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Prashant Gulati and Shashank Agrawal met by chance in 2013 at a startup event. Both of them were interested in crowdfunding and wanted to do a Kickstarter, so the duo teamed up and started working on a smart doorbell-cum-intercom system. That didn’t work out but in the process, they landed upon a problem for which crowdfunding was a great solution.
Shashank and his friends wanted to get some hoodies of DCE (Delhi College of Engineering) when they realised how painful the process was to get 20 hoodies for people who are located all around the country. This is what spawned the idea for FreshMonk.com
“We wanted a name that was 2 syllables or less, easy to say, culturally relevant and Fresh Monk did the job,” says Prashant about selecting the name. Their focus is SE Asia and the idea is global in nature, hence .com made perfect sense as well.
Prashant is a UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech alumnus who formerlyworked as a banker in the US. After this, he started a medical tourism company which had to be wound up. Shashank is a DCE alumnus who has worked as a product developer with a startup working in renewable energy space. The duo brainstormed and came up with this idea of a platform where people can design and sell custom apparel.
Working on the DCE hoodie problem, they came up with a working demo in 10 days — the campaign is live here. The response to the campaign was encouraging and they decided to go full steam with the idea.
At the core, FreshMonk is a free way to design and sell custom apparel online. It allows groups, communities, events and fundraisers options to run limited-time online campaigns to collect pre-sales towards a goal.
If the goal is met, FreshMonk handles the production, delivery and logistics and sends the profit over to the campaign owner. The campaign owner never invests a penny since buyers fund the creation of t-shirts.
Some of the problems they’re trying to solve:
- The campaign owner doesn’t have to invest in any money. So, that obstacle is removed.
- Instead of guessing the number of sizes to order, one gets the exact number and sizes since buyers place their own orders.
- FreshMonk also handles the payments and logistics.
- FreshMonk claims to do from 15 to 15,000 t-shirts at competitive prices with top-quality materials.
“NGOs and social causes use FreshMonk as a fund-raising tool and have raised thousands of rupees by selling t-shirts at a premium and keeping the difference for their organizations,” says Prashant, talking of a use case. FreshMonk would be especially useful in distributed buying scenarios where demand is uncertain. “Whenever there’s a community of people distributed geographically, FreshMonk’s system solves their custom apparel problems. Anyone with a sense of community and online presence will benefit from FreshMonk,” says Prashant.
FreshMonk works with various partners in production, screen printing and logistics. They have executed 15 campaigns till date and these lie in four basic community groupings — interest groups, NGOs, universities and event groups. “We’re excited to be growing quickly and to reach out to more and more communities across the country. It’s especially gratifying when we’re able to help communities with fund-raising goals,” says Shashank. So far, they’ve had more than 1,000 customers and products sold and the key customers include: American India Foundation, large online communities such as Eatlo, BCMTouring, The Outdoor Journal, etc.
The concept already exists in the western countries and the model is a bring-it-to-India one. But the scope is pretty large and the crowdfunding angle makes it interesting. Being aggressive in terms of marketing and getting more campaigns to the platform will be the key alongside execution as FreshMonk takes care of the entire supply chain.
There are other bigger players in the area like AlmaMater (a fast growing online store for t-shirts and their PLAY platform) and SourceEasy (helps manufacture your designs). FreshMonk is currently hard on sales, trying to get the word out to people across the country. “We’re focused on scalability and automating as much of the process as possible. All of this was with the intent of giving ourselves a chance to build a large company that serves the custom clothing needs of the entire country and region,” says Shashank.