IIT-Bombay alumni start an online fashion rental platform on the lines of AirBnB
It is a Friday evening and you’d like to go out for dinner. And then you suddenly realise you’ve got nothing to wear. Despite having a full wardrobe, more often than not, you realise the repeats in your wardrobe can be boring. The idea of an online fashion rental portal, Flyrobe, was spawned when three IIT Bombay graduates – Shreya Mishra, Pranay Surana, and Tushar Saxena – realised the need for high quality fashion.
Launched in September last year, Flyrobe claims to have partnered with designer labels like Outhouse, Masaba Gupta, Ritu Kumar, and Shehla Khan.
AirBnB and its inspiration
In 2012, Shreya had the opportunity to visit AirBnB’s office as a part of an entrepreneurship summit at Stanford University. “At that point in time, the idea of asset utilisation and the rental economy caught my fancy. That’s when the three of us found ourselves thinking what are the items in our daily lives that see very little utilisation and aren't worth owning? The answer was quite obvious – fashion,” says 27-year-old Shreya.
The trio thus came up with the idea of creating an on-demand online wardrobe, which people can access whenever they want without the burden of owning it. They surveyed the idea with over 200 women and over 80 per cent women gave a strong positive response.
Piloting and building the team
“We piloted our idea in June last year through a beta website and got a great response. In September 2015, we launched our android app. And in October 2015 our website was launched,” adds Shreya
Tushar had built the tech for Pranay’s first startup Hegemon Technologies, when they were both studying at IIT. So understanding his capabilitites, Pranay and Shreya approached Tushar, while he was still three months away from graduating from IIT Bombay and asked him to join the team.
Flyrobe is currently a 30-member strong team across engineering, marketing, business development, product, and operations. “We have folks who quit jobs at companies such as Bain & Co., Inmobi, Cadbury, and Tinyowl to join Flyrobe. Our latest addition to the team is our CBO Sreejita Deb, a Harvard Business School alumnus with over a decade of experience at companies like Amazon and Google,” says 25-year-old Pranay.
Numbers and working
The platform supplies western wear on-demand with a three-hour delivery timeline and the ethnic wear on advance booking. While the team refused to share their revenue, they claim that their average order value is close to other fashion sites. The team claims that the number of app downloads on android is approximately 75,000. While the app draws mixed reactions from customers, it has a 4.3 rating on the PlayStore.
“We have served over 4,500 customers till now, ranging from 18-year-old college girls to 35-year-old working women,” adds Shreya. One of the biggest validations for the team has been when TV personalities like Rochelle wore a Flyrobe product on air. The team rents all the clothes and accessories at 10 to 15 per cent of their retail prices.
Influencer marketing has been one of the biggest marketing tactics for Flyrobe. They launched an “Angel User Campaign’, where they had 10 women from different backgrounds – ranging from a lawyer to a doctor to a college student – to do a friendly photo shoot in Flyrobe outfits and upload those pictures with a Flyrobe review on social media.
“This gave us 35 customers in the first week of our launch itself. It proved to be a powerful tactic, as fashion is a crowded category and friend’s recommendation goes a long way in getting a person to transact,” says Shreya. Flyrobe aims to be every woman’s online wardrobe in the next five years.
The crowded space
In the past few months, the online fashion rental space has been exploding. In the last ten years funding worth over $166 million has been pumped in the space. There are several startups mushrooming in this rental and re-selling space – Spoyl, Revamp my Closet, Once Again, Exchange Room, Elanic and Etashee to name a few. Two of which have even been funded small seed amounts.
For a category that is still in its nascent stage, there are quite a few business models. For instance, Revamp My Closet claims to have the largest inventory, whereas Elanic follows an app-only, social network model.
Gone are the days when hand-me-downs were looked upon with contempt. As we increasingly become a consumerist and aspirational society, with ‘useandthrow’ as the motto, consumers are looking for ways to get the ‘it’ brands without breaking the bank.
In fact, India has always had a market for second-hand textiles such as blankets. UN Comtrade data of 2013 reveals that import of used clothes into India is worth $182 million, making India the top importer in this category.