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When Smriti Dubey was doing her post-graduation at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Mumbai, she noticed that designers spent a lot of money, mostly personal savings, in designing and photographing garment collections. But often these collections never reached customers. She says, “The time and effort that went into creating these products was insane. Many of them didn't even know if the customers wanted the product in the first place. I saw plenty of grey areas where optimised processes and systems could do wonders– in terms of value, money, and time – for the designers.”
Her avid interest in two areas – consumer-facing businesses and use of technology – led to internships with designers, luxury boutiques, consumer tech brands and full time jobs exploring range planning, retail marketing and product lifecycle management.
These experiences, coupled with her observations, helped Smriti spot the enormous amount of demand (online and offline) for unique and personalised apparel, especially in western wear. Talking about the apparel and fashionwear landscape in India, she says, “The western casual wear segment is one of the most consumed segments in India. Yet, for a long time it meant that the latest styles were adopted a season late. There was hardly any scope for the average customer to experiment with new styles. Either they had to depend on expensive fast fashion retailers and brands, or had to settle for mass-produced, low quality discounted goods, which people get tired of easily.”
“There were a few Indian brands, mostly private labels of apparel manufacturers, but they did not have any design or product innovation at their core. People were led to believe that a product with design appeal or innovation costed more. Also, people wanted to be able to choose their fabrics, fit and design. But, there weren’t many who were closing this gap,” says the 25-year-old Smriti.
The journey to find answers begins
Seeing the consumer demand for personalised fashionwear and the need for a platform where designers could bring their concepts into fruition, an idea began to take shape. “Industry observations and our own experiences often led to interesting discussions with my friends. We wondered even if there was a demand and we did create this platform, would people actually buy them? Would these products compete well with the branded merchandise already available? Was the idea feasible? To find out the answers ourselves, we ventured out on our own.”
Co-founded by Smriti, Shikhar Vaidya and Pratyush Singh, Redesyn started its journey as SINSFOREVER in mid-2014. The startup rebranded as Redesyn to enable better brand recall and alignment with its ethos.
Smriti explains that when they started out, Redesyn was a nascent print-on-demand brand, making digitally printed products designed by creative Indian artists. She says, “We decided to learn on the job and improve the product as we went. Today, Redesyn is an apparel e-commerce startup which curates graphic art and design on clothing and lifestyle products for men and women. We do this by aggregating graphic designers, artists, cartoonists, illustrators, photographers and launch their collections. We have over 3,000 fresh designs every month. The entire brand is built around the spirit of bohemianism, free living and art,” says Smriti.
A large chunk of their product portfolio is western wear since that is the area where which is most in demand.
The startup also delivers a personalised social shopping experience by providing relevant content curated from travel bloggers, food bloggers, adventure enthusiasts, musicians, fashion influencers etc on a single page. As a platform, Redesyn lets customers and designers create, shop for and sell their own fashion without worrying about manufacturing, payments, or logistics.
Challenges – from winning stakeholder confidence to improvising the tech
Initially, the three young entrepreneurs found it challenging to find early adopters for a half-finished tech product, both on the demand and supply side. “Designers are an underappreciated lot. So winning their confidence and building a strong community was the other big challenge. In fact, gaining the trust and confidence of both the customer and vendor was a journey in itself,” says Smriti.
With time, the startup successfully earned their stakeholders’ trust, which saw their community grow by the day. “Our early adopters are our heroes. They helped us get the word out,” say the co-founders.
But now they are up against different challenges – improvising their technology for the designers and inculcating better and newer features on the platform, among others. Smriti says, “We've realised it is one thing to create a platform and another to sustain and improve it without messing with the experience as a whole.”
Delving further on the importance of delivering a seamless stakeholder experience, she says one area where they faced obstacles was online transactions. She explains, “Sometime, in November, we observed that at least 50 transactions in the pipeline which hadn't gone through. While we request our customers to pay online, we cannot ask them to repeat the entire purchase process after it has failed on the payment gateway.”
It was then that they decided to enable Citrus Sellfie.
“This has allowed us to accept payments for offline enquiries, custom requests and regular orders without having to make the customer go through an ordeal. Post-demonetisation, customers weren’t comfortable with the cash-on-delivery orders. So, we would send them the Sellfie links, which would enable the customers to make the payment online. This is where the Sellfie platform further helped us ease the cash crunch and keep the business going.”
The startup has seen good organic growth since its launch – both in terms of the number of creators who are using the platform as well as revenue. Smriti says, “The biggest enablers have been the designers who have helped us and themselves grow organically and in turn gained huge amounts of trust and followers. Community-driven trust drives growth in a way that no marketing campaign can.” The other significant growth driver for Redesyn has been its content marketing strategy that focusses on getting to the right touch points in a consumer's journey. In addition, external expertise and collaboration that has come from mentors has given them immense confidence to make bold decisions about market strategies.
And knowing that celebrities are a great a way to market your products, especially fashion wear, they made a wish-list of celebrities and kept track of upcoming movie promotions, events, etc. The team managed to connect with a few celebrity stylists, who decided to give Redesyn a shot considering their designs were eclectic, and distinct. The celebrities and their stylists loved the product. Smriti says, “So, we continued creating the best possible stylised apparel for the celebrities and influencers we love. That continues even today.”
Ayushmann Khurrana, Irrfan Khan, Sidharth Malhotra, Ranveer Singh, and a couple of other Bollywood celebrities have been spotted wearing the Redesyn label.
Redesyning the future
The eight-member team distributed across tech, marketing and operations, works long hours. The studio is open 24 x 7. “You will see the team working round the clock. There is no ‘in’ or ‘out’ time.”
Apart from managing data collaboration of orders, pushing content across social media, collating designers and brainstorming on how to enhance the consumer experience, the team’s immediate focus is to create an automated system of material flow. This will enable the team to bring in efficiency, cost control, and guarantee quality.
After being bootstrapped for nearly a year, in 2015 the startup received bridge funding and advisory support from ThinQbate. Varun Vummidi, Business Head, Citrus and former Jabong man, recently came on board as their mentor. “We've also been lucky to have been a part of the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for young entrepreneurs under the Make in India initiative. We're now looking to raise funds to expand our product portfolio and grow at a much faster pace.”
At the moment, the startup has 16 categories with 30 designs each on display. Every week, over 500 new styles come in, overriding 20 per cent of the styles from their previous collections. Smriti says, “We want people to know that run-of-the-mill clothing has had its day. Over time, every individual can develop their own sense of identity and style and we want Redesyn to be the go-to medium for it. We want them to express their identity, their style statement, powerfully, guilt-free and now.”