An online marketplace for women’s fashion isn’t exactly revolutionary. The field is overflowing with both known and unknown players, gnawing their way into the pie with every click. So how does one standout in this sea of choices?
With every possible brand looking to enter the online space, e-commerce newbies and giants have a tough battle ahead. Online customers not only demand variety, but also look for differentiators. To create that, Sololook has projected itself exclusively as a women's fashion website. "We connect talented fashion designers and owners of vintage collector items with customers from all over the world. Our focus is on building a niche community of designers that support both emerging and small brands and labels on our portal," says Harshal Shah, co-founder, Sololook.
Hailing from a finance background, in 2009, Harshal had co-founded a financial services firm. Later in 2011; he also started an online portal for t-shirts with three friends. “We did some research on t-shirt designs and prints, and made a few excel sheets budgets on capital outlay. A good friend developed the website; we met a few vendors for outsourcing printing and fabric buying; and we were ready," says Harshal.
However after taking advice from seasoned vendors in the market, they decided to go back to the drawing board. But this time round, Jigar Zatakia, who had a strong background in technology and e-commerce, came on board as technical head. Earlier, Jigar had started an online food delivery portal Mad Bites. The duo dived into research and brainstorming, and discovered that when it comes to e-commerce, fashion is the next big thing after electronics.
"We also found that there were thousands of not so known designers who are crafting beautiful designs, but weren’t able to reach the wider consumer base. Their reach was limited by geography, so we decided to go niche for women’s fashion," adds Harshal.
The next challenge was registering the company. "Not hiring a professional law firm at the start was a drawback because it took us two months to register a company because of the changes in the Companies Act. Many chartered accounts too were not aware of the changes in the Companies Act of 2014. Luckily, we got the company registered a few days before the Companies Act April, 2015 came into place," says Harshal.
Harshal feels that with any startup, legal contracts are of utmost important and should be at the core of the strategy. Be it with employees, vendors, or stakeholders. Harshal says: “We went through various agreements of marketplaces and noticed that they were hard to understand. We thought there might be some drop in designer’s registrations because of the language. So we took care to craft easy to understand legal documents and agreements.”
The Way Forward
Currently, Sololook works on a freemium model, where the listing is free - no registration or recurring fee. Designers are charged a commission for every successful order placed. "At present, we have 85 odd designers and brands on board. Thirty-five of which are already live on the website in a span of three months. We have a target of getting 200 designers online by May, across categories," says Harshal.
"We are targeting about 32 million Indian fashion savvy women shoppers between the ages of 18-42. We plan to target international customers too --Middle East, USA, and Europe in that order of preference within the next three months. We are very optimistic for the Middle East market," he continues
Harshal says that according to one study by 2020, 120 million women in India will be active online, and Sololook wants to be there well prepared to feed their fashion dictates.
web url: www.sololook.com
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