, China. Despite China’s, the Indochino team doesn’t think that China’s dubious reputation with product quality issues around the world affects their business. “(Doing) business in China is great! Very dedicated and hardworking staff, talented and ambitious people,” Heikal insists. The company currently has 8 full-time staff.
Indochino is funded to a total of US$300,000 to date via angels and a venture capital firm. Its angel investors are the co-founders of Abebooks.com (one of the top 100 e-commerce companies) and a German investment firm, Acton Capital.
Entrepreneurship Suits Them To A T
When Heikal and Kyle first set out on the path of entrepreneurship, they, like most people, loved the idea of personal independence. “A few months with Indochino, boy, we realized, we did not think it through!” Heikal laughs. “The amount of work and hours that goes in are extra challenging, but these really are the only downsides.”
“The blood, sweat and tears are all soon forgotten when more and more consumers are responding to your business.” The lesson they learnt? That you can achieve anything if you put your heart, soul and mind to it.
“We feel very lucky to be able to do our own thing, at this age, building a fast-growing company against the backdrop of an exciting metropolitan city in Shanghai.”