By Mridang Lodha:
As an over-sized kid (read lazy and fat) (and one who was extremely conscious of making a statement!), finding the right clothes always proved troublesome. Luckily, my mother, a designer, loved making clothes that looked unique as well as fit well. She soon turned this into an entrepreneurial journey, one that I have been witnessing for over the last two decades.
Sadly as I grew up, tailoring – a traditional profession in India, much like other hand/skill based industry – started dying out. Partly, this was due to the lack of modernisation and equipment, and also because people started to respect brands more than craftsmanship. Mass fashion brands and the growth of the fashion category in the online space killed it further. However, returns indicated that people were not always happy with the clothes they bought online.
In 2013, international fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch took things up a notch by declaring that they would not sell plus sizes as their brand was not meant for “fat” people. In retaliation, people went on a spree to donate A&F clothing to the homeless!
All these factors were troubling, no doubt. But they inspired me to build a platform where consumers help create fashion that really fits, through Faaya, the world’s first full range crowd-sourced fashion brand.
Simply put, ‘Technology meets Tailor’ is how I describe what we do because though we call ourselves a technology company, what we are essentially doing is taking the tailor online. We pick up regular tailoring processes like designing and measurement and we leverage technology to make better solutions and accessibility for the consumer, who provides the designs, which are then customised (as we would do with tailors in the old days).
The best part is that this can be done using your computer or hand-held devices, including measurements. Our USP is to offer a platform that lets people do this intuitively and is also more visually engaging. Hence, both design (our creative process) and the technology (what we use to deliver the service) is crucial for our brand to grow.
Raised by two entrepreneurial parents, business comes somewhat intuitively to me. Nevertheless, during my college days at SRCC (Shri Ram College of Commerce), I worked with tons of startups to gain hands-on experience.
Post college, I worked in the corporate world for some time. This included a stint with the Future Group where I had an opportunity to be mentored by Mr. Kishore Biyani and Ms. Ashni Biyani in Indian retail landscape, as well as boutique consulting firms where I worked closely to get international brands in the Indian market.
Nine months later, Faaya (now, literally my baby) was born!
As soon as our online platform was launched, we spoke about it to a lot of people – both mentors and consumers – and the idea got fine-tuned. Being a startup and an e-commerce company, social media was (and still is) the only marketing domain we could afford, one with a large ROI (Return of Investment) for us. Bootstrapping through the first six months, it gave us a good number of referrals and customers to keep ourselves operational.
We used platforms like Facebook and Instagram to convey our brand story, and converse with potential customers at that very moment when they were actively seeking our services using various groups. In fact, I would say that 40% of our orders come through Facebook and the rest from Instagram.
It has now been over a year since we launched, and what really keeps us going and growing, is the love and feedback of our customers. A recent conversation with this smart, 30-something working professional, who is slightly on the plump side, completely changed the way we looked at the impact we can create.
Though she can afford the most expensive fashion, things never seemed to fit her well. This affected her confidence both at work and in her personal life. Then one day she ordered a basic dress from Faaya and called us as soon as she received it. A minute into the conversation, she thanked us for changing her life!
This story has greatly inspired us and the lady is now a regular customer, not to mention a strong advocate of the brand itself. In the end, I would say, this is the biggest reward for all that pain, sweat, blood and toil we go through, being a startup.