Sharad Kumar and Tanushree Khandelwal are ex-MICAns who found themselves in Kolkata with an opportunity. Living away from home, they always struggled in locating the best place to shop from. Their first guide into the city shopping locales were the campus auto-waalas or word of mouth but they felt that there has to be a more structured way out. "What if there existed a site where people can discover fashion boutiques in their city and make an informed decision to visit the stores or even buy from there via detailed reviews, store rating, product price ranges, and real store images!" thought the two of them while discussing the solution and thus was born Fashionove.com.
Combining their complimentary skill sets with Sharad on product design and development and Tanushree with her sense of fashion and market research, the duo started out with aggregating boutique information in Kolkata. The city has its own set of pros and cons to set up and run a business. There are the good things like a low cost of living, helpful people and especially for Fashionove, a big hub for apparel. On the other side, "The negative aspect is the business environment. The people here are averse to taking risk and are more laid back. That 'Madness', if i may call it, to do something path breaking is missing, says Tanushree. Due to this, there is a very negative stereotype notion about the businesses here and prove as the biggest obstacle when the duo talk about their venture to any investors. But Fashionove aims to prove them wrong and send a message across that success does not lie in any city, it is in the individual who is working towards it.
Till now, the going has been pretty good. Launching in October 2014, Fashionove Currently has 200 boutiques live on the reviewing platform. On the Fashion E-commerce marketplace, they have 80 online vendors with over 6000 SKU's. "We have started getting 300 visits per day without any promotion at all! We have been receiving lot of calls from Customers and Sellers on regular basis in Kolkata that has built our confidence and trust in our product," says Sharad.
Fashionove falls in the O2O (online to offline) class of startups where the core asset for a company is the aggregation of offline information for a user. People can browse this information online and then visit the store to make a purchase. In Fashionove's case, the purchase can be made online too. The likes of JustDial and Zomato have proved that the model makes a lot of sense for nations lie India. In terms of apparel, there is activity going on with many technology players coming up to solve this dowry problem. Backed by Flipkart founders, Roposo is an online fashion discovery platform for women, while venture backed Wooplr plays the social card for discovery. Classified websites also have boutiques as a category but by focusing highly on a category, the bet for Fashionove would be to have very rich data.
"We are a Fashion Discovery and Reviewing portal integrated with E-commerce. We provide a platform for unorganized boutiques/stores to share the same space as the organised boutiques/stores and have an online presence that would increase their offline and online customer visits, says Sharad. The spectrum of focus is pretty wide at the moment which they might have to narrow down going ahead. Their website is mobile optimized but the app is not out yet. Currently bootstrapped with presence in Kolkata and Mumbai, the plan is to launch the mobile app in next 2 months by the end of which 3 more cities will be covered.
The team at Fashionove are onto a long journey and starting up has not been easy. As Tanushree puts it, the story has been nothing short of a bollywood flick. "There is a mom who supports her kid blindly and can fight the world for the kid. There is a dad who doesn't say much but frequently passes hint that leaving a lucrative job is the biggest mistake of our life. People are awestruck that after spending 15lakhs in MBA we are still not earning a penny and then there our friends who salute us for the courage, smile when we do something good and laugh harder when we goof up and we are the underdog heroes who are fighting odds to chase our dreams!