Two years ago, Rashi Menda took a look at her closet and found it spilling over with an assorted collection of unopened, unworn clothes in sundry shopping bags. She found herself saying the same thing many of us say when looking at the contents of our closets– ‘I have nothing to wear!’
“Millions of Indian women stock their closets with stuff worth over one billion dollars every year and still have nothing to wear. Nearly a third of their closet is never worn and another third is worn once or twice at the most,” says Rashi Menda, Founder and CEO of Zapyle (pronounced Zap-aisle).
From this realisation, was born the idea of a platform that allows, says Rashi,
Pre-loved clothes and accessories in finding new homes in new wardrobes and no woman will ever have the problem of feeling like they have nothing to wear.
The name Zap + Style was coined to reflect the swift pace at which fashion trends change. It aims to educate women on trending styles, and allows them to discover fashion for themselves depending on what style they belong too, what fashion type fits their body the best, and help them curate beautiful looks for their weekend nights out.
Discover, Sell, and Buy Fashion
Rashi started with the web version and then launched the app, which is in its beta version right now. Their target audience is women between 18-30 and who are active on social media. The website has 4 style based filters – boho, trendy, classic and chic and other filters which show women what will appeal to them. “We’ve built Zapyle’s experience ground up to ensure that from the moment each user registers on our mobile apps, they’re educated to the extent that they’re able to distinguish between each of the four styles.”
Given people’s hesitation to use pre-owned fashion, the question of quality is an obvious one. To ensure quality, a two-factor quality control is set in place. First is that they accept products that come from an exclusive list of 1,500 domestic and international brands that are perceived as aspirational products – and naturally the quality of all the merchandise from these brands will be of high standard.
Second, they control who can sell through their platform. “Before each seller is given the permission to sell on our platform, a significant amount of effort goes into verifying each seller. This involves background checks, lengthy discussions and quality checks. In essence, Zapyle only allows those users to sell who add value to the fashion community,” says Rashi.
Fashion has always been her true love. Her savings in college used to often go into bags or a pair of shoes. Since fashion trends change so quickly Rashi has believed in recycle and reuse and this is what she aims to do with Zapyle too.
“We don’t want women to wear the same outfit for too long – they Zapyle it after wearing it a couple of times and then put the money back into getting a new outfit.”
Instagram with a Buy button
All users of Zapyle are prompted to login only through Facebook and Instagram. Rashi explains the process, “The user has to select a photo from the past in the outfit, and add a price tag to that memory. The first impression of our mobile app appears to be an Instagram-like experience – which ensures that users are familiar with the way the application works from the very first minute. Just imagine Instagram with a Buy button.”
Pricing for pre-owned clothes is tricky. Brands which are during sale available at heavy discounts, during sales do not make it to the list. The focus is on brands which do not see discounts and sales and are aspirational buys. So when it comes to pre-used clothing, the price of a product is calculated on the basis of its age (how long ago was the product purchased), brand and condition.
“Then the proprietary algorithm factors data from the aforementioned parameters and suggests a range of prices for that product. Zapyle charges a flat 25% commission on the sale value. This commission takes care of all transaction-related costs – so neither the purchaser nor the seller has to worry about any hidden costs,” says Rashi.
Hard work pays
Rashi holds a BSc in Economics-Finance from University of Minnesota and she has worked with Ernst and Young in the Tax and Risk analytics before she started working for an e-commerce startup in 2012 that caters to apparel for kids.
Born and brought up in Delhi, she did her schooling from DPS, Vasant Kunj. She was to be found reading the economist at the age of 14; her summers were spent interning in college. She was not only hard working but also driven.
To test her ideas before she actually got started she held exhibitions for pre-loved fashion in Delhi and Bombay. “I got some great response and feedback from those dry runs. After going through a long iterative process where I repeatedly tweaked the business model, I set out looking for a team to support my latest venture.”
The team comprises of 10 members. Along with their celebrity fashion blogger- Priyanka Vinod, the in-house development team comprises of 7 iOS and Android developers.
The primary challenge they face is the stigma associated with purchasing pre-owned clothes and the challenge to understand the market and understand what the customer wants and the pricing of the products.
As a Founder and CEO, her biggest challenge has been heading a tech startup being a non-tech person. This makes hiring a tricky exercise.
“I was lucky enough to find a tech consultant who guided me through the process and got me a perfect team. I believe, if you are a CEO – you have to be a chief everything officer, otherwise it is hard to be successful. In the past 3 months, I have been reading a lot about different coding languages, learning about python and attending several tech events. Events have definitely helped me get better at my job.”
Speaking of challenges specific to women entrepreneurs she mentions how it is the women who are always posed with the questions about marriage and family by the investors. She says,
As the founder of the business, investors often want to know if I am married. When I say yes, they perceive it as a risk – because I may want to have a family in the near term. It takes a significant amount of effort to reassure investors that I am not planning a family in the near future.
Rashi is glad for the support she has received from her family and that keeps her motivated and pushes her to do more.
“Few people I really look upon are – Sheryl Sandberg and Sophia Amoruso. Their work always inspires me to do more! In addition, what can be more inspiring than the response you get from your loyal users,” she adds with a smile.
The response they have received in the last three months has been very encouraging and to keep things rolling they have fashion related weekly contests, featured stories on different influencers and discussion on several topics pertaining to fashion.
“We have 54 active closets up on the platform. In the month of December we are aiming 600 orders per month and by May 2016 we are hoping to do 100 orders a day,” lets in Rashi. They are developing a range of exciting features on their app which they will release in the coming months, such as a virtual mall-like shopping experience, Zap parties, Image recognition and lots more.