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Shaan Sethi
Shaan Sethi
Co-Founder & CEO

Interview with Shaan Sethi

Sales tripled from 2019 to 2020

Jaanuu, a vertically integrated e-commerce company, has reimagined the medical apparel market via the industry's first contemporary, antimicrobial-finished products. Today, Jaanu is one of the fastest growing company in its category. Shaan Sethi, Co-Founder & CEO, Jaanuu, shares at length the motive behind founding the brand, the thought process that goes into designing the clothes, and the kind of turnover witnessed by the brand year-over-year.

TT: Why the name Jaanuu? What was the idea that went behind starting a contemporary medical apparel brand?

We were raised Hindu and taught early about karma, so giving back has always been at the centre of who we are. As kids, our parents called us "Jaanuu", defined in Hindi as a loved one who is as important to you as life, or "Jaan", itself. For us, Jaanuu is about helping healthcare professionals and the world achieve greatness in life through an intersection of mental and physical strength. It is about celebrating the entire self and empowering people to give life their all.

TT: What was the initial seed the brand was started with?

We have raised $23 million to date from investors including private equity fund Cult Capital, the Nordstrom family, Ron Burkle, BAM Ventures, and others. Investors have resonated with our early value proposition that "riches are in the niches" and that this sleepy multi-billion-dollar market of medical apparel needed to be disrupted, disintermediated, and reimagined.

TT: How long did it take to break even?

Over the last several years, with the rapid scaling of Jaanuu, we have been laser focused on operating the business at the intersection of growth and profitability.

TT: How big is the market for medical apparel worldwide?

In 2020, the total addressable market of the healthcare apparel industry was an estimated $12.0 billion in the United States and $79.0 billion globally, according to an April 2021 Frost & Sullivan study.

TT: The brand--started by you and your sister, who is a doctor herself, what problems did you find medical professionals faced in their daily workwear?

As an aspiring doctor, my sister Neela told me how on her first day at work in Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles she was given a code to get her scrubs from a vending machine, which were unisex and as you can imagine, drab. The outfits didn't offer features or benefits in tune with what healthcare professionals needed to do their best work. It seemed counterintuitive to us that people who are expected to perform at such a high-level, and for people who give so much, that they were completely overlooked with regards to their 'uniform'. At that time, I had just finished my MBA from the University of Chicago and wanted to do something meaningful that would create change in the world, so it felt like a natural move for us to launch Jaanuu in 2013 to provide healthcare professionals a collection of scrubs that offer maximum style, sport-like movement, and function.

TT: What are the various factors kept in mind while designing the clothes? How are the factors of functionality and aesthetics kept in sync?

We pride ourselves on our innovative product both about antimicrobial-finished fabric technologies and our style-forward designs. With a physician at the helm, who is in the trenches with the healthcare community, we are in tune with what they need and how we can support them to perform at their best. Thus, we were the first brand to bring sophisticated antimicrobial-finished fabric technologies to this market and the first to launch outside-the-box styles such as a skinny pant, a jogger pant, a peplum top, a moto pant and many more first to industry designs.

TT: How does your supply chain network work? What regions of the world are part of your supply chain?

As a company founded by two sibling minorities, Jaanuu was born as one that unyieldingly embraces and values diversity both in our team and in our global supply chain. We manufacture Jaanuu products both domestically and in all parts of the world.

TT: How do you tap into your consumers in a direct-to-consumer environment? What are some of the marketing strategies implemented by you?

We leverage a whole host of marketing tactics, from traditional paid media channels to non-digital strategies that help bolster our virality and word of mouth across healthcare professionals and the general population. As we continue to evolve our go-to-market strategy, we will lean into our community, providing inspiration and innovation to help our consumers perform at their best.

TT: What are the advantages of being a DTC start-up? What is your formula to compete against established brands of medical textiles?

As a business co-founded by a physician, we lead with the voice of the healthcare professionals and consistently incorporating feedback from our community is key to our success. As a digitally native brand, we not only control our own distribution channel but also use our voice, assets, and footprint to create a one-to-one relationship with our end consumer. With this unique relationship comes the ability to remain nimble, personalise messaging, show up when it matters most and through the spirit of 'Jaan' empower healthcare professionals to find balance between physical and mental strength.

TT: How are your clothes keeping up with the pandemic times? Did you improvise on your clothes to meet the current demands of the medical fraternity?

As soon as the pandemic hit, we knew that as a physician founded company with healthcare professionals' well-being at our core, that we had to do something to help. We mobilised our design team and supply chain to launch antimicrobial-finished face masks, and on April 11, 2020, just one week after designing our face mask for the first time, we started selling to the public.
Within hours we sold tens of thousands of masks, and in conjunction with our buy one give one model to donate up to 1 million masks for each one purchased, we realised we were starting to make a huge impact in the world. Today millions of Jaanuu face masks are being worn around the world, from healthcare professionals to kindergarten students to the United States Navy to hotels including the St Regis, Four Seasons, and others. This is a true living example of why we started Jaanuu - to give back to and empower those in need.

TT: What is your R&D team like? How much do you spend on R&D on a yearly basis?

While we cannot comment on our yearly R&D spend, innovation and empowerment are core tenets on which Jaanuu was founded. It is for that reason that we invest sizable amounts of capital across our design team, merchandising team, and domestic and international production teams. As a fast-faced operator, we push boundaries in innovation like no other and are honoured to be recognised as a leading disruptor in our category.

TT: How do you source information on trends and consumer insights?

As a digitally native and physician-founded organisation, we are consistently in-tune with our consumers' needs conducting focus groups, customer interviews and surveys in addition to investing in a robust in-house consumer insights and data analytics team.

TT: The renewed buzz is on sustainability today. How do you incorporate sustainability in your clothes?

We work with the world's leading suppliers and manufacturers who produce for some of the most well-known brands across the globe. Partnering with these institutions allows us to ensure ethical operations, product quality in addition to social and environmental sustainability practices. Each of our manufacturers is certified through the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) programme, an independent organisation dedicated to promoting safe and ethical manufacturing. Moreover, to ensure standards, we have boots on the ground throughout the world to ensure our production meets the highest of Jaanuu standards.

TT: What are your growth expectations from the company for the next two fiscals?

While I am unable to share this specific data point, I can say that from 2019 to 2020 our sales tripled, and to date in 2021 our medical sales have doubled year-over-year.

TT: What plans for the company? Any new partnerships in the pipeline?

We are at an exciting inflection point for Jaanuu, and with the meaningful investments we have recently made in people, process and systems, we believe we're at the tip of the iceberg in terms of future growth to be achieved. You'll have to follow along our journey for more. (PC)

Published on: 23/07/2021

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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