Two young people, Shailesh Jain and Anup Nair, think technology can help fashion leave the localized market and through online can go global. With a dream of connecting fashion designers with customers across the world through their startup Mirraw (the word is derived from mirror), Shailesh and Anup are now using The Startup Centre’s residence program to push through their dream and get mentoring help.
The push to startup
The two, undergraduate classmates at VJTI Mumbai, worked for VMWare (Shailesh) and Microsoft (Anup). While working in the US, as every software engineer ends up doing, on a long drive to Big Sur, they gave shape to their startup dreams. The Big Sur drive brainstorming helped them discuss various ideas that they can address and once they fixed it, they flew back to India to take a plunge.
“A big chunk of the fashion industry works offline. Introducing the concept of online selling and brand creation is our biggest challenge. But in our experience so far, we’ve met a great deal of social media aware fashion designers who are eager and willing to reach a wider audience on the web. Their passion for delivering the same experience as an offline boutique, has aligned well with our mission to be a customer experience based company,” explains Shailesh on how Mirraw is shaping up now. Intertwined with their startup is the change the world idea of reducing the barrier to entry for entrepreneurial designers to launch their own labels.
I asked Shailesh how are they giving shape to this idea of brand building online for young fashion designers. He says, “Our aim is to help the designers build their brand online. Most of the upcoming designers rent out shelf space where they pay anywhere between 30% to 50% of the product price to the boutique owner. And that gives them a very localized market restricted by region. We, on the other hand, give them a big audience on the internet, simplify their operations by taking care of shipping and payment, so that they can focus on their designing and leave the rest to us.” If I can relate this, the same is happening to the publishing industry. The middlemen who command customer base are charging a high fee to market and sell products. This eats into profit margins and at times repels someone with dreams to stop thinking of working in this space. But internet has proved to be a great leveller in reaching customers directly. Add social media to that, it is an awesome combination.
Market response and customers
Since their launch last week, the market has been responding quite well. The customer base as expected is females in the age group 20 to 34 for their jewellery offerings. There is a large chunk of male population (to impress their better halves, love, or siblings, cousins, and friends) thronging Mirraw to buy fashion jewellery. The user group is now in Tier 1 cities.
“We are a customer experience company more than anything else and we look up to Zappos in this regard,” points out Shailesh as to who inspires them. The designers are showing great interest in working with Mirraw deliver a “quality experience” to the buyer. Shailesh adds, “Buying custom designed items from a designer is a completely different experience than regular shopping. We take pride in delivering that personal touch in every purchase at Mirraw.”
But their vision is larger than selling fashion items on line. Mirraw intends to build a community centered around fashion, bringing together designers and fashion lovers. In the words of Shailesh, “A place where people can follow the latest trends in the industry, and where new labels and brands are created.” They count their success as how well they are able to establish fashion brands online.
Getting out of zone of comfort of a corporate software job, which involves a fat pay cheque (making every other industry employee green with envy) and on-site work in either US or Europe, is no longer an impediment for young people like Shailesh and Anup who dare to startup. The entrepreneurial bug is likely to catch on to anyone looking for an idea to change the world. And, with the support system in place, like incubators (read The Startup Centre here) and funding, the thrust to startup grows bigger and better. Hail the entrepreneurial India and these entrepreneurs are writing history now.
–Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist