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Women Leaders in Fashion Retail: Aparna Thyagarajan, Co-founder, Shobitam

In the ever-evolving landscape of the fashion industry, women today are not just contributors; instead, they are innovators and trendsetters. These women are rethinking and reimagining what many perceive as normal. From entrepreneurs to designers, women are taking the lead in dismantling traditional concepts and ideas, revolutionizing how we engage with fashion.

The transformative influence of these trailblazing women spans diverse domains, from advocating sustainability and shattering gender norms to reviving age-old textiles, designs, and techniques for the modern world. They are rewriting the narrative of fashion and leaving an indelible mark on its world.

This week, IMAGES Business of Fashion delves deeper into the life and achievements of Aparna Thyagarajan, Co-founder, and Chief Product Officer of Shobitam.

About Aparna Thyagarajan
Aparna Thyagarajan serves as the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Shobitam, an innovative direct-to-consumer online platform dedicated to democratizing ethnic fashion globally. Drawing upon over four years of invaluable experience in entrepreneurship, Aparna plays a pivotal role in steering the company’s product development initiatives and fostering community outreach among weavers and artisans. Her profound passion for design, fashion, and creativity is palpable, driving her mission to elegantly showcase the rich tapestry of Indian fabrics, culture, and heritage to a worldwide audience.

Current Roles and Responsibilities
In her capacity as the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Shobitam, Aparna shoulders the comprehensive responsibility for overseeing all products within the Shobitam portfolio. Beyond product management, she plays a pivotal role in nurturing and engaging with the weavers and artisans community, aligning with a forward-looking vision outlined in the company’s future roadmap.

Aparna is deeply committed to Shobitam’s overarching mission: “Look Good. Do Good. Feel Good.” This ethos underscores her dedication to not only crafting aesthetically pleasing products but also fostering a positive impact that resonates with individuals, aligning with the brand’s core values.

Career History and Experience
Aparna embarked on her professional journey as a Software Engineer at Aboundsoft Solutions, contributing her skills for a year. Subsequently, she joined Microsoft and dedicated 7.5 years to the company, demonstrating versatility in roles such as Tech Lead in Social Search at Bing, Software Design Engineer in Test for Microsoft Dynamics AX, and more. In 2019, driven by entrepreneurial zeal, she founded her own brand, Shobitam.

Education
Aparna holds a Master’s degree in Computer Applications.

Strengths
Aparna possesses a profound passion for fashion, coupled with an exceptional design sensibility tailored to the nuances of global markets. Her adeptness extends to a deep reservoir of technology expertise, enabling her to strategically leverage and disrupt the handloom space with innovative solutions. Complementing her technological acumen is an unwavering commitment to precision quality, underscored by an unparalleled attention to detail.

Weakness
While Aparna lacks previous entrepreneurial experience, her journey as an ambitious woman leader and entrepreneur is characterized by a strong commitment to building Shobitam alongside a highly capable team. This underscores her resilience and determination to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship, demonstrating an ability to learn and adapt in a dynamic business landscape.

Aspirations in life
To democratize ethnic fashion on a global scale, fostering inclusivity and accessibility across diverse markets. To elevate Shobitam into a world-class direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand originating from India, transcending borders and resonating with audiences worldwide.

Game-Changing Retail Technologies
> Custom-built Rite Track App: This innovative application serves as a comprehensive solution, seamlessly connecting all our weavers and artisans throughout the entire production process. It provides end-to-end visibility into our inventory and facilitates tracking at every step of the supply chain, ensuring transparency from production to the delivery of products to our customers.
> Custom-built Automated Blouse Stitching Solution: This automated solution has proven to be a transformative tool for both our customers and ourselves. It facilitates the global collection of size measurements and streamlines the blouse stitching process across all our tailors, marking a significant advancement in efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Skills That Helped Her Succeed
> Fashion Design Expertise: Aparna’s proficiency in fashion design plays a crucial role in making optimal selections, ensuring that Shobitam consistently offers top-tier products to its clientele.
> Creative Entrepreneurship: Aparna’s entrepreneurial spirit is underscored by her creativity and an unwavering commitment to results. Her dynamic approach, coupled with an aggressive drive, manifests in the successful integration of technology within the traditional handlooms and arts space, showcasing an innovative and forward-thinking mindset.

Lessons Learned Over the Years
> Customer Obsession Triumphs: Aparna recognizes that prioritizing customer satisfaction surpasses all other considerations. Placing a relentless focus on understanding and meeting customer needs has been a paramount lesson in building and sustaining success.
> Product-Market Fit Imperative: Aparna underscores the importance of achieving a seamless product-market fit. Building a superior product, coupled with a solution-oriented approach, has proven to be the catalyst for earning the affection and loyalty of customers worldwide.
> Technology as a Scaling Tool: Aparna advocates for leveraging technology as a pivotal means to scale operations. Recognizing its transformative potential, she has embraced technology to enhance efficiency and expand the reach of her business.

Changes Brought in the Industry
Aparna has spearheaded two pivotal transformations within her operations. First and foremost, she has overseen the expansion of the product selection to an extensive array of over 2,000 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units). Implementing a highly agile product development model, she can now introduce an impressive 40+ new SKUs daily, ensuring a constantly refreshed collection for unique selections. This strategic shift not only demonstrates her company’s commitment to adaptability but also underlines its operational prowess in facilitating global deliveries within a swift 5-7 day timeframe.

Simultaneously, Aparna has championed operational excellence, placing a robust emphasis on maintaining our unwavering commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. This steadfast dedication has resulted in an industry-leading return rate of less than 3%, a remarkable achievement. Additionally, their customer-centric approach is reflected in the accumulation of over 7,200 5-star customer reviews, establishing as a benchmark in the online fashion industry. These changes, driven by Aparna’s visionary leadership, stand as testament to her commitment to delivering unparalleled products and experiences to Shobitam’s global customer base.

Role Model in the Industry
Aparna looks up to Amancio Ortega, the Founder of Zara.

Life Mantra
Aparna’s life mantra revolves around discovering one’s passion, actively building on it, and maintaining an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction. She underscores the transformative role of technology as a key facilitator in achieving goals but emphasizes that it should be viewed as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. This dual perspective encapsulates her approach to both personal fulfillment and business success, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between passion, customer-centricity, and the strategic use of technology.

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