The Souled Store is a homegrown Indian brand selling quirky pop-culture merchandise. It was founded in June 2013 and now has more than 4 million happy customers. TSS designs, manufactures, and retails apparel products with designs ranging from TV shows, movies, and cartoon characters that you are probably die-hard fans of.
Innovated by Harsh Lal, Vedang Patel, Aditya Sharma, and Rohin Samtaney, The Souled Store is based in Mumbai. It is currently India's biggest fan merchandise destination. They are the official, licensed merchandisers for cartoons (Scooby-Doo, Cartoon Network, etc.), TV shows (F.R.I.E.N.D.S, The Big Bang Theory), big-budget movies (Marvel, Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, etc.), and IPL teams.
Nitin Bajaj, Founder & CEO of EasyLeadz - the B2B contact data provider, invited Harsh Lal on the Masters of Sales podcast to shed some light on how The Souled Store is driving growth consistently. Harsh Lal, Co-Founder & Director of TSS, heads Licensing (150+ partnerships), Marketplaces, Retail, and Legal in his company.
Moreover, he holds more than 9 years of experience in business growth, client acquisition, key account management, and the development of new channels of sales.
Harsh Lal: A Versatile Entrepreneur
Prior to The Souled Store, Harsh had no plans to build a brand like this. But, he was consistently doing a bunch of things until he found something he really liked. He took up science in his junior college and then pursued his graduation in Law. He also did internships in advertising and journalism.
Further, he spent 6 months as a tattoo artist and worked as a full-time associate at a law firm. One thing that pushed him to keep trying different things was to find something which he really liked so that he could put his heart & soul into it.
What Encouraged The Souled Store?
Harsh and his friends-cum-Co-founders, were bored with what they were doing in their day jobs. Actually, one lawyer and three engineers working with a financial services firm were dissatisfied with how life was going. So, that's the point where they all decided to do something interesting and innovated The Souled Store in 2013.
One thing all of them have in common is that they all are fans of cricket, movies, and TV shows. But back in 2012, they realized that when you wanted to buy a T-shirt, whether it's your favorite Superman, Batman, or F.R.I.E.N.D.S, you had two options. The first option was to buy a low-quality fake T-shirt off the street for 200-300 rupees.
And the other option was to buy the original one for 2000 rupees from the US. People order it and get it shipped to India, paying all of those additional shipping fees when that T-shirt was probably manufactured in or around India. So, they realized that it was a decision between a 300-rupee T-shirt or a 2000-rupee one.
In fact, for most of the country, it's not even a decision, no matter how big a fan you are. This was the major problem that they saw and felt that there was a need for good quality merchandise with great designs. That's the whole idea of TSS.
One-Line Reason Behind The Souled Store
According to Harsh, the one-line reason why he and his other three friends started The Souled Store is that it was precisely to make sure that they had great designs, great products, and great prices for fans.
One Thing That Helped TSS To Scale Up
All the successes that The Souled Store had over the last 9 years were due to its culture of collaboration. In fact, TSS has officially been certified as a "Great Place To Work". The team of 'souled' entrepreneurs focuses very strongly on making sure that people are having a good time at work, and people look forward to coming back to work.
The real reason behind this is when people are not in a great frame of mind, they always look for shortcuts. And that's not what The Souled Store wants. So, having a great work culture helps TSS a lot in scaling up consistently.
Brand And Licensing
The Souled Store has partnered with more than 150 licensors across movies, TV shows, cartoons, and brand collaborations. Interestingly, the portfolio of TSS is only going to grow bigger and bigger.
Talking about cracking the initial licensing deals, in 2014 or 2015, when they got their second license for F.R.I.E.N.D.S, it was before it became popular again on television, and then they started having reruns and reruns. As the brand, TSS did not simply copy and paste logos on their merchandise. It added certain surprise elements in their designs and redesigns everything from the scratch, which even the licensors appreciated.
These things helped them initially to get licenses. Since then, they never had a problem getting a license because their partners have been just as excited as them at the collaboration.
What Should Be The USP For An Apparel Brand?
According to Harsh, "If your only USP as a brand is that you're cheaper than your competitor, then it is not strong enough, because nothing stops your competitors from coming with a larger round of funding and simply undercutting you. So, if your customers are only loyal to your price points, then they're not loyal to your brand. And it's a very dangerous game to play".
Key Learnings From This Masters Of Sales Podcast:
(1) The core philosophy of The Souled Store is "Love What You Do and Follow Your Soul" which actually works almost everywhere.
(2) How the brand TSS sets itself apart from other brands.
(3) Omni-channel is only to enhance the customer experience.
(4) It's important to understand why your customers put out negative feedback on social media.
See below for on-demand access to the podcast!
Click here for the List of Fashion Companies in India.