Interviewed By: Sandeep Kshatriya, Facilitator, The CEO Insights
The CEO Insights: • What triggered you to start your own venture before completing graduation?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Given the fact that we have 5000+ years of history related to jewellery, India is a $1.5bn highly developed fashion accessory market. I saw a huge market opportunity for fashion jewellery and other accessories and wanted to cater to the unfulfilled consumer need to purchase fashion accessories of international quality at affordable prices in the market. Also, there was no single known brand that operated in this category which is giving an opportunity to buy the latest international designs online and giving a chance to women financially independent at the same time. So, in order to address that gap, I started off with this venture.
The CEO Insights:• Can you trace JUVALIA & YOU’s journey so far?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: We’ve started at the concept stage in February, 2012 and I’ve been here from the beginning. Being someone who has handled businesses before, I understand the nuances of the market forces and the consumer.
The response to both the product has been overwhelming. We’re already amongst the highest visited sites in our category and the product reactions have been very encouraging. For the direct selling part of the business as well, our Stylist additions within a couple of months of operations has been tremendous. Juvalia & You’s concept has been really well accepted by the Indian market. We will cross nearly 10,000 stylists by this year-end alone
The CEO Insights: Your experiences with Juvalia & You India to take it to a new level?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: It has been an amazing experience and after seeing the achievements of our Stylists, I think I have already taken it to a new level. Our major customer base is in Delhi/NCR and Punjab and is growing in double fold; we have recently started our operations in Maharashtra and Gujarat. We will be expanding our direct selling business pan-India and are already in the process of setting up satellite offices across the country. We also have an unparalleled pan-India supply chain network that can cater to all the demands.
The CEO Insights: What challenges do you anticipate in your industry?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: There has been an incredible growth in the market of artificial jewellery. With growth of this industry there are always going to be certain challenges such as:
• Increasing raw material prices
• Changes in consumer buying power in key markets
• Justifying the prices with quality
The CEO Insights: How did you face the challenges of the new focus areas?
Product: India is a vast market with a different culture and jewellery tradition. Catering to this diversity of trend with fixed set of products becomes a challenge. Considering this, we follow a common and universal trend and do a lot of R&D before launching into a new state and region.
HR: The team is critical. Finding the right talent & building a competent leadership team and a well-defined chain of command required a lot of work. More importantly, finding entrepreneurial spirit in people is a huge challenge. Considering this, we appointed professional and experienced team members taking care of the following teams according to their expertise (Creative, Product, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Accounts, CRM, IT). Between them as well, there are people who are considered pioneers in their field and have also been successful entrepreneurs themselves.
Setting targets and measuring performance: Important to have measurable goals for people to drive business. More importantly though, getting people to take pride and ownership of their work. For this we ensure that sales meeting are happening twice every fortnight to discuss about their targets, challenges and achievements.
Being efficient: Capital always needs to be preserved. There is a fine line between being cost efficient and restraining growth and scale. We had to be prudent and allocated resources accordingly.
The CEO Insights: What’s your strategy to maintain profitability in such competitive market?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Well-thought pricing strategy, good quality product, innovative designs and our increasing number of ‘Stylists’ are the factors which will maintain profitability of Juvalia & You, India.
The CEO Insights: How did your education at Columbia Business School helped in business and networking?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Columbia Business School provided me with a grounding and training that I needed to understand global businesses. I was exposed to the best in class tools, resources and people that allowed me to implement what is required to build and scale a global business. Also, the Columbia alumni network is vibrant, diverse and allows for unparalleled access.
The CEO Insights: Your experiences working with Citadel Investment Group?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Citadel provided me with an opportunity to understand the systems and processes that are required to build a scalable, sustainable business. Any business is a combination of people, processes and in our case, technology as well. Understanding how this amalgam works was the most important learning I took from Citadel.
The CEO Insights: How Smile Group collaboration helped your market reach or business?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: The Smile group is one of the leading technology incubators in the country. Our collaboration has been extremely helpful at multiple levels – HR, mentorship, access to technology, systems and infrastructure.
The CEO Insights: Can you elaborate your sales models i.e. B2C e-commerce and B2B/MLM?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: There are two businesses that run in parallel for Juvalia & You;
1: B2C e-commerce sales (we’ve activated online display, search and social) and
2: B2B: Social selling and Network marketing, this business model is social selling (network marketing), and our aim is to empower women through this model. Network marketing or social selling gives women an opportunity to become entrepreneurs on their own conditions .
The CEO Insights: Who are your competitors and what has their strategy been in India?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Juvalia & You India caters to the unfulfilled consumer need to purchase fashion accessories of international quality & styles at affordable prices in the market. There is no single known brand that operates in this category and we are here to address that gap.
The CEO Insights: What plans do you have to leverage mobility & IT for future expansions?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: We believe Technology will get us the scale we want, thus have ensured faster, newer tech ideas are part of our roadmap. To begin with we already have online catalogues & webinars for training. Our sales force is already using tablets for real time orders, sales & reports. We are soon coming out with mobile & tablet apps, personalised websites/dashboards for our Stylists. We are also considering establishing Juvalia University online, for 360 training for stylists.
The CEO Insights: Your Facebook Fan Page has been very active, marketing new ideas. What’s behind this push for Social Media?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: We are a social selling company and connecting with people is of great importance. A platform like Facebook also allows us to speak to our consumers directly. It’s a two way street, as we hear from our consumers on a regular basis. Social media today helps bridge the gap that companies faced with traditional media, by getting us closer and in direct contact with our users.
The CEO Insights: What is your vision for Juvalia & You India? How do you plan to fructify it?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Juvalia & You India intends to be India’s largest fashion accessories brand and direct selling business in the near future. We are going to cater to the needs of both the online shopper and to the category that has not quite adopted the concept of shopping online. Also, by offering customers to touch and feel the product through the direct selling channel and then place their orders online. All in all, the offline medium allows prospective buyers to research extensively before making a purchase decision online and vice versa. In addition, social shopping is relatively a new concept in India. We believe that it has a very strong potential. Just by sheer word of mouth and network sales we have been able to demonstrate proof of concept.
The CEO Insights: How different are Indian consumers from other countries?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Indian consumers show a lot of interest in foreign/international brands. The price factor plays a big role in influencing their purchase intention. On contrary to this, consumers in other countries are mostly happy with their local products. A great deal of that stretch comes from the huge population and the large disparities in income that is found in India compared to a more homogeneous middle class in the U.S. or Europe.
The CEO Insights: What kind of domain expertise and skill set you look for in your employees?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: I like to believe that Juvalia is a platform for entrepreneurship. I hope and till date have reasonably successfully, created a complete ecosystem where the team is an interesting bunch of entrepreneurial people – people who are energetic and do a lot of sharing. It is this culture that is most important to me, and I like to ensure that everyone who is a part of the team can imbibe it and further it.
The CEO Insights: What is your Favorite Book?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: I read a lot of biographies. Amongst others, one of my favorite books is Mahatma Gandhi’s “My experiments with truth”.
The CEO Insights: What are your Hobbies?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Reading, Hiking and Singing.
The CEO Insights: Who is your role model whose leadership trait you follow or like?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: It’s difficult for me to pinpoint one role model. I’ve to emulate and follow a number of business leaders, some of whom I’ve had the fortune of interacting with personally. Notable mentions would include Warren Buffett, Dhirubhai Ambani and Steve Jobs.
The CEO Insights: Any Message for us?
Chaitanya Aggarwal: Entrepreneurship is all about passion. You have to love what you do, and if you don’t dance to work every day, then it’s not for you.