Two young women, Shivangi Mehta and Payal Sheth quit their well paid jobs, comfortable life and want to make it big on their own without depending on their families financially. The duo has started a e-commerce fashion shop, www.fashiondowntown.com, in July 2011 and had overcome many challenges on their way.
“I did my Masters in management was working as a marketing consultant for Zapak Digital Entertainment, where I discovered that online space is a great market opportunity. I shared the idea with my friend, Payal, who is passionate about social media and technology. She is a qualified chartered accountant and certified public accountant. She has worked with one of the top 5 global consultancy firms, Grant Thornton, and has specialisation on US GAAP. (United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). As we share similar interest, we moved ahead with business idea,” says Shivangi.
Talking about the potential of the idea, Payal says, Indian youth (18-25 years) is an early adopter of technology and also contribute a major chunk of 44 per cent of internet usage. This is followed by young adults (25-35 years), who contribute 28 per cent. Together, they both (age group 18-35 years) contribute 72 per cent internet usage.
Most of this age group are either studying or working with majority of their time spent on internet through computers, iPads or phones. And today, with hectic lifestyle — from job deadlines to bad traffic, socialising to shopping — it is difficult to stay on top of things.
“All these factors will facilitate e-commerce in the country. We are an e-commerce portal, where you can find the latest fashion from designer brands to the high street. We are becoming a one-stop, easy-on-pocket shop for fashion clothing and accessories with unique products sourced locally and internationally. We know how important it is to look your best; therefore it is essential that our prices are affordable for everyone. We believe fashion is a right not a luxury,” says Shivangi,
“Indian online customer is price sensitive. So, we not only match but provide least possible price, which we very much achieved in fragrances range. We understand that the key to our success is a happy and satisfied customer. Fashion should is not limited to shopping, it is much more than that. We provide handy fashion tips in our regularly updated blog and Facebook fan page. Here you can find out how to achieve the hottest celebrity looks as well as get information on our most popular items,” she says.
The company has tried to grow on discounts rather than marketing. “The cost of acquiring customer is `1500 to 2500 and the customer is not even loyal. E-consumer is more of a hopper currently. We figured it’s the price that is deciding a factor, given the same security and shopping experience. Instead of hiring media managers and wasting more money on Google and Facebook advertisements, we passed this as discounts to consumers.
“To market our products and discount offers, our strategy was to do affiliate marketing, cross marketing and explore barter, which has worked out in our favour. We tried to reduce the operating costs with minimum salaries and channelised the saved money to the customer. We are not in hurry to acquire customers because they are smart and find the best price offering site,” says Payal.
Talking about difficulties of women entrepreneurship in patriarchal society, Payal says,”One of the challenges we faced initially was when we were ideating on our business plan, most of our relatives didn’t take it seriously they would always ask us ‘Why do you have to start your own company? Go handle your dad’s business. Why do you want to work? Just get married and settle in life.’
“During that phase, these kinds of talks were discouraging but we were focused on our goal. We overcame this challenge through our persistent hard work and flexible approach to achieve our objective. The other challenge is to raise funds. It’s easier for a businessman to raise capital than a woman; except if women can prove her competence and credibility, so that’s what we are trying to achieve for ourselves.”
Talking about future plans, She says, “To introduce more merchandise and brands, giving opportunity to upcoming labels and designers to sell their products through our site and also support them to explore international market through our export vertical. As we have also seen huge potential in export market for Indian designer wear and we want to expand in that direction”
On personal front, Shivangi finds happiness in whatever she does. “I truly believe that if I can do what I love for a living, which I am at the moment, life is less stressful and a more fun,” she says.
Number of Employees: 12
Initial investment: Rs.50 lakh
Margins: 10-30 per cent depending on the product
Expected to break even: by 2015
Number of visitors per day: 400
Number of orders per month: 500 with an average ticket size of Rs.2,000
Number of offices: 3 in Mumbai. IT team in Hyderabad
Interests: Meditation, Spend time with family and friends, Exercise and Networking
Hobbies: AR Rahman’s music, Songs of Kishor Kumar, Rafi and Gazals by Jagjit Singh Coldplay, Pink Floyd, Akon, Frank Sinatra
Inspirational Quote: ”An airplane is always safe at ground but it’s not made for that. Take risk in life to fly !!”