Think of most changes ever brought across industries and segments and buying behaviour in the minimum of time period, it would be the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. The two years witnessed too much changing in the overall retail segment – the way people shop, their lifestyle, shopping choices, premium buys and most importantly, a shift towards more sustainable options in every aspect of life. And this is being continued in the current year as well with the world slowly getting back to normal or the ‘new normal’ and the brands and companies acrosss segments gradually recovering from the impact of the pandemic caused by COVID-19. The Retailers Association of India (RAI) too, in its 25th edition of Retail Business Survey, indicated that sales in February 2022 showed growth of 6 per cent as compared to pre-pandemic sales levels (February 2020), and 10 per cent when compared to sales level in the same month (February 2021) last year. Most categories are now indicating growth in business generated in February 2022 as compared to the previous two years and apparel and footwear categories, in particular, have indicated double-digit growth (Y-o-Y) with a steady decline in the rate of COVID-19 cases.
Even in apparel category, loungewear and innerwear has been one segment that has grown tremendously over the last two years with most people still working from home and spending the maximum of their time inside their houses. While, of late, we have been mostly discussing the surge in the lingerie market, men’s innerwear segment is now booming with innovation and sustainability at its core values. According to Grand View Research, the global men’s underwear market size was valued at US $ 29.41 billion in 2018 and is expected to register a CAGR of 5.3 percent from 2019 to 2025.
One such brand working towards cashing in on the ongoing trend is DaMENSCH. The D2C brand, founded by Anurag Saboo and Gaurav Pushkar in the year 2018, offers premium options in men’s innerwear and loungewear segment. “DaMENSCH was conceived with the idea of introducing innovation and unparalleled functionality in men’s daily wearables. The intent was to begin with the most neglected and challenging part of the male wardrobe – the innerwear. While the innerwear segment for online platforms grew 2.5x pre-Covid, we at DAMENSCH grew 6x. Innerwear being an essential service continued its distribution and growth trajectory, and as consumers warmed up to the new work from home regime, the innerwear segment, especially boxers which bring comfort, functionality and style together — have become a staple attire,” says Anurag Saboo, Co- founder,DaMENSCH. The product range of innerwear at DaMENSCH include Deo-Soft which is odour cancelling underwear; Neo-Skin which are thermoregulating vests made from a curated composition of sustainable bamboo fibres among other products catering to the comfort of the modern man. “At DaMENSCH, we are pushing the limits of textile engineering and solving unseen problems. We believe in sustainability and innovation — which is why we also know that better products last longer, and hence help the environment,” adds Anurag Saboo.
Apparel Resources had a tête-à-tête with the Co-founder of DaMENSCH.
Here are excerpts from the interaction…
What was the idea behind entering into the sustainable men’s innerwear segment? How do you see the demand for this in India?
Anurag Saboo (AS): The DaMENSCH Man is ambitious, motivated, confident and creative. Anyone in the age group of 18 to 45 or beyond, possessing an open, liberal mindset and willing to break stereotypes is a DaMENSCH man. He is aware and knows that his decisions impact the environment too, and therefore veers towards sustainability even in his innerwear. The brand believes everyone can ‘Do More Everyday’. To unlock one’s true potential, not being absolutely content with the status quo is important. For that innate satisfaction and pursuit of excellence, the brand is creating an inclusive community of those who seek continuous improvement in comfort, well-being and life. Being a tropical country, Indians prefer natural fabrics that are superior in sweat absorption – be it cotton blends or new-age fabric like Modal. While the choice of fabric is different for topwear and bottomwear, the breathability of the fabric coupled with engineering innovations — like DaMENSCH’s proprietary fabric which is 3x softer than cotton — is becoming the preferred choice.
Tell us about your retail presence.
AS: Currently, we are an online-only brand. We sell through our own website, as well as premium e-commerce channels that include Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, TataCLiQ, to name a few.
Elucidate on your digital and omnichannel initiatives and technological integration in the overall functioning at DaMENSCH.
AS: Digitisation of every basic essential is the need of the hour, and the truth of today’s world. Establishing an e-commerce platform, providing multiple payment modes is convenient for customers. The best part of going digital is that it complements a brand’s B&M outlet through BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store). And for DaMENSCH, it has been highly successful. In fact, the majority of the orders that we receive are prepaid only, adding to the growth of ‘Digital India’.
How do you see D2C growing in India currently? How are you leveraging this growth for DaMENSCH?
AS: The future belongs to D2C brands – not only for better costs but also for better customer service, and more personalised experiences. As we saw consumers warming up to the new work from home regime, we launched our Breeeze Collection which includes boxer shorts and inner boxers. They bring comfort, functionality and style together. We saw them become a staple attire. We also launched the Constants – a collection of fashion with 500 day warranty. It’s a promise to replace the product within 500 days of purchase in case of any wear and tear. One other key product is our Polo collection, which is a sustainable product made from recycled plastic only.
The prerequisites for being a D2C firm start with a very strong desire to fulfill the commitments that are going to be made to your consumers, capabilities that would help establish your brand starting from engineering to supply chain to marketing and production, customer transformation to understand your target audience and management and culture that help thrive the zeal to succeed.
Tell us about your sourcing and manufacturing processes.
AS: Our products are sourced from different parts of the country, mainly from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab. Each and every product to be delivered undergoes a strict quality check.
With the core of DaMENSCH lying in slow, sustainable fashion, even our packaging is infused with innovation never seen before. Last year, we introduced Corn Husk packaging. The corn husk is transformed to a packaging material by chemical pulping and paper making process, which serves as packaging material for items, and it is an environmental-friendly material and recyclable. The produced packaging materials are evaluated and tested using the ASTM testing standard. DaMENSCH has shifted from plastic to corn husk and paper-based packaging which resulted in saving 10L-plus units of single-use plastic.
What are your marketing and promotions strategies in India?
AS: DaMENSCH envisions emerging as a lifestyle brand that will become an integral part of every global Indian’s wardrobe. We want to be the lighthouse brand that is driving culture by being the thought leader and driving conversations around body positivity, gender equality, while being the torchbearer of healthy masculinity. Our marketing strategy is to inspire and acknowledge men who live the DaMENSCH philosophy of striving for excellence and innovation. We currently spend an average of 30-40 per cent of the revenue on marketing, which varies according to the categories.
How did the pandemic affect the business at DaMENSCH?
AS: One of the biggest challenges for D2C brands like DaMENSCH has been the delays caused in manufacturing and last-mile delivery, which was seriously affected due to Covid-related restrictions. However, with a zeal to delight our customers, we worked hard in alternative shifts while maintaining the social distancing protocol and were able to do our best to follow up on our promises.
This is the era of online shopping where everyone wants to shop from the comfort of their homes. The pandemic only ignited this fire where it was impossible for anyone to shop offline. Brands took advantage of the situation and worked on technology and end-to-end improvement of services, supply chain and fulfilment to deliver products at the customers’ doorsteps.
What has been your turnover this fiscal? Also, tell us about the rounds of funding that the brand has secured so far.
AS: We are currently running on a Rs. 100 crore annualised revenue rate in this financial year, and we believe we can continue our streak of growing 3x Y-o-Y for the next two years. We have raised two rounds of funding so far – first in October 2020, and Series B in February 2022. We will be using these funds to make investments in technology, and to strengthen and diversify our portfolio.