Driven by conscious efforts

September 14, 2023 | By Anurima Das

OnlyEthikal was born to give consumers a taste of sustainable, slow-fashion products. Curated with precision, the e-commerce platform puts forth an ethical approach to connect with sustainability-conscious customers.

While GenZ is a big push for the sustainable ecosystem, according to recent reports by McKinsey, customers in KSA and UAE are looking for healthy, purpose-driven, and innovative products. It has been found that people here are ready to pay more for ethically made sustainable products. As an answer to this and to cater to the growing need gap Deepthi Chandran Joyau, Founder, Only Ethikal FZE started the e-commerce platform. “When I started Only Ethikal, there were no options to buy sustainable fashion and lifestyle products in UAE or GCC easily. Today, many players are emerging in the market, this is a good sign, this means the market and demand are growing. As for Only Ethikal we have been growing 100% every year,” she comments.

We got chatting with her to understand more about the brand’s growth approach. Here’s a glimpse of the conversation.

Born from a pertinent personal need
Back in 2019, Deepthi tried to buy a pair of pants that was sustainable, the only options were luxury brands like Stella McCartney which was around 1000 USD. This was the moment of truth for her, and this insight helped her realize that sourcing ethical fashion is not easy and whatever was available was not pocket-friendly. This led her to start Only Ethikal. As the name suggests, Only Ethikal is constantly working on making a place in the lives of those who are looking for honest products that are ethically made. From their journey in the last 4 years, they have been able to see that this audience is growing.

“I believe we have good curation of products, we have been learning and understanding about the styles that work for our audience in the region and we are constantly working to cater to them. We have a very personalized customer service, we have also recently launched our Arabic website based on our customer demands. We have a unique proposition of making the clothing on order, which allows us to offer customization to our customers. This way we have reduced the stress of creating unwanted stock and only making what is actually needed. Apart from that, we have gone beyond good quality products and services. We are one of the very few SME companies in GCC who is profit driven with ESG goals and right now also actively working on calculating carbon footprints to further offset them,” she explains the format in which they work.

Building with consciousness
The ethical fashion market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.6% from 2027 and reach $16,819.0 million in 2032 as per a report. But Deepthi says, “Sustainable fashion should not just be a trend or a marketing strategy. It is a need for today and the future in the fashion world. In fact, it is not just fashion, it is also about the production and consumption of products that we use in our daily lives. I think the trend is to start bringing that change, and we can already see that happening. My inspiration is the impact we are bringing with the products we have on our website. Everyday we have to choose between three things, sustainability, profitability, and also feasibility. This is very challenging for us and keeps us motivated to do better to be able to meet all three requirements responsibly. We have continued to be consistent in our message and communicated our values clearly by taking actions, I believe this has helped us build a brand image and grow over the last 4 years”.

However, she explains that building the brand is a conscious effort and it means educating the customers and creating awareness about sustainable fashion. And in their efforts, they have also partnered with platforms to calculate and offset carbon footprints.

Working through challenges
I started the company with some ready inventory in hand. Soon I realized customers needed more, they were asking for customization like an increase in length or other adjustments. Also women come in different shapes and sizes, most of the time a standard size chart does not fit everyone. After almost 6 months, I switched to make on order, where we make only when there is an order and if the customer does not want to choose from a standard size chart we can make it according to their measurements. We have made clothes for women of different shapes and sizes ranging up to 6XL. I believe this is one diversification where we have been able to bring to the market a solution where women can still wear styles made to their measurements and do not have to force themselves to fit into a standard size chart. Other than this, we have also diversified into curating sustainable clothing for kids and men. We also have accessories, jewellery, and this year we have started working on curating from natural and clean skincare brands,” Deepthi explained about overcoming challenges with the right solution.

Customer behaviour understanding is a big part of what the brand follows as its core ethos. From analysing customer trends to processing data to understand shopping behaviour, the brand also has set up customer support in Arabic and recently launched its Arabic website. This is a milestone for Only Ethikal, and Deepthi highlights that it was very hard to achieve this as a bootstrapped company.

Marketing with power
Digital marketing, majorly on Meta and Google with some presence in other social media platforms is a big visibility quotient for the brand. Another important marketing tool is SEO. “Many businesses bootstrapped like us, forego this in the initial stages, we also did not have the funds to explore this in the beginning, but as we started growing, we realized that it was important to have started with this very early in the business. Apart from this, our most important marketing is done within our community. We have a trusted and loyal customer base who are ready to shop from us not just for the value we bring to them in terms of good honest products, but also the value we extend to humanity and the environment. We communicate this very passionately, as it needs to be highlighted and customer needs to know what we are doing as a responsible company. This communication combined with actual efforts has enabled us to grow very organically within our community,” she explains their marketing drive.

Sustainable Footprint

  • With the brand’s recent changes in fulfillment, they have been able to cut down on carbon footprints, costs, and delivery timelines. On average they have cut the carbon footprints from 550 kg per order to 13 kg per order.
  • They have sold more than 15,000 products, which creates more than 100,000 paid hours. Avoided more than 5,000 kg of plastic by using alternate and upcycled materials for packaging.
  • Through their partnership with 1% for the planet, they have helped more than 10,000 people with their yearly contributions. Any new business OnlyEthikal takes on will carry the platform’s ESG values with 1% for the planet and carbon offset programs. This will ensure that the sustainable ethos is maintained and practiced holistically.

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