Have you ever seen the title sequence of Breakfast at Tiffany’s? It opens with a long shot of Fifth Avenue. A cab pulls up. Hepburn steps out and saunters up to the show window of Tiffany and Co. Staring, admiring the jewelry. It’s her sanctuary. She takes out a danish and a cup of coffee and walks to the next show window, taking her time…completely at peace. Later in movie she asks “Do you see what I mean - how nothing bad could’ve happened in a place like this?”
The more time I spend understanding the retail jewelry market the more I am drawn to this movie. Buying jewelry is as much about the experience of browsing as it is about the actual purchase. After the last year I’ve spent working with Melorra (coupled with 11 years of marriage) I’m slowly starting to understand this phenomena. There’s an inherent emotional journey every woman feels when she’s at a jewelry store. That experience, for me, is personified by this scene.
In the online world, most jewelry is sold the same way Amazon sells smartphones. It’s a transaction. There is a catalog with factual references about gold and diamonds quantities. You scroll through it, choose something and then purchase it. All emotion is lost. Which is probably why there aren’t a lot of large online jewelry companies in the world.
Saroja Yeramilli, the founder of Melorra, understands this well, and that’s one big reason we decided to invest in her business plan - a first for us. Melorra is our newest investment at Lightbox. It’s a online brand that sells affordable, western influenced, fine jewelry for every occasion. Each piece is designed in-house by some of the most talented Indian designers from around the world.
At Melorra, we operate in a fundamentally different way. Melorra’s technology is designed to recreate that experience, starting with the Stylefeed. The Stylefeed is like a fashion magazine with a buy button. The vision was to create beautiful images that focus less on jewelry and more on the look - a combination of the model’s attitude, the clothing, the setting and the jewelry. The images set the tone. We’ve brought in some of the best models in India, paired them with influential photographers and tried to create some magic.
The Stylefeed adds one more important element - advice on what jewelry to wear with what outfit. Over the past 5-10 years, western clothing has become a larger part of our wardrobe in India - especially for women. In my opinion, this is because of a combination of three factors. One, the plethora of foreign clothing companies entering the market at all price points- from Gucci to Zara, from Jimmy Choo to Aldo and so on. Two, magazines and bloggers have stressed more on western clothing, which has helped its readers understand trends and how to mix and match. Finally, Bollywood has become more Western and it’s given us something to imitate. And so, as a society, we recognise clothing trends better than specific kinds of jewelry. And that’s why the Stylefeed focusses on the clothes so much. You find your look and Melorra will help you find the right jewelry to go with it. And this is only the beginning - we have big plans for our Stylefeed!
To put all this together you need the right founder. Two key things I look for in a founder of an online brand play - 1. their understanding of the industry at a granular level; and 2. their past experience in building a brand. That unique combination of a knowledge set and real life experiences creates a massive differentiator. Saroja and I spent a lot of time discussing the Melorra opportunity. It’s not often I meet a founder that has such an in depth knowledge of their vertical that sitting with them is like having a masterclass on that industry. That’s exactly how I feel when I sit with Saroja and her team.
It’s taken us 7 months to announce this investment. 7 months in stealth mode building the team, designing jewelry, building the technology and setting up the supply chain. I’m so excited to finally share it! Let’s go shopping!