Started, failed and started again, this time to further a social cause: Kultwear
Last week we wrote about the eCommerce boom and how a startup, therespage is leveraging that opportunity to further social causes. Hearing about another player in that space, in such quick succession, brought a sense of deja vu, a pleasant one.
In conversation with Kalyan Srinivas, the founder of Kultwear, an online T-shirt company which donates a part of every sale to social causes.
Failure was the beginning
Kalyan quit his lucrative job at Reliance Infocomm around 10 years back to pursue his entrepreneurial dream. While the setbacks in the initial years of business almost got him to the brink, the learnings kept him positive about his prospects. It was during some difficult times that he realized the importance of providing help to those who need it the most, and he launched Kultwear in 2012 under his company Pebblebay Clothing, that makes custom apparel.
Speaking of the thought behind Kultwear, Kalyan says, “one thing we were clear about from day one was that we didn’t want to encourage ‘pity purchase’ so we ensured our designs and communication was always cheerful and positive”. The brand was launched to bring about a positive change and to create awareness about social issues on a continual basis, which the company hopes will compel more people to join the cause and support it in their own way. The contributions to the chosen social cause of the week is made on a weekly basis and Rs. 100 from every t-shirt sold, goes towards it.
Realistic costs and prices
Kultwear t-shirts are priced reasonably and Kalyan says they manage to keep the prices low because they have their own manufacturing arrangement, which ensures tight control over the input costs. “Competitive prices are important in boosting the sales of the product, and that ensures people do not think too much about the charity aspect of it”, he explains.
Another facet of keeping the cost low, is the lean structure of the startup, which currently comprises a team of four. Speaking of the team, whom Kalyan credits for the success of his venture, he says, “success is not a single handed effort and there are no shortcuts to it. But the most important thing is to know who belongs in your team”.
Despite the social angle, Kalyan emphasis that Kultwear is a ‘for profit company’. We move on to the next logical question - scaling up and funds. The venture is bootstrapped so far and has big plans to scale up its operations, including increasing the team strength. They however remain averse to funding. “Right now, the revenues are keeping the venture going. And given that almost 75% of the profits go to social causes, we know we can’t deliver the kind of returns a typical investor would expect”, says Kalyan, admitting that at times, 'it is bit of a squeeze to sustain the momentum'.
New ideas take time
Like any new idea, Kalyan says, their biggest challenge is building customer trust, besides, ramping up volumes while controlling costs and reaching out to more people to be able to raise enough funds for the chosen cause of the week. “Identifying the right NGOs, when there are over 2 million registered in India, is a mean task”, says Kalyan.
The company markets its products online and so far, they don’t retail offline for the fear of affecting the transparency of the system. To counter that, they plan to start exclusive franchise stores in the future.
“These are early days and we do have a lot of plans chalked out. We will implement them as we reach some milestones”, concludes Kalyan.
Company website: Kultwear