A vision, an emotion, and a lot of effort have been the perfect ingredients stitching the Aranya story over the years. The focus for the brand has always been on the well-being of marginalised producers in Bangladesh, with a motive to trade in order to create and maintain socio-economic viability in Bangladesh. Aranya has been paying fair wages and fair prices to all producers. There is an open audit system through WFTO peer visits which supports this.
Aranya has dedicated products and designs from marginalised communities where adequate income for workers and their educational needs are ensured. This, in turn, ensures a sustainable lifestyle for the producers and artisans. The brand’s code of conduct is concerned with the environment, which has been incorporated into the production process – like using natural dyes and materials, drying fabrics naturally under the sun and creating a responsible waste management process. Furthermore, Aranya continues to raise awareness about the user-friendliness and environmental benefits offered by natural dyes and natural dye products.
Nawshin Khair, MD, Aranya spoke to us about the brand’s journey and its story, a little in-depth.
“Most of our market share is dominated by the local market. We had three outlets and we were steadily growing our export market that we entered a few years back. So the market share in export is relatively lower than our local market. After the pandemic hit, it was the peak season in terms of the festivals. But, we missed sales during those peaks. This was a big blow for us given our slow fashion inkling wherein the production process and planning happens for months, before we actually launch in the market. So, we were stuck with high inventory. With no means of selling during the lockdown, we had to divert our attention to digital sales,” Nawshin mentions.
Aranya e-commerce was launched two years before Covid happened and the brand was getting traction initially. But, the buying behaviour was sparing and it only contributed 5 per cent of the total sales for the brand. However, online rose to prominence with Covid and jumped to contribute up to 15 per cent of sales for the brand. Nawshin mentions that the customers of Aranya prefer visiting the stores for shopping, as they enjoy the experience they get in-store. Replicating this online was the biggest challenge for the brand ahead of the pandemic.
Selling online in Bangladesh
Nawshin states that in Bangladesh, consumers are more used to buying cheaper products online, and mostly electronics lead the way when it comes to online purchases. “Our customer base is not really the tech-savvy youth, but people in their late 30s and 40s. They’re professionals and want to weigh in their options when shopping. They are more used to walking into a store to shop. When Covid happened, the onus was on us to make this customer base aware of our digital shopping experiences. We wanted to make them comfortable and therefore through our branding and communication, we went on to attract them and make them aware of how the experience of shopping online is exactly going to be the same as offline. We have introduced chat options, regional language ChatBots to further assist with online shopping. These bots are trained to guide the consumer in every step of the way, in case they are stuck or need special help with shopping. This has been very well received by the elder generation and they can now converse in local language, chat and shop,” she further adds.
Even though the sales have dropped as compared to the pre-pandemic numbers, Nawshin and her team at Aranya are happy that they were able to digitally integrate the customer journey and support this transition. Moreover, for customer engagement, Aranya has been sending a little something to all its customers keeping in mind their essential requirements during the initial days of the lockdown, until now.
Reworking to get agile
Just before the pandemic, Aranya was working towards building a green factory set-up as the next step in its sustainability mission. Nawshin is ambitious that they will slowly get back to their earlier plans now. A labour-intensive business, Aranya has been very cautious about handling its workers during the lockdown. Even though it had to take some unforeseen steps, but the brand is recuperating to carry on the legacy and tighten it once again, like the older times. “We have never worked in a corporate environment. Our people are craftsmen and women and artisans, who are very knowledgeable. However, with Covis, we had to transform with technology integration so that we could take data-driven decisions just like any other business house. We were already participating in trade fairs earlier, this time around we focused more on the virtual trade fairs in order to market us to the global audience. A lot of training and workshops were conducted for our people so that we could make them aware of the ongoing market needs and we had to prepare ourselves to stay on foot during the pandemic. Organising the supply chain was a very big thing, which we worked on during the lockdown. A lot of stakeholder engagements happened during the last two years. Our effort has always been towards making our folks more comfortable during this time. It has been hard. But we have a very motivated team, who are with us for the long-term. So, they made the journey easy and comfortable,” Nawshin added.
Aranya is a philosophy, rooted in natural aesthetics and responsible living. Their mission is to manufacture designer craft products using natural dyes, natural fibres, textiles and biodegradable materials. They are dedicated to establishing the commercial viability of eco-friendly products as well as creating new opportunities for artisans and economically disadvantaged women. Aranya’s vision is to establish a sustainable fashion value chain where people, planet and profit are measured equally. Nawshin and the team are always looking for grants, aids and collaborations with the international market, which helps them create a global image for Aranya. Presently, Aranya also has an international export-oriented digital identity that has seen a good influx of buyers from the European countries.