Best Kept Secret - Soumil Surana talks with You & I

Women and shopping go hand-in-hand, and there is never an end to this eternal love affair. But these days, women aren’t the only ones having all the fun, since men have begun to take great interest in their wardrobe choices. Before the advent of technology, women would spend countless hours going to different nooks and corners of the city to scout for the best clothes and accessories. However, today, with the click of a smart phone button, the latest fashions can arrive at your doorstep. The Secret Label, a made-to-measure curated designer marketplace for Indian wear, founded by Soumil Surana, caters to this very need.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started the company?
I pursued industrial engineering at Georgia Tech, after which I worked in the US for some time before returning to India. I then worked with Facebook for a while, and went on to pursue an MBA from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. After completing my MBA, I was really excited about starting my own venture. The MBA degree gave me the confidence to take up the entrepreneurial role.
The journey has been rewarding in ways I could not have imagined. I learn and grow everyday from the challenges we face: understanding the evolving market trends and then adapting to the increasing demands. We, as a team, have been working to elevate The Secret Label, as a designer lifestyle brand driven by great design that highlights Indian fashion in its true essence.

What exactly is The Secret Label?
The Secret Label is a curated designer marketplace that features Indian designers. There is immense talent in the country. The Secret Label was born to unleash those handpicked designers with an aptitude for fashion who have the potential and need for recognition – not just locally but at a global level. We are a marketplace emerging as a one-stop-shop for exclusive designer wear where you go not just to purchase, but also to have a holistic customer experience. All designs are customised according to the customer’s specifications, and we pride ourselves on this exclusivity. The Secret Label has shipped to over 30 countries and we currently have about 75 designers on board. We wish to earn global recognition for Indian designers and make the international audience understand that Indian fashion is much more than ‘khadi’.

How did you come up with this idea?
I realised there is immense talent in the country, right from the nooks and corners of Delhi’s Shahpur Jat, to young fashion graduates. We have designers working with the rich fabric heritage of India and evolving them through their designs. The Secret Label was born to unleash these secret talents, which deserve to earn much better recognition. Thus, we provided our designers a medium to reach out and present the best of their talents. The idea was to highlight all techniques and exquisite fabric that our country is soaked in, and provide a platform to designers who have been working closely to uplift these culturally rich, Indian traditions.

What have been the biggest challenges for you as an entrepreneur?
Since we are an e-commerce marketplace, we have a huge third-party dependency. It makes it very crucial for us to be on our feet and to be very organised when it comes to dealing with designers, vendors and delivery executives. Coordinating and keeping each aspect in sync with the other is our daily challenge. This requires a strong core team that understands the pulse of the situation and acts accordingly. The founding team contributes to the core development of and building a start-up that comes as an integral part of the whole system. As we are growing every day, our goals centre around scaling gradually and smartly, while ensuring that we are building long-term demand without compromising on quality and customer service.

What is the most exciting part of your job?
The start-up culture is on its own a very exciting set-up to work in. Letting go of all the assumptions you carry in your head and embracing every challenge, because impossible is nothing. For my team and me, every day is exciting and creatively stimulating. We do not have a set rulebook of dos and dont’s, and with every situation, I explore my own potential to grow.

What do you like to do to unwind when you are not working?
I am a big movie buff! In fact, the whole team discusses movies and sitcoms over lunch every day. Hitting the gym is another perfect ‘alone time’ hobby of mine. It helps me unwind and get some clarity of mind.         – as told to Suneela