6Degree is a startup in fashion, literally. It is the coming together of talent and technology, the convergence of designers, brands and fashion weeks, of passion and theory, for the consumption of fashionistas. Launched at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2014, 6Degree is the brainchild of Nikhil Hegde and Amit Bhardwaj.
The founders faced all possible challenges which entrepreneurs go through – ranging from resources to funding, to difficulties in partnering with international fashion weeks. The positive they had was early-mover advantage.
They call it “a fashion talent and tech company that provides opportunities for fashion professionals to showcase their talent across the globe.” Fashion professionals as well as students can create profiles, upload their latest projects, and promote their work on the platform and get noticed.
“We have more than 11 fashion weeks as our B2B clients and more than 2,000 fashion professionals as B2C clients. The entire fashion ecosystem is our customer,” says Amit, 34, COO of 6Degree.
An industry with issues
6Degree founders value the fashion business market, growing exponentially, at more than $1 trillion globally. Their research identified more than 45 different categories of professionals/business types in the industry. “We are currently focusing on three to four key segments only, such as designers, fashion weeks, stylists and fashion influencers,” says Amit.
They work on a revenue-sharing model with partners and customers. In the last financial year, the Mumbai-based company reportedly had an operating margin of 20‑30 percent and expects to increase it by five percent this financial year.
“6Degree’s revenues surpassed the Rs 1-crore mark in just seven months of its launch. By the end of the last financial year, we had a topline of Rs 1 crore and expects to grow to four times this financial year. Partnerships with elite fashion weeks in India have secured us domestic market leadership. While consolidating our position in India, we are now beginning operations in international markets,” reveals Nikhil, 33, CEO of 6Degree.
The duo, when conceptualising their company, had studied the problems with the fashion industry. That was when they were enrolled at Leeds University and working on a professional networking concept for a startup pitch. Brainstorming across various sectors, they stumbled across some glaring gaps in the fashion industry.
Amit's wife, for instance, had a talent for fashion, but lacked industry connects and brand management. The duo soon conducted a three-month survey across India, interviewing professionals from the fashion fraternity.
“During our research, we met a few fashion professionals and found the industry highly fragmented and unorganised, and realised that our concept can be used to address these issues. After further research on the industry, we launched 6Degree,” says Nikhil. They initially invested Rs 20 lakh in concept launch at the Lakme Fashion Week, in market research, and to set up the initial team.
6Degree, he explains, is also a theory ‑ that “everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps”.
Money pours in, so do challenges
6Degree raised funding of about $200,000 from Indian Angel Network this month. Abhishek Agarwal, the lead investor from IAN, will soon join the company board.
“We are planning to allocate the funds in enhancing technology and expanding our reach exponentially. The funds will also be deployed in expanding our bespoke fashion services and launching first-of-its kind enterprise solutions for fashion weeks,” says Nikhil, who has a consulting background and worked for KPMG and telecom majors in India.
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The challenges come in the form of competitors, namely Fashion GPS and Anil Ambani's Reliance Entertainment-backed Talenthouse.
Headquarterd in New York, Fashion GPS is an online software company that specialises in events, samples, and other PR management solutions for the fashion industry. In October 2013, it raised $4 million in Series A financing from Ironfire Capital, among other investors.
This was the second round of funding for Fashion GPS. The company had raised more than $1 million in seed funding in 2011 from investors including actor Ashton Kutcher, Mediabistro founder Laurel Touby and High Line Ventures partner Shana Fisher.
Mumbai-based Talenthouse is another competitor in this segment. It is a platform for creative collaborations, and is a joint venture between Talenthouse US and Reliance Big Entertainment.
Talenthouse provides emerging talents, artists, and creative individuals with opportunities to work with leading artists and brands. Talenthouse enables engaging content generation on the digital space for brands to connect with their target audience.
At the same time, it also enables brands and celebrity artists to connect to and mentor budding artists as a way to engage with their consumers directly.
Talenthouse India has been associated with artists like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Vipul Shah, Anita Dongre, Shaan, and global artists like Metallica, U2, Paul McCartney, Avicii, David Guetta, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Pink, Rod Stewart and Kylie Minogue, among others.
To scale up further in times of competition, 6Degree is launching a B2B application for fashion weeks and organisers.
“We are betting high on it as conducting a fashion week takes a minimum of three months and a lot of coordination between multiple teams,” Nikhil adds.
The startup also faced challenges in partnering with international fashion weeks as India is known majorly for providing software as a service and not fashion services globally.
“To address this, we are sharing our proof-of-concept and proven services with international organisations operating in India,” says Nikhil, whose passion for innovative solutions has fetched him great laurels. At his company, he leads strategy and sales across global fashion markets.