Socks are a fantasy, aren’t they?
The socks you find in the market these days are just too adorable and overwhelming. You cannot walk past a socks counter in a shopping mall without buying some. The socks market is a real challenge say the industry experts. This challenge was taken upfront by Purvi Modi Monga, a media and marketing professional. Purvi, a new mother during her maternity break realized that men buy socks from only international brands and that they are too boring, sometimes not comfortable either. Thus, Mint and Oak popped out. Purvi talks to The Balcony Stories about how Mint and Oak came together.
Could you tell me about yourself?
I am 35 years old and ever since I was very young my parents taught me to be independent. I was part of Shiamak Davar’s Junior Dance Company and part of the dance troupe. I then went on to being part of his senior dance company from 2001-2006. As an instructor with him, I taught classes of all age groups from 4-60 years. So many of these people were far older than me and it gave me a lot of confidence to believe in my abilities. We performed at functions, award shows, and did city tours (did a 1-month China tour across 4-5 different cities). All of this was while I was still studying in college. Due to health issues, I decided to quit dancing and pursue an MBA from the Welingkar Institute of Management from 2007-2009 batch. Post my MBA, I spent 10 years in the corporate world. I started my career at Fever 104 FM in the sales team. I then moved to the marketing team of PVR Pictures wherein we did movie promotions including a multi-city tour with authors like Mira Nair and Salman Rushdie. I then moved to the marketing team of Star English and was there for 6 years. I was part of the launch team of Star World Premiere HD, the first subscription-based channel at Star. I was also part of the Star World Marketing team and responsible for show launches like Game of Thrones, Quantico, MasterChef Australia, and Koffee with Karan.
From the field of entertainment to Mint and Oak, how was the journey?
In spite of my corporate career being in sales and marketing, I always had a passion for the fashion industry and was one of the reasons why I chose to start Mint & Oak. I believe the best entrepreneurs are the ones who are driven by passion. Founding a company is hard. But doing so as a single founder is even harder. You’ve got an infinite number of decisions to make and every move comes back to you. Sometimes you spend so much time in your own head, overthinking, overanalyzing, and internalizing every little thing. With that said, becoming an entrepreneur is one of the best decisions I have taken for my career. It is an extremely enriching experience.
What is with the name Mint and Oak?
Because we represent expression and embrace individuality. We all have so many sides to our personality – which is why we have something for every personality type. From fresh like mint to classic like Oak, we have socks for everyone.
How was Mint and Oak Born?
I was on a maternity break and in various conversations with friends and family members, I noticed an interesting trend. The number of times socks came up in conversation piqued my interest. Most men were buying their socks while traveling internationally because of a better quality product and a wider range of designs.
We did a study and realized that the consumer’s needs in India were not being met and that the demand was definitely there. This is how Mint & Oak was born. Mint & Oak is a super fun socks brand. Our wide range of socks has one purpose: to step up the sock game for everyone.
Why just men’s socks?
Gone are the days men used to wear only black, blue, and white clothes. They want to add a little fun and color to their wardrobe and socks are a great way of doing just that. There’s probably a few things you rely on daily — a good pair of socks is one of them. Having said that, over the period of the past 2 years we have received so much positive feedback that we have just introduced our women’s socks as well.
How do you decide on the colors and themes or prints?
We have a graphic designer who works on various collections and launches basis seasons. It is her role to maintain a brand language and ensure that each design we create is in sync with our overall brand aesthetic. For every collection, we consider where the inspiration is coming from and create a mood board. We then work on the designing and color palettes.
Tell us more about the procurement of the material.
We use super premium combed cotton. We have very strict norms of yarn (i.e. count, twist, test, tensile strength, Uster – 0%, and imperfections), fastness properties, and color continuity assessment on the color matching computer. We insist that all yarn suppliers send such reports along with each lot. If the properties of dyed yarn do not meet our required norms, the lot is not sent to our factory.
What were the challenges you had to face to start something new and you are a new mother too?
Being a first-time entrepreneur, I had a very steep learning curve. At first, it was tough finding the right partners and vendors who could help bring the brand to market. Being bootstrapped meant that I had to maintain a very tight leash on cash outflow. Small mistakes also tend to have an impact on the original budgeting and business plan. For example, I thought of the name of the brand, went ahead got the logo and packaging designed only to realize later that I had not checked for the trademark. Upon doing so I realized that the name was already taken. That meant I had to go back to the drawing board think of a new name and get an all-new logo and packaging designed! Not only had we lost over a month of work but also had an impact on our allocated budgets.
Do you also have offline sales?
We have executed over 50 Pop-ups at co-working spaces, media companies, law firms, consulting and accounting firms, and other corporate offices. This model works very well for us and leads to instant brand awareness. We have noticed a fair percentage of this audience converting into repeat orders online. We have also catered to weddings wherein we create customized boxes for wedding favors and welcome kits. Gifting is a huge segment and we saw a 3X surge in demand during Christmas.
How is the market treating Mint and Oak?
We are a Direct to Consumer brand and are proud to say that our products are designed and made in India. Covid-19 did not see any product strategy change for us.
We have all been confined home for the last 6 months. But the situation could extend to 6 more months? Or maybe 9? Fear of the unknown is a strong driver to change consumer behavior. Earlier people were spending money on going out, vacations, fuel, etc. More and more people are spending this money on e-commerce as opposed to your brick & mortar stores.
How different is Mint and Oak from other socks brands?
Mint & Oak has always focused on creating unique and fun designs whilst keeping comfort & quality in mind. Our Indian themed collection like The Auto sock has been our bestseller.
In terms of hygiene, we use N9 technology in such a way that the fabric incorporates silver ions to reduce odor-causing bacteria to make anti-bacterial socks. This keeps your feet and socks fresh for longer.
Given the number of hours you wear your socks; they should be comfortable. We do a softening wash on our socks. If you feel our socks, they are softer than your average pair of socks therefore making the feet feel good. We do a seamless toe closure. If you turn your sock inside out, you will often notice threads coming out near the toe area. This causes irritation while wearing shoes. We do a hand linking at the toe area making it a seamless closure. Our socks have a reinforced heel and toe to provide strength in areas which have maximum wear and tear
Since the launch, what has worked to attract and retain the customers?
We are constantly introducing new prints and ensure that our quality is up to mark on every sock. Relevancy is a big factor to consider and we make sure we are ready with prints for Valentine’s day/ Christmas and other big occasions. Repeat buyers get extra perks, we focus a lot of on customer service and have set up numerous ways to communicate with customers. On every order, a personalized thank you email goes out from me. Even now, the notification of a customer order at 1 AM in the morning brings a smile to my face. When customers share feedback saying they loved our products makes for the perfect start to the day.
How does the future look?
We truly believe in knowing our customers and using that knowledge well. Based research and insight have forayed into women’s socks. We have recently expanded to selling internationally and are available on sites like Etsy.com. Our focus now is on building a great team that believes in the vision of the Company.
How is motherhood treating you?
Managing two babies, my Son and Mint & Oak is challenging and rewarding, all wrapped into one. It’s been really tough trying to juggle work from home and managing my son during these COVID-19 times.
I believe that organization and balance make both of these a success. There is an element of unpredictability that you just cannot help with being a mother. You are on a work call and suddenly your son starts crying. There are many times I have put my call on hold, spoken to my son for 2 minutes, calmed him down, and gone back to my call. Thankfully people now respect that the fact that you are a working mother and don’t mind that you needed to attend to your child in the middle of a call.
I think the key is to make sure you are doing something you are truly passionate about and that you have a deep love for. Doing so will motivate me to jump out of bed every morning to be the best version of yourself for your child and your work.