The Souled Store co-founder Harsh Lal, speaking about the company’s early days said, “Luckily in 2013, we were slightly early to the market. It was just a sweet spot when people were just getting more comfortable shopping online.”
Popular merchandise platform, The Souled Store, was founded out of the founders’ disdain for their jobs and their love for pop culture, said Harsh Lal, who is one of the four founders. Their backup plan if The Souled Store had not worked out, said Lal, was to go back to finding a 9-5 job.
Speaking with Future Group founder Kishore Biyani, actor, producer, and entrepreneur Rana Daggubati, and Aadit Palicha, CEO and co-founder of Zepto in the first episode of ‘Unboxing Unlearning’, Lal said that The Souled Store completed 10 years last month, and it “has been an interesting journey”.
“When we started off, we were 23…the very, very simple reason was that we hated our jobs – three engineers, one lawyer – no family business, no background in retail, e-commerce, or apparel. But we were like, ‘Hey we are fans of pop culture’. Let’s do something fun where you don’t have to wake up every Monday hating your job,” said Lal. The Souled Store was founded in 2013 by Vedang Patel, Aditya Sharma, Rohin Samtaney, and Harsh Lal.
The co-founder of the merchandise platform said, “Worse case we are fairly smart people…we have our degrees, we will go back and get a job if this doesn’t work out. It was a very simple, naive philosophy when we started The Souled Store and the broader idea was that we were fans of superheroes, comics, movies, all these characters that we have grown up watching and loving, and as fans we felt like that there weren’t a viable, good-quality product available in the Indian market to buy official merchandise. So that was the broader, simple idea behind which The Souled Store was created.”
Lal said that he is often asked about the name of the company. “I will just explain it. There’s no fancy story,” he said, adding that it is just a funny pun. Their business was genuinely from the soul and the four friends had decided to start it together. “It is not the easiest name to pronounce and not the easiest name to sell but luckily it has stuck on for 10 years…people just pronounce it more easily than they did 10 years ago,” he said.
The Souled Store has the highest retail productivity in the country, added Kishore Biyani.
Lal, talking about the timing of starting the venture and its potential, said that they just arrived in time. “Luckily in 2013, we were slightly early to the market. It was just a sweet spot when people were just getting more comfortable shopping online. I think things were becoming slightly easier in terms of people starting online businesses. The licensing/online fashion space wasn’t as crowded as it is today. That kind of gave us a headstart to build the business over the last 10 years. We have been luckier with a lot of things, no complaints,” he acknowledged.
He also revealed one of the biggest unlearnings and learnings that happened to the four founders. He said that it is a common perception that everyone is looking for discounts in the online fashion/e-commerce/apparel space. But if the customer continues to get spoilt by discounts, then it won’t work out when there are no discounts on offer, he said.
“We realized that every month you cannot grow at a certain pace. It is okay to have certain down months as long as you are growing sustainably from a longer point of view,” he added.
Lal said that considering they are a merchandising platform, they took certain decisions about some licenses more as fans rather than as businessmen. He said sometimes there is a bit of emotion involved but as a fan one also understands how to maximise the value of a licence.