How James Bond gave these entrepreneurs the licence to startup
Actor Daniel Craig was the reason SeenIt was born - although he probably does not know it yet.
The year was 2014. Two Delhi-based friends – Saksham Karwal and Vedanta Kumar – were watching Quantum of Solace on TV. Vedanta loved the sunglasses Daniel Craig’s James Bond was wearing in the movie, and wondered where he could get his hands on a pair. The two friends searched on Google and a few fashion discovery platforms, but scanning through those to find a useful link was time consuming.
Vedanta remembered that his wife, Ankita, had about 3GB of pictures saved in her phone of all the fashion apparel and accessories she found online and wanted to buy, but did not know where to find. He knew Ankita was not the only one - social media has ensured that we see great outfits on a daily basis not just on celebrities, but our friends’ pictures too. Getting the exact one or even a similar piece is not easy though, despite the many innovations in the space.
Saksham and Vedanta, alumni of Wharton Business School, started pondering a platform that could do a visual search – with human and artificial intelligence. A few months later, SeenIt was born.
From Delhi to Kolkata
Saksham and Vedanta decided to move to Kolkata, where the latter and his wife Ankita are from, to startup together. Saksham believes that the City of Joy really helped them stand out. He adds: “Only hardship is finding the right talent. Most techies leave for Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Gurgaon. Highly funded startups offer huge salaries, so early-stage startups find it hard to hire.” So far, Kolkata has been kind – “People here are creative and intellectual. We have a loyal team; but as we grow, we might have to move,” says Saksham.
Vedanta has worked in Goldman Sachs and 99acres.com, while Saksham worked in Philadelphia as a consultant before moving to Delhi in 2012, where he took care of his father’s business for two years. The SeenIt team now has nine members, and a handful of interns. Ankita is a Wharton graduate, who has worked with Elitify in strategy development. She is now in charge of content at SeenIt, and manages the trends section. Their fourth co-founder, Upasana Todi, is an ISB graduate with work experience in Bookmyshow, Tata Capital, and EY. She handles growth and brand building. Saksham takes care of user growth and community building, while Vedanta handles product, technology, and finance.
SeenIt - behind the scenes
A user can start a ‘quest’ by uploading an image of what they want to buy, and within 30 minutes, Seenit will show you where to buy it from – it redirects you to multiple websites with exact designs or similar ones. SeenIt claims to be a 'Quora for lifestyle products', which helps users not only find products, but also learn public opinion through polls, and discover trends. In six months of going live, the community has organically grown to 30,000 registered users with monthly traffic of 230,000 visits, and a total of 3 million page views. There have been over 16,000 questions asked, 55,000 answers, and 120,000 votes cast. Their app was launched in June.
The tech behind the quest
Fashion and lifestyle questions are extremely nuanced. Hence, artificial intelligence for visual recognition demands high-quality data. All of the data SeenIt generates is certified by in-house experts too.
Fashion discovery platforms thrive on communities. Using micro data points, SeenIt’s algorithms detect experts, retailers, and designers based on specific topics in the community. This is used to instantly route questions to the right experts so that relevant answers come in quicker. If you want a particular dress that Sonam Kapoor or one of the cast of Pretty Little Liars is wearing, just post that photo and SeenIt will tell you where to shop that look. But SeenIt is strictly online-only, as it would be a logistical nightmare to partner with an offline boutique, says Saksham.
Currently, the average time to get an answer is 30 minutes, while about 5 percent go unanswered. “When we began, it took about 24 hours to give answers. But then, strangers replied to questions about which brand, where to get it from, etc. Women have the superpower to know it,” says Saksham. He added that it is mostly girls in the 16-21 age group and retailers who comprise the answering population. Most of their traction comes from Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and the north east.
SeenIt raised an undisclosed amount in a seed round from a group of investors, including Housing investor Vineet Singh, founder of Calcutta Angels Pradyumna Dalmina, Head of CIIE at IIM Ahmedabad Tanvi Rangwalla among others. They are now looking to raise Series A.
Although SeenIt has not entered into partnership with any of the 2,900 websites they redirect their users to, Saksham is clear about revenue models that will work for them. Besides commission, they can also make money via image-based ads, which will be customised and made relevant to the user.
All in their late twenties, the four co-founders have plans to expand into home décor and kidswear . The competition is huge – fashion discovery platforms like Wooplr and Roposo have been doing quite well for themselves, with novel app designs and massive funding. But online commerce ensures that there is space for everyone. About 70 percent of the $38 billion Indian e-commerce industry focuses on fashion and electronics. Discovery platforms are the best friends of fashion commerce portals like Jabong, Myntra, Limeroad, and Voonik, along with horizontal players like Amazon and Flipkart. As e-commerce penetrates into the nooks and corners of the country, more players are sure to come in. The key to success for SeenIt will be an efficient business model. And it looks like they have kick-started well. The quest is still on for those James Bond sunglasses.