In a conversation, Rabita Rashid Majumder, Managing Director and Benazir Alam Aunon, Director of RR Lifestyle Ltd, divulge their journey as entrepreneurs, the challenges and the vision of creating a global lifestyle brand catering to the mass.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN STORY OF RETAIL REMEDY? (HOW DID THE IDEA OF A FASHION BRAND BEGIN TO MATERIALISE?)
Rabita Rashid Majumder
Retail Remedy Ltd is the expression of our love and passion for the apparel industry, and the vision of creating a global lifestyle brand from Bangladesh. Despite humble beginnings, our dedication to ensure quality, competency and transparency have propelled Retail Remedy from obscurity towards global recognition.
I was very passionate about the apparel industry from a young age. As my father was in the apparel business, I was fortunate enough to visit his factories and was inspired to do something similar. Soon after completing my Bachelors in International Business from Brunel University, London, I decided to pursue my dream of working in the industry.
Bangladesh produces some of the finest apparels in the world but most of it is exported to foreign countries. I wanted to ensure that people of our country get to wear international quality clothing through our brand. It is not easy to create a brand out of the blue without proper knowledge and training. Consequently, I completed a professional course in Fashion Business from Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, through which I gained a lot of insight and got acquainted with a lot of people from the industry. It further inspired me to pursue my Masters in Fashion Merchandising.
I started working in the industry with my label Rabita Rashid but at a much smaller capacity. We noticed that there is a market gap in Bangladesh and there is a lack of quality clothing available for consumers off the rack. We started selling our clothes in Unimart which turned out to be an overwhelming success. It helped to realise our potential as entrepreneurs and would ultimately become the foundation of our success story.
YOU ARE A PRACTISING LEGAL PROFESSIONAL AND AN ATHLETE WHO HAS PLAYED FOR THE BANGLADESH WOMEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL TEAM. WERE YOU ALWAYS PASSIONATE ABOUT BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Benazir Alam Aunon
Passion is pivotal to becoming successful in life. It is the source of energy that helps us push forward with excitement and anticipation. I have always had multiple passions and becoming an entrepreneur is one of them. I have grown up in a family which is very multi-faceted. My father is a politician and a businessman, and my mother is an entrepreneur. Over the years, my mother has been contributing to the development of impoverished women in society by facilitating employment for them in her fashion line. Therefore, I was endowed with valuable insights regarding the apparel business and its operations from a very young age. That is how creating an apparel brand became a passion for me, but it was one of many.
Rabita and I have known each other for a long time. We had one single vision of catering to the mass. We wanted our clothes to be worn by everybody in the world, therefore the goal of Retail Remedy is to maximise its reach. We were aiming to create a brand that can be worn every single day. We wanted to cater to the daily needs of people going out every single day of their life, irrespective of their gender.
WHAT IS THE TARGET MARKET OF CONSUMERS FOR RETAIL REMEDY?
Rabita Rashid Majumdar
Our target consumers range from ages six to sixty, therefore we have a lot of product categories. We have a corporate line where we have women’s blazers and shirts. Retail Remedy is a lifestyle brand where we provide everything including party, lounge and sleepwear. We have a line dedicated to local fabrics like Jamdani, Silk, taat where we create fusion wear. Retail Remedy offers very practical clothing. If you are going to the office and need to get something to wear off the rack, we got you covered. All the clothes are made and designed in Bangladesh and there is no distinction in quality between the clothes we export and retail in Bangladesh. We maintain a high level of transparency and provide detailed information about our fabrics to the customers.
HOW HAS RETAIL REMEDY EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS? WHAT HAS BEEN THE STRENGTHS OF THE BRAND THAT SET ITSELF APART IN A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE MARKET?
Benazir Alam Aunon
In 2012, we started RR in Unimart. The response and admiration it received from the customers made us believe that we can turn it into something bigger. Since the beginning, the core strength of our brand has been the quality of fabric and stitches. We wanted to provide great value for money, it’s something we thought there is a gap in the market. Our products are completely locally sourced. We are proud to be made in Bangladesh. We wanted to ensure good value for money, something, we felt was lacking in the market.
Despite persistent demand, we are reluctant to increase the number of our retail stores. Instead, we have decided to focus on our online platform and invest money to make it more efficient. Creating a robust online platform corresponds with our intention of making our products available for everyone. We are dedicated to ensuring that our product reaches every corner of the country irrespective of the economic segment.
Subsequently, the pandemic has facilitated the mass adaptation of online shopping in Bangladesh. The website is designed to ensure a smooth shopping experience. I feel like traditional retail outlets in Bangladesh have been inconsistent with their quality, especially for the lower price segments. Alternatively, Retail Remedy provides the same quality of clothes for the local and international markets.
RETAIL REMEDY HAS A VERY IMPRESSIVE WEBSITE WITH AN UPDATED INVENTORY. HOW WILL IT ENSURE A PREMIUM ONLINE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE?
Rabita Rashid Majumder
Over the past decade, Bangladesh has experienced mass infrastructural development that has facilitated the mass adoption of digital services. Subsequently, the pandemic has accelerated the trends which were already taking place in our consumer space. However, e-commerce platforms have not been able to deliver to the expectations and the medium remains in-efficient in the country.
The Retail Remedy website aims to become the benchmark online store in Bangladesh. We wanted to ensure a seamless shopping experience for the customers. The website is easy to navigate and all the information is clearly stated in the details. As we are providing so many details, it is easier for the customer not to drop out of the platform. The website offers a range of payment options including SSL, Credit Cards, MFS and Cash On Delivery. Return Policy is clearly mentioned on the website. Transparency is extremely important for us and we have gone to great lengths to ensure that. Orders on our website can also be placed internationally. We ship products all over the world and the shipping costs are calculated and mentioned during placing the orders. We also facilitate bulk orders from our website.
HOW CHALLENGING HAS IT BEEN TO RUN THE BUSINESS EFFICIENTLY THROUGH THE PANDEMIC?
Rabita Rashid Majumder
Managing the business during the early stages of the pandemic has been the biggest challenge to date. It posed an existential threat to our business and I have been working tirelessly to ensure the business braves the storm and move forward toward robust growth. Luckily, our business did not suffer as much as anticipated because of the variety we offer and our online sales have grown significantly over the same period. As we planned properly and executed accordingly, our Eid collection was ready for sales before the lockdowns were in effect. However, we faced challenges in sales as stores were closed down. Consequently, we started getting more active on social media and increased customer engagement through digital media. We offer everything from panjabi, kurti, t-shirts and boxers. Another challenge is keeping up with the changing customer taste and producing designs accordingly. I am truly blessed to have a dedicated team that is continuously working towards sustainable growth.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SEE RETAIL REMEDY A DECADE FROM NOW?
Benazir Alam Aunon
We started Retail Remedy with the vision of becoming a global brand catering to the mass. A decade from now, we dream of being all over the world and even across Bangladesh. We want to establish ourselves as an ethically conscious business entity. Retail Remedy is committed to making a positive impact on society and has been diligently working to deliver on that promise by providing social protection for the workers and promoting body positivity through its brand communications. Our dedication to inclusivity is reflected in the range of sizes we offer. Our clothes come in all sizes from XS to 3XL and we are introducing MTO (Made To Order) to ensure everybody irrespective of their size can find their fit at Retail Remedy. We are very serious about catering to the masses and steering our business forward accordingly.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED AS A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR? HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM?
Benazir Alam Aunon
Being a woman in itself is a challenge. The obstacles we face are not limited to a specific sector or role, women are subjected to unfair treatment across industries all over the world. In a male-dominated economic structure, women entrepreneurs even have to struggle to be taken seriously. There have been numerous instances when our opinions have been shrugged off and our authority questioned because of our gender. As owners, we have to work closely with every step of our manufacturing and retail process and gender-specific challenges are existent in every segment. However, they (challenges) were not able to deter us from our objective, rather made us more resilient. We have led our business through the pandemic without laying off any of our workers or forcing any pay cuts. Rather than seeking anyone’s approval we took the responsibility of the people working for the business and kept working towards our goal. This is the same message we would like to pass on to the aspiring young female entrepreneurs of our country. There are a lot of challenges for a female entrepreneur but it is possible to overcome them.
Personally, as both of us are mothers with young children, we constantly have to juggle between work and family. Like all other working mothers in Bangladesh, the responsibilities do not weigh us down, rather, inspire us to thrive for more.