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Founding a Female-Run and Female-Targeted Business

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EU Business School alumna Riya Kalra recently presented to students regarding the process of establishing and maintaining her business, Candyskin. Riya explained that she draws upon her experience working with her father’s manufacturing and industrial textiles company as well as her studies at EU Business School while running her business. Candyskin is a women-led and lingerie brand, launched in 2017.

Candyskin’s Mission

Riya started her company with a mission to provide comfortable intimate wear for women in India. She wanted the products to be of high quality using fabrics that provide functionalities like anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, taking into consideration the climate of the country. Her typical target-market customer is the modern, active woman. Therefore, her products had to be adaptable to the range of activities that an average Indian woman may participate in on a daily basis.

Riya explained that in India, it is extremely important to cater to the masses. Although she saw her product as luxurious, she didn’t want it to become exclusive. A reasonable price point was crucial in making Candyskin as accessible as possible. To cater to a wide range of women, Riya decided to launch different collections. Some products were for everyday use while others were designed for special occasions such as holidays and weddings.

The Beginning of Candyskin

One of the first steps Riya took in launching her business was to live in a small town in China for one month. She did this to visit factories and get a close-up understanding of the manufacturing process. Although Riya later decided to manufacture from Sri Lanka, this trip was an educational experience that informed her later decisions regarding factory selection.

Riya emphasized the importance of market research too, stating that you should always work according to data and not your own personal preference. The data is what tells you about the demographic of your audience and their wants and needs.

At the beginning, Candyskin had a standalone store. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this became unviable. However, it was useful at the beginning to demonstrate the quality of products to in-person customers and gauge their response to the brand.

Quickly, Riya realized that she would need to develop a wide range of products for Candyskin to make an impact on the crowded Indian market. Women of different ages and body types wanted different types of lingerie and its by-products. Her aim was to cater to as many of them as possible.

Candyskin’s Approach to Sales

Candyskin is currently sold in 250 stores in India, and Riya also has a distribution network of 50 people on her team. The company has its own website, but Candyskin products are sold on a range of other online marketplaces including international sites such as Amazon and sites that cater specifically to the Indian market. Riya shared the importance of having a presence in business magazines and on websites that cater to the B2B market as well as directly targeting customers.

Her main piece of advice regarding sales was that business owners should create more than one sales channel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she believes that an online sales channel is a necessity in 2021. When selling on channels such as Amazon, Riya reminded students that this is likely to be customers’ first interaction with your brand. The price point must be competitive because you’re being directly compared with other brands.

To Riya, an offline sales channel is still valuable as it gives the opportunity for customers to witness the quality of your garments in person. It can be difficult to transmit this quality online when customers are making judgements based on an image.

Recruitment and Retainment Advice

When Riya started her business, she was relatively inexperienced. She admitted that she benefited from hiring people who added value by filling the gaps in her knowledge, usually people who had previously worked in similar industries.

However, experience wasn’t the only factor that she considered when deciding who to recruit. She also looked for people with the right attitude that were excited by the prospect of a start-up. Riya wanted to find people who would be inspired by the prospect of building something new alongside her.

Being an employer can be complicated sometimes. Riya shared her negative experience of employees stealing her ideas, reminding EU Business School students that confidentiality agreements can be a very valuable means of protecting personal and intellectual property.

She has also encountered situations where employees were repeatedly failing to perform to the expected standards. Her advice for other employers in those circumstances is to give opportunities for development but to be assertive and replace staff members when those opportunities are not fully taken advantage of by the employee.

On a more positive note, Riya shared that she has also worked with many excellent and dedicated people. For her, it is essential to treat employees well so that they work wholeheartedly for the company and choose to stay there long-term.

Her suggestions for staff retention include incentives, recognition and salary increases based on the company’s growth percentage. Bonuses such as holidays make staff members feel valued and motivated.

How Riya Markets Candyskin

Riya shared with EU Business School students that, on average, people need to see a brand six times before they eventually commit to a purchase. This shows the importance of being visible and active on social media. One way to do this is to team up with influencers who promote your products. Another is to collaborate with other small brands and link to one another.

For people to see your page, you must optimize your content for search engines. You can also advertise on search engines so your brand is promoted when potential customers search for similar items. Alongside social media marketing, Riya uses SMS and newsletters to spread the word about Candyskin.

Current Innovations and Future Plans

In response to COVID-19, Candyskin has launched sportswear line is working on launching nightwear and athleisure line so women can dress comfortably while working from home. Riya’s focus for the future is to continue developing Candyskin’s e-commerce platform and adding new collections and products to its current product range to attract new customers.

Having experienced difficulties with third-party manufacturers, she has now set up an independent Candyskin manufacturing unit. She also has plans to start selling internationally and to increase her distribution channel to 1,000 stores in India.

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