Congratulations on the recent Series B funding round! Could you share with us how ace turtle plans to leverage this investment to further expand and strengthen its operations?
Thank you. We aim to capitalise on the legacy of Lee and Wrangler and sustain rapid growth of over 100% in the current fiscal year as well. We will also be expanding Toys”R”Us, Babies”R”Us and launch Dockers this fiscal. The funding will be deployed to acquire more brand licenses, revamp the data platform, expand the team and to develop new technology products that will focus on streamlining the supply chain processes and improving brick-and-mortar store operations. This would help us to drive business growth and customer satisfaction.
Over the next 3 years, we are looking to build a highly scalable and profitable business with significant penetration across India for our portfolio of brands. We will also be adding more global brands to our portfolio.
ace turtle has achieved impressive revenue milestones within a short span. What key factors do you attribute to this success, and how does the company plan to sustain its growth trajectory?
We attribute this growth to our unique and heavily tech-driven operating model. Our proprietary omnichannel technology platform, Rubicon 3.0, powered by machine learning, plays a key role in enabling seamless inventory management and fulfilment across channels. The webstores of Lee and Wrangler have seen sales grow rapidly in the last year. Customers pan India love to shop for latest merchandise sold on the webstores. By selling our products (Lee, Wrangler and Toys”R”Us as of now) on major online marketplaces such as Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon, Ajio,
TataCliq and Nykaa, we have expanded our reach pan India. Our commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions drives our growth, as we continue to build more robust proprietary technology platforms.
As a technology-driven provider of retail solutions, how has ace turtle utilized advanced technology, including the Rubicon platform, to remove obstacles for brands and enhance customer experiences?
I would like to clarify that we don’t provide retail solutions to brands anymore. We have sunset the SaaS business where we were providing our technology platforms to global brands and retailers. We use our tech platforms for our own portfolio of licensed brands – Lee, Wrangler, Toys”R”Us, Babies”R”Us and Dockers.
Our tech platforms, Rubicon and the Connect app, have played a crucial role in eliminating obstacles for both brands and customers. Rubicon connects all online and offline sales channels, delivery to customers, inventory, and discovery, presenting them as a single unified view.
Additionally, it functions as a robust mechanism that empowers us to achieve high levels of consumer satisfaction. Whether in the allocation of last-mile delivery partners or in notifying customers about the presence of specific products in nearby stores, Rubicon has ingrained that flexibility is built into our operational framework.
Since ace turtle’s association with Lee and Wrangler, there has been a substantial business transformation, exemplified by a 5x increase in online revenue share in just 12 months. Rubicon offers the convenience of ordering from anywhere, enabling customers to place orders through various avenues, including the brand’s webshops (www.lee.in and www.wrangler.in), marketplaces (Amazon.in, Flipkart, Ajio, TataCliq, Myntra), conversational and social commerce, endless aisle, and the physical retail stores. Consumers benefit from having access to the entire product range across stores and online. Integration with ESL, electronic shelf labels at the retail stores always provides accurate pricing; increases access to real-time promotion and product information and cohesive omnichannel experience. Brands also get access to end consumer data in real-time. This helps to boost sales and improve customer experience significantly.
The recently launched Connect App 2.0 is now operational in over 80+ Lee and Wrangler retail stores. This upgraded version of the app enhances operational efficiency and productivity, ultimately leading to an improved customer service experience. Additionally, our various tech interventions like electronic shelf labels, smart mirrors in our Lee flagship store have all been developed keeping in mind the customer experience.
The offline retail presence of ace turtle has grown significantly, with 80+ stores for Lee and Wrangler.
How do you strike a balance between online and offline channels, and what role does data intelligence play in this omnichannel approach?
Rubicon has played a crucial role in making our products accessible through prominent online marketplaces and department store chains, including Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop, and Lifestyle. The essence of our strategy lies in data intelligence. RFID tags within stores assist in inventory management and analyse footfalls, refining store operations to align with customer demands. Connect 2.0 helps us find out store footfalls, attendance of store staff, sales target vs achieved among other key metrics. We’ve installed Smart Mirrors in our stores. The Smart Mirrors provide innovative experiences to shoppers by engaging and delighting with personalized recommendations and effortless product discovery.
These data-driven interventions ensure that our product line reflects evolving fashion trends, specifically among young Indian consumers. Our closed-loop ecosystem employs consumer data for supply chain and design decisions. Online purchase patterns guide product manufacturing, distribution, offline store placements, and marketing strategies. This synergy boosts efficiency, providing an integrated shopping experience.
With a complete vertical offering from design and local sourcing to D2C, what are some of the challenges ace turtle faced in the Indian market, and how did you overcome them?
The primary objective was to drive technology adoption across our businesses and retain valuable consumer data to facilitate business scaling. Rubicon played a crucial role in enabling our brands to achieve this by offering a unified view and seamless management of their commerce operations across various channels.
Starting from a single view of catalogue, inventory, and pricing across platforms like marketplaces, websites, social commerce, conversational commerce, and more, Rubicon facilitated customer order management, optimised fulfilment, deliveries, returns, and customer support. As a result of these technology interventions and vertical commerce business model of ace turtle, Lee and Wrangler saw their highest annual sales since entering the Indian market more than 25 years ago.
There were two main challenges when it came to implementation. One was changing the legacy mindset among franchise owners and brands regarding the importance of a technology-driven model. The second was making the entire business data driven.
One of the significant obstacles we encountered while implementing ace turtle’s data-driven approach was obtaining customer data. As this data was essential for the success of our business model, we had to take some difficult decisions. One such decision was to discontinue the wholesale business of Lee and Wrangler, which had been a significant source of revenue, when we took over the business from Kontoor Brands in 2021. Additionally, we had to shut down several offline retail stores of Lee and Wrangler, and our distribution partnerships with department stores came to an end. This was due to their reluctance to share customer data with us. A crucial aspect for us was the willingness to adopt technology. We looked for partners who demonstrated flexibility in trying out new technologies and quickly scaling up upon achieving positive results. Our practice of introducing new initiatives every quarter required store operators to be aligned with our business model.
ace turtle’s distribution network covers a vast area, delivering over 20,000 pin codes. What strategies and logistics do you employ to ensure seamless and efficient product delivery to customers?
At the core of our strategy, we have our Rubicon, our omnichannel commerce platform that integrates online and offline sales channels. It enables us to have real-time visibility of inventory, employ intelligent order routing, optimise last-mile delivery, and even fulfil orders from the nearest physical store. This not only enhances the speed of deliveries but also reduces operational expenses. Through collaborations with reliable third-party logistics players and warehouses, we further extend our reach. Based on the past data on Rubicon, across all the transactions, the algorithm automatically allocates the order to the last-mile delivery partner. Not all last mile partners are efficient in every pin code. This tech-enabled and data-driven approach ensures the dependable and prompt delivery of products including returns.
The retail industry has seen significant shifts in consumer behaviour and market dynamics. How does ace turtle stay ahead of these changes, and what role does data analytics play in understanding customer preferences?
Our whole model is data-driven. It makes us a lot more agile and nimble with a leaner team.
The retail stores of Lee, Wrangler and ToysRUs are connected to us through Connect 2.0 app. Earlier retail store operations data was not available seamlessly. There was a manual intervention needed. The app empowers retail store teams to succeed by making them more efficient and engaged through communications, training, helpdesk and workflows. It enables the store teams to perform key store activities such as omnichannel order fulfilment and visual merchandising using their smartphones. Apart from this, the Connect 2.0 app also has new modules such as Settlement Reports, Retail Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Leaderboard, Store Weekly Performance, Training and Attendance.
We leverage data analytics both at platform level – Rubicon and Connect and feed the data back into the design and supply chain to meet the ever-evolving consumer preferences. The consumer data on what is selling, the frequency of footfalls and purchases, the price sensitivity, average selling price and consumer preferences are captured for us across offline and online channels by Rubicon and Connect. We feed this data back into our supply chain, and then that’s how the new products are designed and manufactured as well. So that’s like a full loop.
As ace turtle continues to scale global brands in India, what are your long-term goals for the company, and how do you envision its impact on the retail landscape?
We are working to expand our licensed brands portfolio, revamping the data platform, expand the team and to develop new technology products that will focus on streamlining the supply chain processes and improving brick-and-mortar store operations. This would help us to drive business growth and customer satisfaction. Over the next 3 years, we are looking to build a highly scalable and profitable business with significant penetration across India for our portfolio of brands. We will also be adding more global brands to our portfolio.
We believe we are at the forefront of leading retail industry’s next phase of evolution with our Retail Nxt approach. We will continue to innovate and make our business more technology-driven going forward.
The investors backing ace turtle, such as Vertex Ventures and Rianta Capital, have played
a crucial role in the company’s growth. How has their support contributed to ace turtle’s success, and what value do these strategic partnerships bring?
We are fortunate to have had investors who have believed in us from the beginning. Vertex Southeast Asia and India have been one of our earliest investors. They have been true partners in every sense of the word and have stood by us during tough times. During our business pivot from SaaS to Licensed Brands in 2021, they showed full trust in us and supported us throughout the process. Their capital and guidance on strategic issues have really helped us navigate challenging times over the past decade and emerge stronger.
With ace turtle’s remarkable journey from 2014 to the present, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to establish and scale their businesses in the highly competitive Indian market?
I think it’s important to have open discussions and connections with other entrepreneurs from the larger ecosystem. This network provides emotional support, learnings, and support on both the business and personal side. It is crucial to go deeper into problems and not fall in love with the idea, as markets and consumers evolve rapidly. I would say that there is no better time in India than now to be an entrepreneur.
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