Why French entrepreneur Julie Rousselet chose to startup in IndiaRakhi Chakraborty
To say that Julie Rouselet’s journey as an entrepreneur has been extraordinary is an understatement. The 35-year-old half French half German businesswoman is running two startups simultaneously in two different continents. She founded My Envy Box in India and Flouzen in France and divides her time between the two countries.
My Envy Box
Founded in 2013, My Envy Box is a luxury startup modelled on Birchbox from the US, but adapted for the Indian market. Every month, subscribers receive a ‘Beauty Box,’ or ‘Designer Jewellery Box,’ which contain curated products from India and around the globe. India’s luxury market is highly niche, and not as developed as the West. But as the number of urban youth population with disposable income rises, so does the potential of this industry. That, and an Indian boyfriend, prompted Julie to experiment here.
Their revenue model includes subscriptions, product sales and advertising. “Today,” she says, “We are one of the largest subscription-based company in India, definitely the largest in the premium segment.” However, she is not comfortable with providing numbers to back up those claims as of now.
Julie credits her experience as an entrepreneur in France with helping her becoming one in India. She says, “Thanks to my experience as an entrepreneur in the creative and fashion luxury industry with my cashmere travel essentials brand Flouzen, I have knowledge of international distribution from a brand point of view. India is an extremely fragmented market, which is pretty difficult to navigate for international brands. We saw this as a huge opportunity to help prestige and luxury brands enter the market through a digital platform based on the Birchbox business model. The DNA of our company is that of a digital and experiential marketing platform for brands.
India’s explosive startup industry was an added incentive. She adds, “India offers fabulous opportunities because the market is still growing rapidly as compared to western markets. Over the course of running My Envy Box, I have had the privilege of experiencing the aesthetic and design heritage of India, one which is shining through the new generation of creative Indian entrepreneurs who are reshaping India’s global image. We are also working on our international launch. It is extremely exciting to be surrounded by all this restless entrepreneurial energy, which makes India one of the places to be in 2016.”
A tale of two cities and two startups
Julie was born and grew up in Paris and has a master’s degree in Political Science from the prestigious Sciences Po (The Paris Institute of Political Studies). After completing her education, she worked as a journalist and production assistant for the French German TV Channel Arte. She later served as a communication consultant with the United Nations Environment Program and moved on to editorial roles for French magazines. In 2010, she finally turned entrepreneur with her brand of cashmere travel accessories, ‘Flouzen.’
While she was itching to embrace her creative instincts full time, it was the addiction that sealed the deal on entrepreneurship for her. Julie says, “I consider myself as a creative entrepreneur with one foot in business and the other in creation. Once you start to be an entrepreneur, it becomes an addiction. No one day is similar to another. You can never get bored because you have to multitask like crazy- from having strategic meetings to sitting on the floor counting products and putting them into boxes.”
Naturally, her experiences of being an entrepreneur in India and in France are wildly different. “Being an entrepreneur in France is not easy because France doesn’t have this entrepreneurship culture. You have to face a lot administrative struggles and people will not generally encourage you to take initiatives. It’s a fabulous country, but it has been shaped for the salaried. India, on the other hand, is more the land of opportunities with an unparalleled energy and an attitude of ‘anything is possible,’” she says. Both countries have their pros and cons. She has been at the receiving end of India’s administrative hurdles one too many times as well. But overall she feels lucky to be able to balance both. What’s more, the differences encourage, rather than hinder, growth.
Julie says, “Although on paper My Envy Box and Flouzen look radically different, I have to say that the experience of one is serving the other and vice versa. Both are actually about building a brand around strong values in the luxury industry. It’s all about positioning the brand and finding the best way to offer innovative and curated shopping experience to the consumer.
Growth, scale and funding
My Envy Box started with a box of curated beauty products in 2013; they have now launched their designer jewellery box, which curates pieces from India’s leading jewellery designers every month. The costume jewellery market in India stands around $5 billion and Julie feels that their way of letting customers experience contemporary India gives them an edge in the market. She says, “We focus on simply creating My Envy Box as a trusted brand that represents quality. The idea is to work closely with brands and grow together, the bigger the industry gets the more we scale.”
The business was bootstrapped and has grown organically with positive unit economics, says Julie. They broke even a couple of quarters ago and are now investing in building new products and opening up new geographies. “One of the biggest achievements for us is that every product in our ecosystem comes directly from the brands, no middle-men, no chance of questionable products.” It raised $100,000 in a round of funding in 2014 and is now in the middle of raising $2 million to bankroll their international launch.
Julie says her customers are her biggest growth hack. “We have grown over 300 per cent this financial. Our customers are definitely our growth engine, word of mouth has been a major push for us along with some fun collaborations.”
On how she plans to evolve My Envy Box’s business model, Julie says, “The subscription business is extremely mature in the west, whereas it is in its infancy in India. Strictly speaking, it is not subscription in India as the RBI does not allow for automatic billing. We hope to see that change to take our products to the next level with extreme personalisation.”
The long haul
For Julie, being an entrepreneur means acknowledging the fact that you’ll have to make sacrifices at every corner. “You have to process so much information in the same day that you can get overwhelmed quite easily. But the adrenaline rush of seeing how an idea grows into a real company with a growing team that believes in you makes this adventure worth it!”
Julie’s advice to her fellow entrepreneurs is to embrace failure. She says,
I have learned not to be afraid of failing. I now believe that once this fear is gone, you are already halfway through. Starting up is like an experience accelerator, and that is exactly what you need as an entrepreneur.