New venture Ladyblush takes on heavily funded e-commerce players

Rahul Sethi

Rahul Sethi

It’s an interesting contrast – three co-founders, all male, who aren’t even remotely associated with nuances of women’s fashion, have ended up launching an online destination for women consumers called Ladyblush.

The idea of Ladyblush evolved through elimination rather than selection. “When we started working on the idea; online shopping space was already over heated with excess of venture monies in the ecosystem. It was starting to get tough and it was critical for us to build our model on efficiencies,” says Rahul Sethi, CEO & co-founder, Ladyblush.

Genesis & evolution of Ladyblush

Founded by Rahul Sethi, Suneet Manchanda and Nagarjun Srivastava in early 2012 Ladyblush raised under $4 million institutional investment from Bangkok-based Alpha founders. According to Rahul, stamina and staying power were qualities they adhered to rather than speed and fast pace growth at a time when e-commerce ventures were busy burning VCs’ money. “Building on that logic; we started slicing and dicing the online market; narrowing down to the niche – women & fashion,” adds Rahul.

The trio opted for marketplace versus inventories, as they never wanted to block their ever-so-limited funds into inventories. Prior to Ladyblush, Rahul and Suneet spearheaded Nasper and Tenscent-backed marketplace Tradus while Nagarjun headed the Indian operations of UK-based train e-tailer, Thetrainline.com.

“It is difficult to understand a woman and her needs. So relatively speaking we weren’t short on that count,” says Rahul in jest. Secondly, the trio believes that fashion in the Indian context is still something which retailers, including e-tailers are trying to get a hold on. Ultimately they believed with marketplace concept where Ladyblush leverages the strengths of its vendor base on trend forecasting, and inventory planning.

Starting up is about ups and downs and hits and misses

“Starting-up is a different ball game all together and not for the chicken hearted. Startups is about ups and downs and hits and misses,” says Rahul.  He goes on to describe a startup like an Indo-Pak cricket match; no matter how many times you have watched that particular match; every time you sit down to watch it, it is equally exciting. “Basically, it is not about the end result but the journey of a startup that is exciting,” adds Rahul.

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Company’s journey in 2013

Year 2013 has been a big turnaround for Ladyblush as it has been able to get a fix on its matrices. “The way we have approached this venture is slightly contrarian. Rather than chasing growth our emphasis has been on getting a fix on the cost structure and unit economics,” says Rahul.

This year, the startup also filled up the missing link in its leadership team. Suruchi Sawhney joined the Ladyblush board. She has been in women’s fashion designing, manufacturing and exports business for more than a decade. She worked with top brands like ASOS, TopShop, Marks & Spencer, RenyDerhy, MichealKorse and more. “She comes with a widespread industry knowledge and exposure to fashion designer community, and would enable us to be in sync with the changing styles, fashion and trends in the industry,” says Rahul.

Scale so far

lady_blushAt present, Ladyblush is doing a few thousand orders a month; growing at a pace of 20% to 25% month on month. “Even at this early stage we are experiencing 25% repeat, which is very encouraging. We are very conscious on adding costs. Niche allows more focused approach for the customers as well as more relevance for the vendors,” reveals Rahul. The company has been able to pull-off so far with a slim team and yet optimized efficiencies in supply and fulfilment through largely automated processes and technology.

Road ahead & quick words for budding entrepreneurs

“We as always anticipate that it is still a long journey for us and we would enjoy every moment of building this organization,” reveals Rahul. The company’s challenge and focus will keep changing with growth and scale and as it fosters more partnerships in the future. For budding entrepreneurs, it’s never too late to start and there is no good time or bad time to get started with your entrepreneurial journey. “My advice – Stay hungry, stay nimble, stay light as you go along building your venture. Decision making is more critical than the decision itself. Keep building, keep moving and believe in the Japanese philosophy of ‘kaizan’ rather than perfection,” adds Rahul.