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Creating compelling content that stands out from the clutter of branded content and at the same time entertains the audience is a dream that every marketer wishes to fulfill. This mother-daughter duo founder, Hetal and Lekhinee Desai, of The Indian Ethnic Co. are dancing all the way to create a turnover of over Rs six crores by amalgamating dance into marketing. Their dance videos fetch on average more than two million views each time they post a video on Instagram. These videos are enabled with Instagram’s shopping feature. Recently, Instagram also featured their company on International Women’s Day because of their unique videos of mixing dance with marketing.

The idea of creating dance videos that market the product seed from the Desai family’s love for dance and acting. Both Lekhinee and her younger sister Twaraa are trained Odissi, Jazz, Ballet, and Contemporary dancers. Lekhinee is also a professional actor and Bollywood dance trainer.

Some of the popular dance marketing videos by the brand:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

Lekhinee Desai

Further elaborating on the story behind these viral dance marketing videos, Lekhinee said, “My dad always believed that we should use the format of dancing to launch every new collection because not only is it unique and entertaining but our brand is about real women. The brands always hire models, and one cannot expect models to dance like trained dancers. And not all real women are models. They are multi-faceted - they work, they manage their homes, they pursue their dreams and passions. And since our brand has always been about showcasing our collection through real women in all body shapes and sizes, showcasing this aspect was just a natural outcome of that.”

When Lekhinee, her sister, and a bunch of friends started creating dance videos back in 2016 from the bedroom of their Mumbai home, the Instagram shopping feature had just begun and the video format on the platform was still at a nascent stage. “ Back then, we did not have space with proper background, resources, or know-how. Fast-forward to lockdown in 2020, Tiktok got banned and Instagram launched reels to make use of the ban. We were to launch a category of sarees that we had never sold on our website before. Previously, we were known for our kurtas and fabrics. Hence, we wanted to do something that would help us break the clutter and establish ourselves in the market that we also sell beautiful sarees and do all this in an extremely unique and relatable manner.”

Making the most of the 30-second Reel feature of Instagram, the idea to create dance videos wearing The Indian Ethnic Co. sarees was germinated. The first video itself, which was choreographed in 15 minutes along with Lekhinee’s childhood friends, organically fetched more than one million views and the brand was able to sell all the sarees from its first collection.

A few of the first dance videos by the brand:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

Lekhinee’s favourite dance video ‘Kangana’:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

Lekhinee said, “The 30-second format was just perfect for our brand- to look like a dance group doing a professional dance performance, but at the same time have enough time-length to showcase our products and highlight it with dance in a really engaging way. It all just culminated at a perfect time and worked out perfectly for us. We were in the right place, at the right time, with the right product and the right idea.”

Now, the ‘dance marketing’ troop meets four to five days prior to the shoot to decide and research the songs. They also practice for a couple of hours during the week and zero in on the look and craft for the shoot. They shoot close to three to four reels to create a bank that lasts for a week or 10 days. The brand has also hired a professional videographer that helps bring in the gimmicks to the video with saree changes and other fun elements. This costs them Rs 3,000 combined for three videos.

Lekhinee said, “We never chose popular/current trending songs as that musicality does not match with our brand’s aesthetics. The current songs lack the feel, rhythm, and musicality with their hard beats, funky notes, and auto-tune voices. Good music and the overall feel of the song, that matches our brand, our dance, which is a mix of classical and Bollywood and has an overall positive, graceful vibe to it is what we look out for. Hence it is a no-brainer that on our reels we mostly do AR Rahman’s songs.”

She further said, “With every reel, the quality of our reels is always getting better. It is our goal to showcase every collection differently with every reel but still keep the core elements of our dance and vibe simple and relatable.”

Even though many big and small brands have started following their dance marketing style, Lekhinee is proud that her company remains the pioneers of the concept. “Now dancing to showcase new collections in a saree or otherwise has become an industry trend with big brands like Fabindia, Asopalav, W copying it, we still remain the pioneers and people instantly recognise that as a copy of ours. However, none of them have been able to do it as consistently and as well as we do. It is not just any group of women coming together and dancing in a saree, it is a lot more than that. It is about the vibe of the group, our friendship, camaraderie, our professional training, song selection and to top it all a curated, beautiful range of sarees that we make in-house. A blind copy never focuses on the tiny details that make the original.”

Another video:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Indian Ethnic Co. (@theindianethnicco)

Through the 40 dance videos The Indian Ethnic Co. has created so far, the brand is now known to sell beautiful sarees. Its fan base has grown to over 4.5 lakh Instagram followers and many creating a lot of user-generated content around the videos. The company sales have also increased by 50% in the last four months.

Lekhinee added, “We have started breaking so many stereotypes- young women in the age group of 21-27 years who usually run away from sarees categorising them as uncool, too difficult to wear were now showing people how effortless a saree can be. We had suddenly made sarees cool, dancing in a saree on Instagram has started trending and we have so many young shoppers that started buying sarees from us for the first time. It helped us reach a whole new audience. Apart from that, dancing in a saree helped us succinctly and effectively communicate the attributes of our product, i.e, our sarees were so light, comfortable that you’d feel like dancing in them. The videos majorly helped us get the sales as we literally showed what we said about the product.”

Going forward, the brand is planning to start an educational series of bite-sized videos talking more about handcrafted products to bring in an inside-out view of the what and how of the products.

After spending 27 years of her life selflessly discharging her duties towards her daughters (aged 18 and 24) and the family, at 55 Hetal (Lekhinee’s mother) felt that her life needed a larger purpose to look forward to. With this thought, she started The Indian Ethnic Co. in 2016 as a mini fashion brand through an Instagram and Facebook page.

“We ordered a small 50-meters batch of Ajrakh fabrics from the master Ajrakh artisan in Kachch with an investment of only Rs 50,000. We made some kurtas, clicked the photos on our phone, made my sister model them, and uploaded them on Instagram and Facebook. The rest is history. We sold out all the garments in a matter of a few days. It felt like magic. IG and FB had provided us with a platform to reach out to customers worldwide, without a website and just by sitting in our bedroom. We were officially the ‘Bedroom-Prenuers’,” said Lekhinee.

While the brand continued to grow exponentially, Lekhinee was also pursuing her MBA in marketing then. It was only in 2018 that the company officially launched its website and registered itself. Now in 2021, the brand has an inventory of 50,000 meters of fabric, a turnover of Rs six crores, with three full-fledged offices in Mumbai and a staff of 25, working with over 100 master artisans of Indian handicrafts. Lekhinee also left the job that she took up with ITC in their FMCG division after her MBA and now manages the brand full-time along with her mother.

Lekhinee concluded, “We have been a brand born on social media and grown because of it. A bedroom startup has now become a full-fledged business, all thanks to Facebook and Instagram. Their advertising platform has really catapulted our sales and the growth can only be attributed to it.”

 
 
 
 
 
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