Two engineers from Chandigarh came together last year to start up in Gurgaon. For Apaksh Gupta and Vanya Mishra, both 24, it was the perfect place to start a fashion and lifestyle store discovery platform, given the fact that Delhi is the hub of private labels. So, in October 2015, they launched SummerLabel, which helps its users discover more than a million private labels in India.
Before turning entrepreneurs, Apaksh was running a restaurant, while Vanya won the Miss India pageant in 2012. Friends from college, they decided to start up together when they realised that there was a massive market need to be solved – a single platform to discover private labels. Explains Apaksh,
“It’s hard to find home-grown stores and know whether they are good, whether they fit in your price range, or whether they sell online or offline. We provide extensive profiles, with ratings, reviews, catalogue, etc.”
On the app, users can find stores by name or by speciality, see which store sells the products they’re looking for, and what other users have to say about their experience with the particular store.
As Miss India World, Vanya was exposed to products from private stores that were nowhere to be found by an average buyer. She had worked with The Times Of India, Reliance, Future Group, and fashion houses like Tarun Tahiliani as Miss India. This helped them with SummerLabel, as she had the wherewithal to curate stores and leverage information and her brand and network helps SummerLabel quickly get connected with a lot of fashion influencers.
“We started by building a simple alpha product that has products from private label stores and took it to a lot of users and store owners. We got amazing feedback,” says Apaksh.
For market data, SummerLabel uses Shopify, point-of-sale (PoS) systems providers, fashion magazines and studies by research groups like PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Most stores have customer data on their PoS and there are hundreds of such solutions in the market. The stores don’t want to lose their data and we will have to find a way around that,” says Apaksh.
SummerLabel’s users are those who care about being fashionable – mostly within the age group of 22-45 and who want to discover unique fashion or lifestyle brands.
Apaksh says: “Those who want to discover great fashion and lifestyle stores will always be important to us. To reach out to them, we go where they are. Most lifestyle-conscious people go out to eat, so we partner with restaurants; they travel a lot, so we partner with respective travel companies.” For fashion inspiration, SummerLabel has hand-picked influencers on the platform too.
“One customer told us how she saved travel time because she had no clue that one of the stores she frequently visited had opened another store very close by to her house. She found that on our app,” says Apaksh.
Apaksh and Vanya eventually want to build their own PoS, and loyalty programme and connect everything with discovery. “When we know what a customer actually buys through the bills, we can recommend what he is most likely to buy on the discovery app. It’s better sales and better customers,” says Vanya.
Although platforms like Roposo (which has raised more than $20 million) and Seenit are in fashion discovery, Wooplr which had started with the same model recently pivoted to become a marketplace. It is not online channels that SummerLabel competes with – but the likes of fashion magazines like GQ and Vogue. “People turn to these magazines for fashion lifestyle content or discover new designers or stores in India. We are solving it in a much more technology driven way,” says Apaksh.
Summer Label’s USP is the focus on private labels and not established brands like, say, a Zara or a Nike. “So what you find on us is hard to be found anywhere else. We talk about both online and offline stores. A lot of labels in India don’t have any offline presence but sell pan India through their websites,” Apaksh adds.
SummerLabel struggled to find the right technology talent in the early days.
Apaksh recollects, “We tried working with two people as co-founders who would build the technology, but priorities weren’t aligned. We lost a couple of months and some money there.” Eventually, Apaksh learnt to code, and now handles the tech aspects of the firm.
Although their app is yet to be pushed rigorously, SummerLabel already has around 12,000 registered users through its website. The platform has tied up with around 100 stores too.
So far, the founders alone were promoting the product in their close circles and through partnerships with fashion influencers. Apaksh has been a fan of growth hacking since Airbnb hacked its way to great growth with their bot.
SummerLabel is planning integrations that will help them get exposed to large communities. They have already integrated Pinterest with their app and use social media and content for user acquisition.
The duo intend to offer freemium services to the stores on their platform, with backend technology for loyalty programmes and PoS solutions. “We will also build tools that will update catalogues on multiple platforms and build better presence socially,” adds Apaksh.
Profitability, which eludes most B2C platforms, is not a cause of worry for SummerLabel. Apaksh says: “We are a revenue-focused company and shall become operationally profitable in 2-3 years.” Although it has only been a short time since they launched, their monthly user growth is around 220 percent.
Every entrepreneur struggles to raise funding. But Vanya often gets asked why she did not pursue acting and chose this.
“People assume the moment I get a big acting opportunity, I might leave. So I have to explain that good opportunities were always there, but I left it out of choice. I am an engineer too. I am an entrepreneur because I want to be,” she says. Bootstrapped till now, SummerLabel is about to close a seed round of funding. Currently, they are a four-member team and are hiring.
Why the name SummerLabel? Apaksh says, “'Summer' as a word represents energy, youth and light. We wanted to give that positivity to our users and partners. Label is what we want to focus on, not brands.”
Watch this space. SummerLabel could be the Zomato for Indian labels.