“Make a website which outlines your brand, make payment super straightforward and safe, ship to customers when you say you will and approach people to ask to be on their sites.”
Tlolu is a brainchild of co-founders Grace Lown and Kobi Balulu. An Israeli-English ‘Original Photography Tshirts’ brand, it was created in Mumbai in early 2014, is now based in New Delhi and sells worldwide. It had long been a dream of photographer Kobi Balulu to create a new venue for photographic prints. The vision combined with the ever-versatile t-shirt resulted in Tlolu’s first line of Original Photography Tshirts. Creative, magical, and vivid prints take centre stage on apparel: t-shirt & tanks as well as accessories: tote bags, coffee mats, postcards and big canvas prints for your wall. Their mantra is: Be Original. Tell The Story. Wear Art.
While speaking to IndiaOnlineSeller exclusively, co-founders Grace and Kobi narrated T Lolu’s experience about retailing online internationally from India and tips for Indian sellers. Here we go:
How has your journey in India been so far?
Tlolu is all about the photo. Every print has a story behind it, and we have been blessed to be working out of the colourful, changeable and chaotic country of India. Not only has it provided us with electric scenes for the prints, but also allowed us to experiment with product design and innovation. Clothing is made from the softest cotton blend with prints to last forever. So, not only inspired by India, but made in India too.
We have expanded into India, England and Israel collections- each print representing something unique from each place, with a totally different story behind each shot.
Tlolu retails through ASOS Marketplace. How easy was it to get on-board?
Please note it is ASOS Marketplace we are selling with, not ASOS main site.
ASOS Marketplace is an online boutique directory featuring independent designers from all around the world. The majority of the boutiques are from the UK, Australia and the US, but there is a mix from all over the world. In terms of how easy it is to get onto the site, Asos Marketplace has strict rules on how the products are depicted in photographs for the buyers to see. Other than this, if you have a high quality, original product- either men or womens’ clothes or accessories then it is a wonderful place to be. Note that Asos itself occasionally sources new brands for the main website from the independent boutiques on Asos Marketplace, so it is key to have extremely high quality products, fast shipping and good customer feedback.
Hitches & glitches faced, if any and assistance offered by ASOS?
We have had almost no hitches with Asos Marketplace. All payment is through Paypal which is effortless, and the only time we had a problem with this it was sorted within a few days by Asos Marketplace team. We have never had any problems with shipping via India Post– customers have always received the products in the time we stated on our site.
Is it viable financially, considering the high shipping cost, duties and taxes?
Asos Marketplace charges £20 a month rent, plus 20% commission on any sales made. If you have a low-price product, this may seem steep so it might not be the place for you. However, even with this rent we think that due to the high volume of people visiting the site each day, it is worth the price. Shipping costs are no problem as the customer pays. You can create many options for them (customers) to choose, for example regular Indian Post for around $5 taking 12 days, or India Speedy Post costing around $15 and taking 7 days.
Lastly, can you share some tips with Indian sellers who are looking to sell overseas?
When starting up, you don’t need to have thousands of pieces of stock and a DHL account. Most of these websites understand that as independent brands you will have a small amount of stock. Therefore, you need to make sure it is of the best quality it can be. Don’t sell yourself short with bad images or descriptions of your products. Do some research into how other brands present themselves as even something quite boring like a coffee cup can be presented in a fun and cool way.
We think it is important to ask any website to be a part. The worst they can say is no! We were very fortunate to be approached by a Chinese website with a huge customer base- Yetang– which is looking for independent brands from all over the world to be a part of it. The buyer found us from a piece written on us by Delhi’s Little Black Book after we bugged them to do a piece on us! So asking for mentions is always worth it because even with 100 “no”s can be one ‘yes’!
A super important thing for any Indian e-retailer is to really define your brand. What are you selling, who are you selling to, what is unique about your brand. We try to retain customer engagement with writing the “Stories Behind the Shot” for each of our photographer Kobi Balulu’s images. This combined with the magical images hopefully gives a narrative to the product and therefore makes it unique. This is important as we are selling mens t-shirts and tote bags that thousands of other designers do.
So make a website which outlines your brand, make payment super straightforward and safe, ship to customers when you say you will and approach people to ask to be on their sites.
Obviously, using free social media is crucial. We use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in that order. Facebook has so many tools to target to your ideal customer, and Instagram helps you present your product beautifully and communicate with customers.
Tlolu offers free shipping to all their customers with no hidden costs. With each product from t-shirt to tote comes a card that has the story behind the shot written on it.