Startup Spotlight: Dresos Is Bringing Customized Shopping To Doorsteps In Dubai
With a focus on personalized fashion, Dresos is on a mission to help its customer make informed purchases using artificial intelligence.
This article was built in partnership with in5, an enabling platform for tech, media and design startups.
Consider the idea of making Dubai's many malls a part of your very own personal, extended closet- that is one of the founding ideas behind Vladimir Radojevic's tech startup Dresos, a retail/fashion platform that enables its users to avail its services to receive curated outfits based on their preferences, or even tailormade ones for special occasions.
The concept in itself is an enticing one, and with the UAE having always ranked the highest in consumer spending on apparel and fashion in the GCC, it appears to be a business idea that can potentially excel. Even a decade ago, a 2011 report by AT Kearney's Retail Apparel Index showed that the UAE had the highest clothing sales per capita in the world. But according to Radojevic, who has over a decade's worth of experience in the retail and fashion industry, despite having been a fashion hub for so long, there was a glaring loophole in the Emirate's retail industry.
"Personally, I can speak as a retail expert, but I think we can all agree that Dubai is an incredible place where you can probably fulfil all your heart's shopping desires within an hour," he says. "However, the level of service –and that applies to the top and to the lower end of the spectrum– is what I found challenging. By that, I do not mean the friendliness or availability of staff. What I mean is product knowledge. A personalized service and a simple desire to help a customer make an informed purchase."
Launched in late 2020, Dresos' business model is fairly simple to understand. The users initially have to answer a quick online style quiz, after which they are guided by a personal stylist via phone or WhatsApp. The user's answers to the quiz give the stylist a detailed idea of what their personal fashion tastes are, and the delivered outfits are chosen based on it. "You can keep the outfits for three days and try them at the comfort of your home," explains Radojevic. "And best of all, you only pay for what you keep. No subscription fees. No delivery charges."
Vladimir Radojevic, founder and CEO, Dresos. Source: Dresos
A focus on personalization, therefore, appears to be the main driving force behind Radojevic's vision for the tech startup, which is a part of the in5 community in Dubai. "What we want is to give people back time that they can spend with their family and friends (over a very personalized experience), and use technology in a way that will improve and optimize our operation markedly," he says. "Now, bridging the gap between that personal touch and the use of technology is where we see real potential. Helped with machine learning, my vision is to create a tech startup that will bring convenience of everyday fashion at scale, and primarily driven by data."
The startup currently works with brands such as Levi's, Cole Haan, Vilebrequin, Galeries Lafayette, New Era, Tommy Bahama, Skechers, and Seafolly, which is an indication to the fact that Radojevic is quite clear about who the target market is for Dresos. "Our primary target markets are men and women from local and expat communities who fall in the mid-high income range and lead busy lifestyles," he explains. "They usually don't have time for shopping, but care about their appearance, and prefer good quality products over fast fashion."
Dresos' services are especially interesting in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing changes it led to in consumer behavior. A 2020 study by Mastercard shows that more than 66% of UAE consumers had shopped more online for clothing during the pandemic- a trend that should be a promising sign for Radojevic and team. Additionally, the UAE currently leads the MENA region in terms of household spending on e-commerce, according to a recent analysis by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
But while the shift to e-commerce has become commonplace for most fashion retailers in the country, Radojevic believes his firm has a major differentiating factor in the way Dresos intrinsically operates. "From an operational point of view, our model is quite unique compared to our competitors, all of which purchase and hold stock," he explains. "Being well connected to the industry, we were able to enter special consignment agreements with leading retailers, which essentially means we only pay what we sell. This has opened up doors for our stylist to our partners' brick-and-mortar stores at healthy margins. Although it's important to note that our customers pay the exact same price as in store, today, we can simply walk into our partners' shops, and choose from hundreds of outfits, sizes, styles and collections, meaning our assortment is much larger, but we have no fixed cost for storage or warehousing."
According to Radojevic, this availability of a wider range of choices, along with the fact that users are not charged any styling, subscription, or delivery fees, makes Dresos a better option than its direct competitors in this landscape. "What this also means is that there is no added pressure for us to sell our customers things they don't want," he adds. "You could say, we can be completely honest with our customers and give them whatever they want, no matter what color, style, or size. In addition, our packaging is premium, and we realized that is something very important to our consumers. The unboxing experience and the element of surprise is something customers appreciate a lot, and that kind of experience has to come in a premium packaging."
The startup has been supported by one angel investor so far, and having secured US$150,000 in funds, it is now looking to raise a seed round of $1 million over the next six months. "Our next goal is to work with trained data scientists to further develop our artificial intelligence and algorithm capabilities to take personalization to the next level," says Radojevic. "In essence, DRESOS takes away everything that makes shopping actually stressful- busy malls or hours of online searches, tiny fitting rooms, upfront payments, lengthy refund processes, a lack of service and product knowledge. The best thing our customers get back is time!"
"TREP TALK: VLADIMIR RADOJEVIC, FOUNDER AND CEO, DRESOS
Why did you choose your startup to be a part of in5? What are some of the biggest advantages you've experienced by being a part of this community?
"I have received great support in setting up my business at in5 and TECOM Group. The fees for the trade license, office space, and employees' visas are subsidized, and they make a big difference for every startup in terms of managing their cash flow at the beginning of the journey. Also, the whole process of setting up the business was very smooth with great support along the way from many people at in5 Tech. Being in the startup environment with many other startups sharing the same challenges and struggles definitely helps, as many of them have been through the process themselves and can offer support."
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges and benefits when it comes to setting up business in Dubai?
"In my personal view, one challenge in setting up a business in Dubai is the availability of capital required to run the business, since there aren't many early-stage funding options available. Living expenses in Dubai are also much higher than in many other cities and countries, both for the founder and early employees. Also, finding the right talent for a startup is a struggle, as people relocate to Dubai to make a good living, and the startups, by the nature of their business, don't fit into that.
But some of the many benefits, on the other hand, include visionary leadership that shows a clear understanding of the importance of startups and SMEs, as well as many opportunities to grow the business. It is also an affluent market with high purchase power, no corporate tax, and very low value added tax. From a retail perspective, Dubai is an extremely developed retail market with presence of all key global brands, and its strategic geographic location is very important from a logistics point of view."