There’s always that one pair of shoes, top, shirt, trouser, or accessory that we rarely use. It has either been preserved for an occasion or somehow it never sees the light of the day. It is with this basic premise — which most of us do not use or wear 50 per cent of what is in our closets — that led to Spoyl’s birth.
It was earlier this year that Bhargav Errangi, 29 years, saw one of his friends trying to sell her branded pair of shoes on Facebook. This caught his attention because a platform like Facebook has limited filter and curation capabilities. Soon, he realised that many people were trying to buy or sell on the platform like his friend.
That was his 'aha' moment, says Bhargav, who at the time was in Silicon Valley working at Intuit. "I was thinking along the lines of why not build a socially engaged marketplace platform where you build the trust first with the power of social/engaging content and the commerce just unfolds itself for the pre-owned segment,” says Bhargav, a PhD in Bio-Medical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, who has always been fascinated by the concept of the sharing economy.
After spending close to 14 years in US, Bhargav decided to move back to India “While Silicon Valley has great startups, I felt the Indian market was more open for a product that was technologically-driven and consumer-facing,” he says.
However, the early days back in India were not easy. With no contacts in India, Bhargav had to begin from scratch. It was a challenge to network and to find like-minded people to join him and take Spoyl’s vision forward.
Being a part of strong and high-performing teams at Intuit earlier, Bhargav knew that the right team could turn any idea into a product and a business. "I had one primary objective four months ago and that was to build the best team for the job. I hustled, moved to Hyderabad, networked, and was able to motivate and inspire a few people whom I consider to be the backbone of Spoyl now," adds Bhargav.
One of them was Sumit Agarwal, his colleague from Intuit, who joined in as the co-founder. Another important team member was Bhaskar Ganji, who is Spoyl’s first employee. Prior to this, Bhaskar was working for a small consultancy firm in Andhra Pradesh.
Bhargav says Bhaskar developed the whole backend single-handedly. Bhargav had in the past reached out to Bhaskar to work on some of his app-developing ideas.
"We already had a connection. He is one of smartest engineers I’ve worked with. Not from an IIT, nor BITS, but can compete with any of the top engineers in the country at the moment," says Bhargav.
Irum Ruqiya, a growth hacker who previously worked at Myntra and Wooplr, is another core team member. Bhargav says he stalked her on LinkedIn before getting her to say yes.
Close to a month ago, the team launched the first version of the app after a few beta runs. Spoyl is available on iOS and Android. The team relies on a highly scalable architecture using Python-Django hosted on AWS. They claim to provide high performance in the app experience using the Elasticsearch technology, which allows search of all kinds of documents and is scalable across platforms, and the latest image compression techniques.
Sellers need to click pictures of their product and add the price along with a detailed description of the product. Once the product is selected, the team at Spoyl reviews the same and verifies the seller details before publishing it.
After an order is placed and verified, Spoyl’s logistics partners will get in touch with the seller and the process of delivery begins. Spoyl follows a standard marketplace revenue model, where they take a certain percentage of the transaction value as their cut to feed logistics and operational expenses plus the margins.
Spoyl also provides a white-glove concierge service, facilities that include picking up the apparel and helping the sellers present the same in a more cleaner and appealing fashion online. "This is specifically for those who don't have the time to do so themselves," adds Bhargav. Spoyl gets a bigger cut for this service.
Spoyl has had about 1100 app downloads, 800 active users, and claims to have close to eight orders a day. The team says they haven’t spent a dime on marketing yet and everything is through organic referral installs.
The team is going to aggressively start building content and work on acquiring users in the next few weeks. Their goal is to reach the 5,000 active user mark with 25 orders per day by mid-December. The team is currently trying to crack the logistics piece of the business before they expand to other cities.
"Since there aren’t any major competitors in this space yet, we believe that our product and execution coupled with our strong team with diverse yet relevant backgrounds will set us apart from the other early-stage companies that are in this space," says Bhargav.
Spoyl currently is a part of TLabs accelerator program and have raised close to $100,000 from TLabs and a couple of angels. Ganesh Subramanian, ex-COO of Myntra, joined the board last month as the official advisor.
Pre-owned fashion has caught the attention of quite a few entrepreneurs in India. Elanic, Revamp My Closet, Once Again, Zapyle, and Etashee are some of the ventures that have started up in this category in recent months and years.
According to a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) report, the collaborative economy has the potential to increase global revenues to $335 billion by 2025. While there is no reliable data on the market size for pre-owned fashion, a Google report estimated that India’s online fashion market would reach $35 billion in size by 2020.
With more Indians buying expensive branded products and lifestyles and habits changing rapidly, pre-owned fashion definitely has a market in the country. But how big will that market be and how much of that Spoyl can capture, only time will tell.