The 26-year-old accountant who is living the e-commerce dream
Mani Agarwal had a comfortable finance job at Deloitte & Touche, a marquee name in the world of Finance. She was doing very well for herself, so much so that the firm enabled her to pursue an accounting degree from the US while working full time. But once the entrepreneurship bug had bitten her, the job, the pay, the promotion held no attraction. To be sure, she had always been inspired by her father who started from nothing and today runs a successful home décor exports business with 250 employees. But this inspiration evolved into an entrepreneurial dream as she realized more and more that she wanted to be her own boss.
Although Mani’s formal education was in commerce, fashion was her passion. Interestingly, she was not just clear about her interest in fashion, she was also very clear that her involvement would not be as a designer; the ‘business of fashion’ was what appealed to her.
Thus was born I Wear My Style in March 2012, a western wear label at affordable prices. Targeted at working women and college going teens, the label aims to bring high street fashion to your closet.
Here is Mani’s story over multiple interactions with YourStory.
YS: Tell us about your childhood and education.
MA: I am a certified Public Accountant and have done my degree from the US. I am a commerce graduate from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University, and did my schooling from Modern School, Barakhamba Road, Delhi. My education has not helped me directly at all, since I studied US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and the same is not applicable in India. But my work experience of three-and-a-half-years prior to starting my own business taught me what books could not. The importance of soft skills such as team work, professionalism and value of time as well as 'PEOPLE FIRST' ethic have guided me in running my organisation.
YS: How has the journey with ‘I Wear My Style’ been?
MA: I started with almost no investment and focused on being profitable right from the initial days. From a turnover of INR 60,000 in the very first month, we have grown to an average turnover of a few lacs a month these days. We retail over 700-800 orders a month, with the cumulative number now being over 10,000 orders till date, with a marketing spend that is about INR 20,000. We have been constantly tracking the consumer behaviour evolution and meeting their needs. We were the best-selling brand on Styletag.com for the year 2012 and the highest selling brand in a single day’s turnover on one of the top 10 e-commerce websites in India for 2013.
YS: What is the USP of your label?
MA: The main differentiators for our label are our curated collections and focus on quality, as learnt from our regular customers. Our collections are manufactured abroad and we curate these collections to ensure that we deliver styles that mainstream brands fail to offer. Further, our affordable pricing (average garment price INR 1000-2500) makes this proposition appealing. Secondly, our high focus on quality has resulted in only 2% quality rejects from our portal.
YS: How do you balance your own label and selling on various market places?
MA: ‘I Wear My Style’ has been a label from day one. We started sales through Facebook but gained steady traction based on word-of-mouth. We then diversified and started working with marketplaces only after a few months of being in the business. A year after starting, as our brand became better known, we launched our own website www.IWearMyStyle.in. Today, we have over 31,000 followers on Facebook built organically with minimal marketing spend. We have worked with over 20 e-commerce marketplaces in the past, but many have shut shop owing to fierce competition and lack of further funding. We now work with four to five sites which deliver good turnover and are stable in their operations.
YS: What are your future plans?
MA: We hope to double our turnover this year, despite the e-commerce industry being in a volatile stage. We would like to sustain ourselves with only a few chosen marketplaces and tie ups including Flipkart and Myntra, by being focused on customer centric strategies. We plan to make a heavy investment in procuring stocks since delivery time has reduced from 10-15 days to 24-48 hours due to increased competition. Lastly, we also hope to foray offline and explore options of store owners across India who can display our merchandise.
We plan to approach investors only when absolutely necessary and run the firm in a disciplined manner. On the personal front, I am just 26, so I am planning to complete by Executive Education from any of the top b-schools in the country in the coming years.