We got in conversations with Juliette Boursier, Founder of Jalouse - a french inspired lingerie brand in India. We had an interesting interview with her about how it is to be an expat running a successful business in India. Also what takes to be running a lingerie business online.
Excerpts from the interview below:
How did it all start? How did the idea of Jalouse came up to you?
My job was literally consuming me. I was working round the shift for minor returns, not financially but in terms of life achievements. Days were passing and I couldn’t do anything for myself!
I felt, it’s good to grow a career but does it necessarily have to be at the expense of everything else? Alternatively, going for a 9 to 5 job wasn’t an option, I needed to do something meaningful. Similarly as what I was missing for myself, I wanted to help other women grow, give them more power to act up on their lives and choose for greater life-balance.
Nowhere as an employee could I have had the possibility to change things for women at a large scale. That’s why I decided to launch my own enterprise, where giving women the opportunity to make extra income while having more time for themselves became my motto.
The crucial lack of qualitative and affordable bras came as a shock as I was investigating a product to market. I found lingerie was just perfect to be promoted through a network of forward-thinking and independent women. I wanted to develop a highly curated collection we could all afford.
What made you want to launch your product in India specially?
I had already settled in India for 4 years. I liked evolving in a different cultural environment. I found it real fun, dynamic and enriching. It quickly turned out that I wanted to see myself grow here and launch something on my own.
I observed most of us are struggling to find a good bra, especially beyond 34B ! What’s in a good price range is extremely basic, cheap or loud. And the so-called premium / imported brands are very expensive for an average style and poor fit.
Jalouse delivers a fit and style that have unmatched standards at this price (Rs. 1,100/- to Rs. 1,400/- for a bra).
How is it running business in India? What major challenges did you face?
Apart from driving I don’t see any challenge really from being a foreigner! Running a business can be tough everywhere. After 7 years in Bangalore, my friends keep teasing me that I have become more Indian than they are! Somehow, when I go back to France on holiday, I feel more like a foreigner there!
As I wasn’t coming from a design background nor from the lingerie industry, I had to start from scratch, starting with a core team comprised of designers and pattern makers to give shape to our idea of a modern, stylish and affordable lingerie brand for women in India. We worked to create a collection that brings a radical improvement in the quality of fit.
At the beginning, I had to find some method and organisation to the long list of things, registrations and addressing all the legal matters. For instance, the administrative tasks really seemed like climbing Mount Everest without having prepped for it. It helped to break it down into a smaller list of tasks.
Among the myriad of challenges and setbacks all young brands have to overcome, the biggest challenge for me was to find a manufacturer who was ready to accommodate our initial volumes and who was sensitive to details and quality. Good bra-making requires precisions and several rounds of prototypes adjustment. We finally found our partner and worked hand-in-hand with the factory to develop our collections.
How is Jalouse special from other lingerie brands? How do you tackle the competition in the market?
1. We are special by design.
In contrast with what’s available, our products offer a range of styles that are subtle, elegant and radically modern. We have worked with a team of top French designers and followed the French know-how to design a collection that is highly curated. The expertise to develop the products is not easily available here. Apart from single moulded cups, women do not have options in shapes and cuts. It’s a fitting minefield and it is not always an issue with the size: a padded cup is very rigid and does not suit everyone! That’s why each of our design is available in different cuts (push-up, balcony...).
2. Our process is more comparable to craftsmanship than mass production.
Nowadays, large manufacturers only rely on gradation rules with one sample in 34B and avoid the lengthy and rigorous process of prototypes adjustments and rectifications which is absolutely critical for C & D cups as well. This results in products lacking comfort and explains why the options are so limited beyond 34B. In order to obtain the right fit and a product that supports the active lifestyle of women, Jalouse standards for cut and comfort require our pattern-makers to test not less than twenty samples through various sizes. The quality of our fit is just incomparable with any other brand at this price.
3. Our distribution model involves women who can launch their own business.
In order to involve women in the success of the brand, our collections are available online and through private / party sales thanks to a network of independent distributors. Whether you choose to have a second source of income at your pace, on your free time, or a dedicated career plan in sponsoring new distributors, we offer - at no cost - a solid backup and a great career booster.
4. Private / party sales. We create a different buying experience.
Everyone wears a bra! Yet, shopping and facing the cashier can be uncomfortable, while Internet does not solve the fitting minefield either. Jalouse brings a radically different experience altogether. It’s more fun to get together with your friends rather than just clicking BUY NOW. And moreover, everybody gets to try. We may be at the apogee of social-media, still as individuals, we more than ever crave for true face-to-face interactions. That is why we believe hosted party and private sales are the best way to promote intimate products such as underwear.
What does a regular day look like for you?
I run on black coffee - no sugar. I don’t break to eat, but I grab over my desk or while am driving 1 pack of over-dried biscuits for lunch. Only if I am lucky some home-packed salad.
And that’s what I do:
A lot of procrastinating at the office if I have to handle the social media.
Too much drama on my WhatsApp groups.
Driving through the traffic and meeting my fellow-dear-consultants – my favourite part (except traffic), for coaching training planning & reporting.
Taking a blogger out for a fitting.
Presenting the collection and giving fittings at a coffee morning or during an evening drinks– too much fun!
I like to get home before 7 to spend time with my daughter but I am often late. Still, I hope I am a good mom.
What would you advice to someone who wants to get in the lingerie apparel business?
To someone who wants to join us as a Distributor? I often tell: we are the master of our owns lives and everything is possible.
Just do it, just try. Start with setting small goals and then build up, one step at a time.
I think the vast majority of us are NOT born entrepreneur, we become one. There is no right or wrong entrepreneurial style. Each of us has its own very personal strengths.
I’d like to compare it with parenting, when we slowly discover our child’s personality and what motivates her/him. It’s a process and we grow along with our child.
As a parent we often make the decisions for our child without knowing what will come out of it. We have a master plan, but we keep adjusting to our child’s personality. That’s what running a business means to me.
What matters is to stay true to our purpose. We learn on the way towards achieving our goal. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep the focus, with hurdles to overcome and the solicitations of social media. You should strive to maintain the right balance of time dedicated to go out there networking and productive time working in your bubble.