“The fear of starting up does not result as much from the constraints society puts on us as on the fear within us.” So says Debasis Chakraborty, Co-founder of Namakh, a fashion brand for women, who had worked for 14 years in the corporate world before starting up with Anirban Chakraborty.
More than courage, it is a matter of determination. The market the duo entered is a promising one. “Women's wear market is at Rs 80,000 crore today, growing at a CAGR of nine per cent, and the Fast Fashion Category is growing at a break neck speed of 25 per cent besides CAGR,” says Debasis. He underlines that the premises for success are there and it is just a matter of truly committing to take advantage of their potential.
“India’s fashion industry is rapidly transforming,” says Debasis, who summarizes the phenomenon in a few points:
- The conventional two season model (A/W and S/S) is giving way to freshness every month
- Core products are boring. There is still a lot of fashion within the core
- Ethnic and western fashion is making way for Fusion Fashion
- Technology is changing the way women shop thus making it more challenging for brands
Transformations open up to creativity and innovation and this is where Namakh wants to fit in. The customer it targets is the ‘Compulsive Online Shopper’ and for this reason it works on identifying consumer trends and launching their designs fast. “Our prices are sharp, starting as low as Rs 299 and tapering off at Rs 899 and our styles are simple yet fashionable regular wear,” he says, adding, “though we have seen reasonable traction from the age group of 20-24 years, there are other age groups shopping at Namakh as well.”
The team typically conceptualises, designs and produces in-house. However, their ‘Namakh by abc’ is based on collaborative branding, where they help independent designers who struggle to find a platform of sales to launch their creations under the Namakh brand.
The team has been focusing on online sales (both marketplaces and own website), and are planning to enable women in tier 2-3 towns to start selling Namakh products. Moreover, they are studying underserved markets in semi-rural and rural areas to expand their reach there as well.
Challenges like lack of funding (“banks typically shut their doors for the first three years if you are a startup”, says Debasis) slow down the race, but being able to observe them properly brings along new learning and fresh perspectives. “Funding is happening to path breaking innovative technology startups while startups with a conventional business idea and POC are going dry. Investors should think about collaborating with such firms and tweaking their model to make them scalable through the use of technology.”
He argues that despite challenges, Namakh has reached important achievements. The team of six, split between Bangalore and Jaipur mostly consists of freshers just out of college. Neil Blumenthal, Co-founder and Co-CEO at Warby Parker, has recently written an article on innovation where he argues that, “Experts have ready-made solutions; beginners have questions that may ultimately lead to better, newer solutions.” Similarly, Debasis says, “We believe that freshers bring in an amazing amount of positive energy in the system and will continue to recruit them as we grow. Starting Namakh reminded me of when I was four and I jumped into the Ganges without knowing how to swim. I always had the confidence that I will figure it out.”
Determination is a fundamental strong point, but as the team itself points out, fashion is a rapidly changing industry, experience needs to give way to new models and structures.