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Post Mumbai outlet Zouk keen on more offline stores

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NEW DELHI, July 2 (PTI): With the recent launch of its flagship store in Mumbai, lifestyle and fashion accessory startup Zouk is looking at a strong offline strategy of opening more brand outlets ‘‘very quickly’’ to compliment its online presence, and is also keen on making inroads into overseas markets of the US and Canada.

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The brand, founded by IIM Ahmedabad batchmates and husband-wife duo Disha Singh and Pradeep Krishnakumar, had raised USD 3 million in fresh capital earlier this year, in a funding round led by Stellaris Venture Partners and participation from Sharrp Ventures, JJ Family Office, Deutsche Bank India CEO Dilip Khandelwal, Manoj Meena of Atomberg and Vineeta Singh, Kaushik Mukherjee of Sugar Cosmetics.

Zouk operates in the bags, wallets and footwear categories.

Krishnakumar said the brand has been built in a capital-efficient manner and added there are no immediate plans to raise additional funds, although the startup will continue to be ‘‘opportunistic’’.

The current focus is to move ahead with the FY24 blueprint for growth, including more offline stores that would boost brand visibility. Zouk, which positions itself as a vegan brand dedicated to an ethical lifestyle, unveiled its first-ever physical retail space at Nexus Seawood in Navi Mumbai on Saturday.

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Zouk plans to open a total of five exclusive brand outlets this year, ‘‘catering to the evolving needs of conscious consumers who value fashion-forward and responsible products’’.

Zouk is also keen on adding more products to its existing categories for greater choice for customers.

‘‘As a business, we have grown tremendously both on own D2C website…now about 60 per cent of our business still comes from our D2C site, which is our own website channel…and expanding on marketplaces. A lot of that will start playing out even more and more from here,’’ Krishnakumar told PTI.

The launch of the physical store is not just about expanding reach, it is about creating a tangible space where individuals can explore Zouk offerings, engage with brand story, and become a part of the Zouk community, he said. Zouk plans to go for five stores ‘‘very quickly to expand presence’’ to take products to more and more customers.

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‘‘We have data from D2C site like where our customers base is, what is their purchase preference… which will be leveraging for choosing all the locations.

‘‘We have certain hotspots with good, strong customers base, be in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, and Ahmedabad. These will be top focus areas we will be looking at,’’ he said.

Zouk has over 5 lakh customers who have bought products from startup website and other marketplaces. Its top category continues to be bags.

‘‘We believe bags are a fairly large category and under-penetrated when it comes to good quality products with Indian aesthetics. For the next 12 months, bags will continue to be the biggest category, followed by footwear,’’ Krishnakumar said.

The company will widen its collection in the current set of categories. Zouk is keen to make inroads into the international market, with a focus on the US and Canada this year, through the marketplace route.

Zouk is also planning to rope in a brand ambassador this year, Krishnakumar said, adding that the multi-city, omnichannel presence and strengthening of the distribution channels will be part of the FY24 charter for the company.

‘‘We are hiring aggressively. The capital efficiency in the business allows us to invest in talent to support our expansion plans…we will hire for brand marketing, sales, digital, distribution, offline teams, and the allied teams,’’ he added.

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