Dude Style, Entrepreneurship and The Art Of Starting Small: An interview with Golam Rabbani and Md. Bashir Uddin, Founders, Dude Style

Dude Style, Entrepreneurship and The Art Of Starting Small: An interview with Golam Rabbani and Md. Bashir Uddin, Founders, Dude Style

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Golam Rabbani and Md. Bashir Uddin are the Founders of Dude Style, a Dhaka-based online men’s fashion retailer offering a host of products including jeans pants, t-shirts, polo shirts, shirts among a few other products.

In this interview, brought to you by Ajkerdeal, the two founders reflect on their journey, how they started Dude Style – a two-man operation, their initial decision to start small and start vertically, trials, and tribulations they have had to endure, their transition from selling ready-made products to establishing their own brand and illustrate how they have built a profitable online business.

Future Startup

Please tell us about your background and your journey to what you are doing today.

Dude Style

We have been passionate about entrepreneurship and building something of our own for a long time. We always wanted to start something and used to have this conversation between us. When eCommerce came along and started making a wave, we finally decided to try our luck which eventually led to the founding of Dude Style. ‘Dude’ was quite a trendy term back in 2015 and we decided to take advantage of it.

We decided to start with men’s fashion products, particularly Jeans pants. We thought if we start with a single product, it would allow us to do it better and grow quickly and then we would be able to add more products to the line. We started with opening a Facebook page back in 2015. After a while, we came to know about all these marketplaces and eventually started working with Ajkerdeal.com in August 2016. Since then we have been growing steadily.

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Future Startup

What went into building the initial operation of Dude Style?

Dude Style

We have been thinking about starting an eCommerce business for a while which eventually led to the founding of Dude Style.

It all started quite informally. We did not start with a fixed investment per se, rather we had put together whatever amount each of us could afford.

Initially, we used to source readymade products and our operation was largely based on demand that is when there was an order we used to source product and send that to our customers. We used to invest any proceeding from the sales in the business, which we do even these days. After doing this for a while, we come to see that the business was growing pretty steadily and then we decided to give it a further push.

We now work with a few production houses who make products for us. We have made the decision to have production on our name so that we can have better control on the product quality. We have divided our works: one of us look after the customer service and logistics and another look after production, dealing with eCommerce platforms and marketing.

Future Startup

Please give us an overview of Dude Style i.e. how big is your operations, how does the operation work, how big is your team and so on.

Dude Style

We are men’s fashion shop. We currently offer jeans pants, polo t-shirts, formal shirts and formal one color sweaters for winter.

We started with 15 different designs of jeans pants with ajkerdeal in late 2016. Today, we offer about 500 different designs of jeans pants only through ajkerdeal.com. In total, we offer about 700 different designs of products in categories that we offer.

Initially, we used to buy third-party products and sell as it is, albeit good quality jeans pants. We are now building our own brand and all of our products come with the seal of Dude Style logo. We have collaboration with a few production houses and we place orders with customization based on quality, size, color, fittings and even the fabrics of clothes.

Operationally, we are pretty small. Two of us handle all the operations. Since we mostly sell online and our productions are done by the production houses, we can handle rest of the work ourselves. Our scale has not gone beyond our capacity yet as we are working hard to have our own brand. We have been growing steadily over past years and we are planning to scale our operations as we go.

Our sales come from almost all parts of the country where logistics service has access to. Depending on promotional activities sales differ between inside Dhaka and outside Dhaka.

Our price starts at tk. 500 and goes up to tk 2500 for pants. We sell the best quality products in the market at a competitive price that you would not find anywhere else.

Seasonality affects our sales sometimes which is why our sales fluctuate. We sell about 300 products per month only through Ajkerdeal.

Dude Style’s Ajkerdeal Shop – Screenshot Taken on Jan 21, 2018

Future Startup

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What about the challenges that you are facing now?

Dude Style

I would say that lack of knowledge was the first challenge for us. We did not know much about eCommerce when we decided to start Dude Style and we had to spend quite a bit of time in collecting information about the market and gathering knowledge in order to understand the trend, competitions and prepare ourselves.

We have learned those things mostly through doing things by ourselves. Luckily, we did not have to face any challenge with sourcing products which helped us to invest ourselves in business development. Over the time, now we understand our customers better as well as many intricacies of the online business. We have a long way to go but we have also come a long way.

Another challenge that we are facing now is non-response from customers when our delivery partner goes to deliver a product. This happens mostly with COD products and widespread in outside Dhaka. People order products and don’t receive it once sent to them. This causes us to incur losses not only through time and effort but also delivery charges for multiple times. This is becoming a growing challenge for us.

More unfortunate is the fact that, we alone can not do much about this. Our leverage in this situation is pretty low. That does not mean that we are not trying to find a way around this, we are. But in order to truly solve this problem, we need a collective effort from the entire industry.

One remedy could be advance payment, at least partial advance payment can be implemented for paying the courier fair at least. This likely help the scenario to improve. This is a necessity because the e-commerce businesses have become matured and now many businesses are selling outside Dhaka in large quantities and most of them have the same complaints of un-received products.

Lack of Knowledge about products and operations was a big obstacles in the early days. Unreceived products and fake customers are the biggest challenge for us in present times.

Future Startup

How have you attracted customers and grown Dude Style in the early days?

Dude Style

Our focus has been on serving our customers better than anyone in the market with great products that meet their needs and taste and also with superior service. We always look for opportunities to surprise our customers with new designs and styles and better quality products. We try to ensure that we are giving best fabrics, size and wash guarantee. We try to ensure that our customers find it comfortable wearing our products which we believe will eventually help us to grow further.

The other thing we do is observing other players in the market and learning from their mistakes and works and using that insight into better serving our customers.

Logistics is a challenge in Dhaka. On-time delivery is important for us to ensure optimal customers experience. But often it gets challenging, particularly during festival time. We have been trying to find ways to get around it so that we can ensure on-time delivery for our customers.

Facebook remains an important platform for us for marketing. We have our own page and we do run promotional campaigns when we have something special to offer. We used to depend on the e-commerce platforms for the marketing before as the primary point of our marketing. However, now we are more focusing on our page to spread the ‘Dude Style’ brand.

Future Startup

eCommerce is a competitive space. There are other brands that probably sell similar products like yours. How do you differentiate yourself from others?

Dude Style

The first objection of any customer who buys jeans pant online is a discrepancy between the image shown on the website and the real product that is being delivered to the customer. Often website photo and the real product does not match. Secondly, there are rampant complaints about defects. Limited collection and slow delivery are two other complaints that we see people regularly do for online business.

We relentlessly work hard to ensure that our customers get what they see in the picture; they get a perfect product without any defect and they get it from a wide variety of collection and on time. We have a strong QC team and every product that we offer to our customers goes through QC for multiple times.

Even then, if we sell a defect product by any chance, we replace the product within 2 days and no questions asked for that.

For product collection and delivery speed of the products, we are in a much better position than many others. We have a huge collection of categories that we deal with. We have collaboration with multiple logistics partner that allows us to ensure timely delivery to our customers and also flexibility in times of logistical obstacles.

Let me give you an example of customer satisfaction and professionalism: we started working with Ajkerdeal quite late, despite that within a very short time we have managed to become a ‘5 Golds’ merchant which we consider to be a meaningful achievement for us. We have almost 90% positive reviews on the merchant panel of ajkerdeal.

Multiple QC for a single product, large collection of designs and on time delivery makes us different from the rest of the market.

Future Startup

What are the future plans for Dude Style?

Dude Style

Our ambition is to become a one-stop solution for all clothing needs of our customers.

We plan to start our own production setup which we believe will give us better control over our supply chain, costs, design, and overall customer experience.

Future Startup

What are some of the biggest lessons of your journey so far?

Dude Style

We are first time entrepreneurs. We have seen many people starting a business with excitement and enthusiasm at first. In business, things often get difficult after first few months and when things get difficult many of these over enthused people give up and never manage to build a meaningful business. We looked at these things and learned that there would be challenges and we would have to endure that.

We have endured our fair share of ups and downs. We incurred losses, suffered from lack of funding and many more. On the top of that, there was pressure from family to do a real job instead of doing this.

Our biggest lesson is that there will be countless obstacles regardless of what business you are in. There will be issues with customers and with products and much more. You have to learn regularly. You have to be prepared for all kinds of challenges and still find ways to endure and move forward. In business, patience is the virtue and it will push you to new heights.

The most important thing for any business is understanding your customers and serving them better than anyone else. This is the most fundamental and consequential thing you can do. You can talk about strategy and all, but once you get the basics right, everything falls into places.

We have endured our fair share of ups and downs. We incurred losses, suffered from lack of funding and many more. On the top of that, there was pressure from family to do a real job instead of doing this.

Future Startup

If you had another chance to start over, what would you do differently?

Dude Style

I would start with more product lines instead of starting with only one product. eCommerce operates in an aggregator mode, if we had offered more products from early days, we could have grown our business further.

We would use Facebook and every other sales tool more aggressively. We now use Facebook quite rigorously and it does help us to get orders. Moreover, with more using of Facebook, our own brand ‘Dude Style’ would have gotten more customers.

Lastly, I would start working with eCommerce platforms from day one which I think would help us to grow our business as well as build a strong partner relationship with eCommerce platforms.

Future Startup

You have been working with Ajkerdeal for quite a long time. How is your experience with them?

Dude Style

We have been working with Ajkerdeal since 2016. So far, our experience with ajkerdeal is very good. They have a bilingual site and Bangla is the default language, which allows us to attract a wide range of customers. This also helps many vendors who are not that comfortable with English to operate easily in the website and place orders.
This is, I guess, one of the reasons why many online sellers feel rather comfortable with Ajkerdeal.

Having said that, I think it would be great if Ajkerdeal can find a way to make customers pay for only the courier fee in advance which would likely reduce the returning rate of products for no reasons. This might not be their policy now, but it is likely to help online sellers as more and more sellers are dealing with that.

On the logistics end, special deals for the merchants as well as ensuring more care for products should also help. We know the Ajkerdeal works with third-party logistics partner, and if they can ensure these things, it is likely to help merchants a lot. On the same note, if the platform arranges more opportunities for the merchants such as connecting with banks and others for loans or similar opportunities, that too should help.

Other than these, I would say that ajkerdeal is doing good and we are happy to do business with them.

Our biggest lesson is that there will be countless obstacles regardless of what business you are in. There will be issues with customers and with products and much more. You have to learn regularly. You have to be prepared for all kinds of challenges and still find ways to endure and move forward. In business, patience is the virtue and it will push you to new heights.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to the people who are just starting out in eCommerce and fashion space?

Dude Style

First advice would be: take e-commerce business seriously. While many people consider that eCommerce is an easy business, it is not. Rather it is different from and in many ways more complex than other conventional brick and mortar business.

There are many things that you will have to take care of starting from product and pricing till your website to packaging and to ensuring customer service. Moreover, you will have to manage all of these at once. If you want to make it in eCommerce, you have work harder and put enough efforts to get things done. That’s one.

Another suggestion would be: understand your business well. If you are starting a clothing business, you have to understand fabrics and quality of the clothes well. You can’t go with the guesswork and with the knowledge of others. If you don’t understand your products properly, you would not be able to provide best possible products to your customers and resultantly would not be able to build a sustainable business. These two things should do the job. You will need many other things in order to build a business, but these are the most important ones to start with.

Take eCommerce business seriously, work harder, understand the business and learn everyday.

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