Since Marc Andreessen penned his famous “Why Software Is Eating the World” essay in The Wall Street Journal 8 years ago, the world of business has changed fundamentally. Today, the idea that every company needs to become a technology company is considered almost a cliché. No matter your industry, you’re expected to be reimagining your business. Fashion is no different. A new breed of companies that calls themselves fashion-tech is now slowly shaping the present and the future of fashion across the world. Some of these companies are mere marketplaces. Others are changing how and what people shop, wear and when. Others are launching new products using a combination of tech and common sense. We have seen the meteoric rise of companies like Rent the Runway to All Birds to a long list of other fashion-tech companies.
While Bangladesh has a fast-growing startup ecosystem, fashion-tech is not a category that we hear a lot about. What distinguishes a fashion tech company from a regular fashion brand is the use of technology. Fashion tech startups across the world are using tech in a myriad of ways to get ahead in the market. Some companies are using improved materials using tech, others are using data and algorithms to better understand and then match the taste of customers, others are using the algorithm to predict the next fashion trends and launch new products and so on.
Styline, a modest fashion marketplace based in Dhaka, is one of a few fashion companies that is using technology to solve people's fashion-related problem and make fashion choices easier. It is the first proper fashion-tech company in its vertical - modest fashion - in Dhaka and rapidly growing using the power of technology across its operations.
Styline is one of the largest and fast-growing fashion-tech startups in Dhaka that has successfully broken into fashion space being a tech startup using a combination of data and common sense strategic shifts.
Launched in April 2015, Styline has experienced phenomenal growth over the past four years and has successfully positioned itself as a leader in modest fashion online marketplace space in Bangladesh.
Khobaib Chowdhury, Founder, and CEO of Styline, in an interview with FS: “Our mission is simple, we want to utilize technology to offer our customers a shopping experience of a lifetime. We are utilizing technology in achieving a few goals: 1) to offer our customers a seamless and convenient shopping experience. 2) to automate our process and SOP to save hundreds of work hours. 3) to understand customer behavior, changes in the market, predict trends and improve customer experience and retention. 4) using algorithms to make better decisions across departments within the organization
The company says it has a 10 years vision guideline. By 2021, Styline wants to offer a seamless shopping experience to modest shoppers in Bangladesh. “We have made some progress in that direction,” says Mr. Khobaib. The company is currently one of the largest modest fashion-tech retailers in Dhaka.
“By 2024, we aim to support one million SMEs and build an e-commerce ecosystem. And by 2028, we want to become the search engine for lifestyle shopping in Bangladesh Market.”
Styline started with one product-line: Hijab. It grew quickly using a combination of great products, excellent customer service, and effective marketing efforts. Enabled by initial growth, Styline has invested in innovation, opened up its marketplace for other modest fashion brands and expanded to a host of verticals related to fashion and beauty. In 2016, it added the modest dress to its product-line – a new category comprising of the burka, Abaya, and other related modest fashion products. In 2018, it added halal and organic cosmetics. In a recent push, the 4th product line Styline Jewelry is launched in November 2019, which shows the ambition to become more and more complete as a marketplace with all the products that are needed for our lifestyle shopping.
In 2017, Styline introduced its new retail concept with an ambition to bridge offline and online shopping experience and offer a superior experience to customers using data across platforms. This is one thing tech made the analytics and decision making easier with an integrated omnichannel tool.
Today, the company has 5 experience hubs in Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet. The company says it aims to integrate online and offline shopping experience using data analytics to ensure a better experience for its customers.
With the expansion of its product line and into online to offline retail, Styline has invested in growing its marketplace. The drive has paid off. Today, almost all the top modest fashion and organic beauty brands have a presence on the Styline marketplace, many of whom receive significant sales from Styline.
According to the latest Global Islamic Economy report, in 2016 consumers spent $254 billion on modest attire alone. The report predicted the market for Muslim fashion could reach $373 billion by 2022. If you add other verticals like cosmetics, it offers an unparalleled opportunity.
Styline understands this opportunity. It has slowly been building its foundation over the last three years and is now ready to go to the next level.
The difference between Styline and many other small modest fashion players is that Styline is not a mere Facebook page. The company says one of the reasons it positions itself as a fashion-tech company is that it aims to build a brand that is loved by regular people, by the masses. “Technology enables you to achieve that goal relatively by growing quickly and serving a large user base with relative efficiency which is not possible in an offline-only world,” says Khobaib.
This is the vision Styline has been offering new hires and potential employees working at Styline meaning you are having this opportunity to build the first large scale fashion-tech brand in Bangladesh. That if you are passionate about fashion and in technology and want to do some works that you will be happy looking back to ten years from now, Styline is the place you should join.
“Our ambition is higher,” says Khobaib. “The opportunity to that we have to build a widely loved fashion-tech brand is unparalleled. We have built the system and we have things in place but we need people who could take advantage of what we have already built and run with it. We are looking for people who are passionate about fashion - they could be people with experience of working with big companies or smart young graduates who love fashion and tech and fast learning environment.”
“There was a time when we were a small hijab business. Now when we look back, we can see how all these dots connect. We have worked hard to build this massive 50+ people’s team, from the ground up. Now top talents are getting attracted in different important roles, not only for the excellent culture we’ve built but also the ownership we offer them in each stage. The new projects that are coming out from Styline these days are the result of the effort of our youngsters in the team. They do everything - from launching new product lines to managing our retails. We have found out that people appreciate and own when they are empowered and it is playing a role in getting jobs done, in an agile and dynamic manner for us” he adds.
In 2020, Styline plans to launch multiple new product-lines, introduce new technology features, pursue geographical expansion of its business. “On the technology end, we have some exciting features lined-up for 2020,” says Mr. Khobaib
Styline has launched its revamped mobile app in September and wants to turn it into a platform as it moves forward.
Apart from an opportunity to build great things and impact the lives of millions of people, Styline offers an excellent learning and growth opportunity to people who are willing to learn and build and grow.
Styline has worked hard to build a meaningful learning-first culture over the past few years. The company has introduced defined values and followed through consistently to ensure that the values are put into practice every day.
“We are a value-driven organization. Every decision we make is informed by the values that define us,” says Mr. Khobaib.
Styline says it has defined 7 values that inform how it operates as an organization, how people work and interact with each other and how Styline makes small and big decisions.
In an interview with Future Startup, Mr. Khobaib goes on to explain values that drive Styline:
First, customers are the priority. We are a customer-first company. We are here for and because of our customers. The way we operate establishes the fact that the reason for our being is our customers.
The next three important values deal with work - how we operate as an organization and how we ensure a better experience for our customers. These are 1) passion for work 2) integrity 3) commitment or honoring your work. Each of these values is interrelated. When we onboard someone we put a lot of importance on these values. We teach people that we don’t want you to work for money alone, we want you to work because you are passionate about the work.
Number two is integrity. Asking whether what you are doing is ethically right or not. Probably doing something would take us closer to our vision but also asking is it morally right or are you breaking other values of Styline.
Number three is honoring your work. When you commit something, you do it. Now, this is important because it propagates. When you, as a leader in a certain role, don’t honor your work, your subordinates would also get affected by it. When you break a commitment to your subordinates, they would do the same with their people. In the first phase of this program, we ensure that people feel these values.
The next value at this stage is teamwork. We don’t judge people based on their individual performance alone, we put equal importance on their contribution to the team.
The sixth value is integrating technology for innovation. There are a lot of companies like ours in the market, one of the things that make us different is that we are a highly technology-first company. We know how tech can create a huge difference in future digital space here and we are always investing in it.
The next value is for our partners. The first one is meaningful partnerships. Our first priority when it comes to the partnership is a happy partnership. Then comes the win-win partnership. Recently, we have updated our contract with our partners in light of these values. We tried to make our contract such that reading it would give you a happy and prosperous feeling. We have found that when our partners are happy, they give their best service possible.
The last one is giving back to society. We encourage our people to think about giving back to society and we already have taken initiatives to implement this value.
Fashion has always been an innovative industry — from the invention of the sewing machine to the rise of e-commerce to algorithmic shopping to AR/VR dressing rooms and beyond. The ~$2.4 trillion global fashion industry is one of the largest industries in the global economy. The modest fashion, where Styline currently operates, is estimated to be a $373 billion industry by 2022.
Today, technology is transforming fashion at a faster pace than ever before. On the one end, robotic technologies are changing manufacturing - from sewing to cutting fabric. On the other end, algorithms that predict style trends. AR/VR that helps in shopping and AI designer is slowly but surely changing fashion using automation, personalization, and speed.
Styline aims to lead the pack in this transformation of the fashion industry in Bangladesh. The company is already on its way to becoming the Lifestyle Platform of Bangladesh. The next station is to become the largest and most-loved fashion-tech brand in Bangladesh.
Styline is hiring for leadership positions and you may take a chance in making something happen. In an effort to find the marketing lead, this article could give some light if and how you can be a good fit for the role.
“We need someone with us in the driving seat who is enough long-sighted to see the big picture, hungry enough to get things done and driven enough to make his/her own remarkable stories.” This is why the role is very important and we are super picky, says Mr. Khobaib. The Job description for marketing lead is here.
If you are someone who finds meaning in creating and building things, if you are passionate about fashion and technology and want to be part of building the most loved fashion-tech brand in Bangladesh, this is your opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Explore opportunities here.