NEW DELHI: “Every saree has a story to tell,” says Sayali Rajadhyaksha, founder and owner of an eponymous fashion label specializing in hand weaves and block-print blouses. “They are for life. You cannot attach the same memories or emotions to another piece of clothing.
The 51-year-old journalist-turned-entrepreneur has been pursuing her passion for textiles since 2017, when she launched her label and opened a studio in Mumbai’s Vile Parle East. But it was when the coronavirus pandemic forced Rajadhyaksha to move her business online that she really struck gold.
Like thousands of other small business owners around the world, she discovered the endless potential of social media for retail. On Instagram and Facebook, Rajadhyaksha, who also runs a popular blog on Marathi cuisine and lifestyle, was able to combine her love for storytelling with her passion for selling sarees. During the first months of the first Covid-induced lockdown, she started sharing videos showcasing her sarees on social media.
In these “one-shot” videos, most of which are never-before-seen and shot entirely on her iPhone, Rajadhyaksha roughly drapes each saree, depicting them in stark detail, so her clients get the full effect. “These videos were very simple, but they started to get a great response,” she recalls. “Some of my clients have told me that they are my fans. They say they watch my videos before they go to bed. To me, that’s a nice compliment. »
Soon, his sales began to pick up. By the end of 2022, Rajadhyaksha’s business income had tripled from the previous year, she told indianexpress.com.
Like Sayali Rajadhyaksha Sarees, hundreds of clothing stores and boutiques across the country have used social media tools like Reels and live streams to reach their customers during the pandemic. While some have stuck to pre-recorded content, many have made full use of the “live” feature on Instagram and Facebook, where they display their wares and interact with potential buyers in real time.
A Facebook survey conducted in 2021 found that there was a 200% increase in live video usage during the pandemic. At the same time, consumer behavior was also changing dramatically. The same survey found that around 52% of online brand discovery happens in public social feeds.
Perhaps the only positive outcome of the pandemic was that people started taking online shopping seriously, notes Kolkata-based businesswoman Satarupa Dey. “Everyone was at home. When they weren’t working, they were on social media. I was able to have many clients during this period.
With her quirky and conversational daily live streams, Dey has been able to expand her following to Australia, Dubai and the UK, she says. Her “Satarupa Creations” Facebook page, where she has been selling both saris and jewelry since 2020, has garnered almost 40,000 likes and her regular “lives” receive an average of 14,000 views per day. Facebook, the 32-year-old says, is the “backbone” of her business.
With her videos, she hopes to emulate “the mall experience”. “I want people to be able to sit at home and comfortably browse my products,” she explains.
Dey and Rajadhyaksha don’t believe in writing scripts for their videos. “Reading a script can feel quite robotic,” says Dey. “I want my clients to feel like they’re talking to a friend.”
Over time, the two entrepreneurs were able to learn some of the tricks of the trade. Rajadhyaksha says his five-member team in Mumbai was able to significantly improve the audio and lighting of his videos. “But they’re still shot on my iPhone,” she points out.
Meanwhile, 25-year-old Sagrika Rai, founder of luxury fashion brand Warp ‘n Weft, sees things a little differently. “I launched my boutique brand in 1997 to revive the textile craftsmanship of Banarasi,” she explains.
For her, scripted videos aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In each video, she delves into the history of Banarasi textiles. The goal, she says, is to start conversations about traditional hand weaving. “For each video, I write notes that I want to highlight. The real challenge is to make sure I cover all my points in 1 minute. It’s not easy to encapsulate the history, flamboyance and sensibility of each weave that took our ‘karigars’ months to do,” she says.
But the increased visibility offered by social media comes with its own set of challenges. The three entrepreneurs have had to deal with quite a bit of trolling and hate over the past two years. “I have people from all over the world watching my videos. When you go live, especially when you’re a woman, you have a lot of people insulting you to demotivate you,” Dey explains. “When you’re talking on camera and you see negative comments popping up in the corner of your screen, you feel bad at first. But now I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t mind.
Rajadhyaksha initially struggled with false testimonials on his Facebook page. “There have been people who have not purchased our products but will leave a review saying they are too expensive or of poor quality. These are usually companies that are in competition with ours,” she says. “Social media is a powerful tool. But it should be used responsibly.