We talked to Hemant Chavan of Brik + Clik on how to revolutionize the discovery of brands through experiential stores and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hemant Chavan: Doing well. Importantly, we are safe and healthy. In such times, we have learned to cherish the importance of every moment we spend with them. Patience with your family/friends and strangers has never been so important.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Brik + Clik.
Hemant Chavan: I am a real estate development professional based out of New York City with 10+ years of experience in acquiring and developing multi-family, high-end condos and Class A office spaces. I am also a licensed Professional Engineer.
I was walking down a prime neighbourhood in NYC. Within a few blocks, I saw 10-15 vacant retail spaces, my “A-ha” moment—having firsthand experience seeing the decline in retail with increased vacancies and the fundamental shift towards online shopping. There was a considerable gap in the market for an experienced and tech-forward operator like us.
How does Brik + Clik innovate?
Hemant Chavan: We are disrupting the disruptors in retail. We launched the micro-stores concept with two stores, one in the San Francisco Bay Area and other in Lower Manhattan, opening one month apart from each other. We are bringing online brands into physical spaces at a low-cost point and speed to market. Significantly, we developed a Virtual Reality version of our actual stores that allows you to shop and checkout as you would do in real life. We have vertical integration and are the pioneers of this technology.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Hemant Chavan: We were able to accelerate our growth due to prime retail spaces’ mass scale availabilities on a low-cost basis. The lower in-store turnout has spurred our innovation with the launch of our checkout enabled VR store – Clik Shop. So we have gone beyond the omnichannel adoption that has become commonplace with most retailers. We are the only retailer to have launch omnichannel.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Hemant Chavan: Yes, every day. We have to react to the local mandates that change weekly with regards to in-store restrictions. Customer demand is tricky to gauge, so we have to refine our product proposition weekly. While innovation is vital, the basics of foot traffic and the importance of location have undergone reaffirmation.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Brik + Clik in the future?
Hemant Chavan: Years of yoga and meditation helps. Failures are great life lessons, which teach reminds you to stay grounded in times of success. I feel stress and anxiety are from the fear of the unknown. As cliched as it sounds, if you control the knowns and work towards performing them to the best of the abilities, there is a certain amount of calmness that gets installed that abates stress and anxiety.
We have a “day 1” mentality here at Brik + Clik. We are the outsider and the underdog who has to fight a little extra to get half the accolades. So that drives us to innovate, test, fail, succeed every day. We take up every opportunity that we get that has gotten us to where we are today.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Hemant Chavan: We look as retail as a positive-sum game, where brand aggregators like us give credence to the online brands we share. We have bootstrapped our way to two stores, while our competitors had to raise tens of millions of dollars for the same foot traffic per square feet. We are lean, move quickly and are opportunistic while are competitors are moving towards complex organization structures. Our tech, our cost efficiency and agility are what not only keeps us in the game but is priming us of the slipstream.
Your final thoughts?
Hemant Chavan: The core of our mission is to help other small business and create a positive-sum game that enables us and our partner brands and landlords to be successful. We are a pivotal moment in the retail industry where there is a lot of consolidation at the top of the chain. Its have never been so vital for small businesses to collaborate to ensure their vitality.
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