A platform set out to meet the demand for contemporary clothing

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Strides Co’s fashion e-commerce platform sells affordable contemporary fashion clothing that meets global quality standards

07 May 2022, 10:35

Last modified: 07 May 2022, 13:47

Strides Co team members: CTO Ariq Mansur (LR), CEO Zahia Khondoker and COO Alavi Khondoker. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Strides Co team members: CTO Ariq Mansur (LR), CEO Zahia Khondoker and COO Alavi Khondoker.  Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Strides Co team members: CTO Ariq Mansur (LR), CEO Zahia Khondoker and COO Alavi Khondoker. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Bangladesh is one of the best-known names in the global apparel market, with exports attracting billions each year. However, finding high quality contemporary fashion clothing in the local market is a struggle for most consumers.

Strides Co’s fashion e-commerce platform sells affordable contemporary fashion clothing that meets global fashion and quality standards.

CEO Zahia Khondoker, COO Alavi Khondoker, and CTO Ariq Mansur set out to fill the void as there was demand in the local market for clothing that was trending globally.

What makes Strides Co unique is that there is an option on the website that allows customers to order up to three different sizes for a single fabric. They can try all three on as it is delivered to their doorstep and choose the one that fits best.

After completing the International Baccalaureate degree, siblings Zahia and Alavi went to England. They returned to Bangladesh in 2015. From 2016 to 2018, they worked in their family company Shanta Garments Ltd.

“It’s hard to find clothes that are trending – let’s say the ones we see on Instagram or those offered by Zara or H&M – in our local markets. Even when I was looking for ordinary clothes, it was very difficult,” said Zahia.

Zahia leads research, design and development at a garment company, while Alavi takes care of the manufacturing side of the business. With the knowledge gleaned from working with international buyers and their overall work experience, they are confident that together they can create a viable business offering clothing collections that are not available in the Bangladeshi market. The motto of this brand is ‘Wardrobe fittings with excellence’.

“We started Strides Co in 2018, together with our factory. We are fully involved in it in 2020,” Zahia told The Business Standard.

Despite receiving a positive response from the start, the business really skyrocketed during the pandemic.

“When the pandemic started, it became a huge potential for us to go all in. We became fully involved and built our team,” he said.

The current team is around 12 people including designers, marketing executives along with IT and operations personnel. “We also have investors who own companies that do our photo processing, and they also have a big team there,” he added.

From 2020 to 2021, with 2021 as its first full operating year, Strides Co experienced nearly 200 percent growth. Last year, he received seed funding from the Bangladesh Angels Network (BAN), which helps grow the business.

Alavi explained why they decided to open an online store instead of a retail store like most RMG factories. “We want Strides Co to be a one stop destination for all things fashion. Together with our flagship brand Strides, we want to partner with brands of equal quality, so customers have a wide range of products to shop for.”

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

He also believes that the beauty of e-commerce is that you can see all the customer journeys collectively. Moreover, they can track customer responses easily, thus enabling them to improve their services.

There are 11 brands mentioned on the Strides Co website, some of which are sub-brands. Expensive, for example, is a sub-brand for ethnic wear by Strides. The company also handles product shoots for its brand partners.

Trousers, winter jackets and contemporary westerns are some of the bestselling categories at Strides Co. However, for Eid, most customers order Panjabis.

Bringing diversity to products is one of the most difficult parts of running an e-commerce platform as they try to provide all kinds of fashion items. Also, they have to make sure the customer understands the product, which is why they take high-quality shots.

“Because of fashion, you always have to think about what’s popular. Every new product is a gamble because you don’t know how popular it will be,” says Alavi.

Furthermore, he added, in e-commerce, the challenge is bigger than retail, because customers cannot feel the product, and their perception is only based on images and product descriptions.

According to him, the reason why online works for them is because they have a large customer base in Dhaka as well as outside Dhaka. Orders came from Khulna, Barisal and Thakurgaon.

Within Dhaka, deliveries can be made within eight hours as all Strides Co products are ready stock.

To run a business like Strides, as Alavi informs, one needs to build a network of suppliers and Strides Co has done so successfully in recent years. Shanta Garments, the owner’s family business, certainly helps, but it’s not the one-stop solution one might think.

“One garment factory cannot make all kinds of products, you need to have a network of suppliers to run a retail store,” said Alavi.

However, with a family background, it is only natural that Zahia and Alavi go into the garment business. Their journey is made easy with the blessing and support of their parents.

“Our father was a bit hesitant at first because the clothing business is tough and although he has worked on the export side, he has been in the business for a long time. Now when we do well, both parents get really excited,” said Zahia.

For Zahia, the future of Strides Co is to become the number one fashion destination. “We want to expand our product line and add underwear, footwear, etc. Currently, we are also looking for the right funding and thinking to improve our business.”

The company will also try to expand the size (currently from size XS to 3XL) and be more inclusive, he said.

“We are trying to create a viable brand in Bangladesh as well as in the global market,” said Alavi. Currently, they are running a pilot project on Amazon.

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