Have you heard of Buttercups? It is arguably one of the most innovative lingerie boutiques (offline and online) in India currently. Besides retailing the world’s finest curated lingerie brands, Buttercups has differentiated with the offerings they provide. From personalised sizing, to fitting, to consultations based on your requirements, the venture promises to care for the discerning women clientele it caters to.
But what got us inspired to tell this story is the infectious drive of the passionate entrepreneur behind Buttercups. Arpita Ganesh is a lady on a mission. Like a quintessential entrepreneur, the journey has not been easy for her. She has seen more shares of downs than ups. But Arpita refuses to give up. And why should she? When you are pursuing your passion and have a mission to change the way women perceive themselves and their bodies, you are on to something big. Having received formal training from Chantelle, Arpita is changing the way Indian women interact with lingerie.
Read Arpita’s story and if you find it as inspiring as we at YourStory did, I request you to support her cause of building India’s finest lingerie label. Yes, she intends to bring to Indian women an international bra experience at Indian prices.
YS: Arpita, I have known you since the early days of Buttercups. Take us through your story.
Arpita: It’s been a long and hard journey. Following a passion that is still a ‘taboo’ in India has been challenging. I am fighting myths, changing mindsets and educating even the most educated women in an area of their life that they have never given thought to or never openly talked about.
Trying to explain to investors, many of them men, is a challenge because there will never be a relation to my product or offering. Also, there is a huge focus in funding towards ‘top line’, ‘mass’, ‘quick growth’ businesses rather than ‘profitable’, ‘niche’ and ‘exclusive’ businesses.
But it is the ‘ups’ in my journey which have brought me here today. I am crowd sourcing because I have enough customers who believe that Buttercups must come to life and they want to go out and do whatever they can to make it happen.
Their faith and push shows that I do have a proposition which impacts lives of women and that everyone who has tried Buttercups, wants more and more women to feel this change.
I have come to be known as the ‘Indian Bra Lady’ in the international lingerie circles and I love the tag.
Launching an app (ABTF – iOS and android) to help women find their right size in brands available in India was another big feather in my cap. The app was built by fellow entrepreneurs who did it because they saw my passion and wanted to help.
Getting 3000 women across the world to subscribe to my bra blog, www.abrathatfits.com was commendable. Again, I run and manage the blog myself, having learnt how to do so from another kind hearted entrepreneur who took the time to help me set it up and show me how it works.
I have gained enough knowledge over the past six years to be able to consult some of the most well known lingerie companies and brands (M&S, Fredericks). That in itself is a remarkable achievement, considering social conditioning and the fact that I am a ‘woman from India’ talking lingerie.
The journey has been a struggle as it is not easy to run a retail business, but there are two things that still drive me — conviction of people around me and my own conviction that I can do it. I have met so many wonderful people — customers, fellow entrepreneurs, a handful of investors and a few mentors, who have all gone to great lengths to help me in every way they can. It is this help that has brought me this far.
YS: What keeps you so positive and excited about what you are doing?
Arpita: I love what I do and every bra fitting is like a high for me. It’s like the high which a chef gets on being complimented on an extraordinary dish!
Because wearing the right fitting bra does change lives. (Ask my customers)!
I want every woman in India to experience good fitting bras. I want to raise the bar of expectation that women have from their bras and take it to a new level.
That’s what keeps me here. The app, the blog and the FB page are all just mediums of trying to get women to do just that.
Technology is my second love. It makes even things like bra fittings an experience that can reach out to millions. I am constantly reading and innovating on how I can mix technology and bras to reach out to more women.
YS: How have you seen your market evolve/grow or it still the same?
Arpita: In six years, the market has evolved and changed unbelievably. Online shopping has a lot to do with this. So does the evolvement of the Indian women. Over the years, women here have become more aware of themselves, take care of themselves, want better things and are going out and getting them. Women are willing to go an extra mile to feel comfortable and look good. They have stopped compromising and making do with the average product. They know they want the best for themselves because they deserve the best and they are willing to go out there and get it. That is why this is the right time for Buttercups.
YS: How do you compete with the well-funded sites in this space? What gives you your competitive advantage?
Arpita: There are the really well-funded etailing sites, which are not a competition but will at some later point be a medium of sale for me. The other self brand sites are focused on ‘sexy’, ‘funky’, ‘low cost’ models. Buttercups has a clear focus on quality, experience and reaching aware consumers in a very different age and economic bracket.
That said I am the biggest asset I have. My knowledge of product and experience surpasses any funded entrepreneur in the space. I am India’s only bra fitter and have fit over 3000 women thus far. This gives me advantage of knowing a better product and offering a better experience, which others cannot have.
YS: What’s your latest campaign all about? Why did you go into crowd sourcing model?
Arpita: I have finally managed to get my backend together to bring better bras to India. It has taken me a year to find a designer here who understands the fit I want to give; having another designer in Hamburg, Germany, who understands and supports me with sourcing of materials and helps with innovations in design; and having a manufacturer in Hong Kong who delivers quality that I want. Getting here took up all my resources. I need two things at this point: Money to launch the Buttercups brand of bras and faith from customers who believe in the product that I will offer. This campaign is an exercise to do both. And I am very, very happy with the initial response I have got.
To get help, you have to help yourself first. That’s why crowd sourcing. As a struggling entrepreneur in India, you have to create a new eco system of self fund raising because the investment community in India is still very risk averse and asks for proof of concept. A lot more entrepreneurs should take the crowd funding route to do this. It gives them an advantage when they start talking to investors by already having orders for products/services that have not yet been launched. It shows there is a demand.
YS: Tell us who Arpita is?
Arpita: I am the Dagny Taggart of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’. I am a firm believer in her philosophy of how the world loves mediocre and will do anything to bring down the brilliant. Her books are how I have managed to deal with the disappointments of the real world.
I am also probably the most hard-headed, passionate person I know. I just don’t give up. I have come close to giving up, like we all do, but I have picked myself up and gone at it with a vengeance again. I don’t know how to give up. That is an integral part of who I am. Be it Buttercups or people or even a game of Angry Birds, I don’t give up. My best and worst quality.
I wish to leave a better world for my daughter. And I hope that disappointments are things of the past. I have no tolerance for incompetence and believe that age and experience are mutually exclusive. I respect not because I am supposed to, but because I want to. I care not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it matters to me. I live not because I have to, but because I want to.
I dream of someday being able to roam all over this amazing world. I live in the hope of having new experiences and meeting more wonderful people.
Show your love for Arpita’s vision and her cause by participating here www.fundbuttercups.in