E-commerce has come a long way in India but we see very few attempts in the space from Tier II cities. While we see plenty of startups coming from Delhi (NCR), Bangalore and Hyderabad, there are only a handful of entrepreneurs emerging from smaller towns. Of course, there are challenges like infrastructure and workforce among other things but this did not deter Smruti Ranjan Mohanty and Ankit Acharya to start an e-commerce venture, CollegiateStore, from Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
CollegiateStore is an online brand for customized merchandise and alumni memorabilia for schools, colleges, non-profit organisation, companies etc. Its product lines include t-shirts, pullovers, sweatshirts, personalized mugs, mobile covers, including books.
The startup lets you design merchandise according to your requirement and it takes the onus of making your product. “Most of the offline retailers in Odisha were literally looting people by charging much higher than the actual price and selling dead inventories. After observing the plight of consumers in our state we decided to float CollegaiteStore. We believe that CollegiateStore is of the people, by the people and for the people,” says Smruti.
CollegiateStore allows you to customize anything and everything you wish to have on your apparel. “As we outsource our products we ensure that each and every product goes through a serious quality check before being dispatched,” adds Ankit.
Within six months of its launch, CollegiateStore worked with over 50 clients which include premium institutes like IIT Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Kharagpur, Jabalpur, XIM BBSR, NIT Rourkela, Nirma University and SIBM Bangalore among others. Besides this, the startup recently bagged its first international client. “As a startup it usually isn’t easy but for us the response hasn’t been so cold; we have shipped over 18000 units in the past six months at an average of 3000 units per month,” says Smruti.
Finding the right talent with background in retail and e-commerce was a big challenge. “We ensure that our employees are well versed with what's going on in and around them,” adds Smruti. At present, CollegiateStore has nine employees and has appointed a large number of campus managers across colleges in India.
In the first two months, CollegaiteStore focused completely in Odisha, but with the demand emerging from some colleges and companies outside the state it decided to expand its reach across India. “Unlike any other custom-based apparel company we are the first ones to make Odisha a base and the experience and response has been overwhelming,” points out Smruti.
In the future, CollegiateStore plans to launch leather accessories section and develop its own private label. “Along with custom-based merchandising we would also have ready-made products, all under our label,” adds Ankit.
Collegiatestore started with an initial capital of Rs. 2.5 lakhs. “So far funding has not been one of the major issues but very soon we would be looking out for investors and venture capitalists,” he adds.