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Why Alia Bhatt chose to turn investor for online fashion styling platform StyleCracker

Sindhu Kashyap
16th Feb 2018
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Using data and technology, Mumbai-based StyleCracker ships out curated and personalised boxes with apparel, accessories, beauty, and footwear to ensure customers are always on point when it comes to style. 

Startup: StyleCracker

Founder: Dhimaan Shah and Archana Walavalkar

Year it was founded: 2015

Sector: Fashion

Funding raised: Pre-Series A

Based out of: Mumbai

Who wouldn’t like a personal stylist? Each one of us has different fashion and styling needs, but most of us don’t get the much-vaunted red carpet, chic business, or hot date look right. That’s where StyleCracker comes in. Known to curate and create boxes of apparel, accessories, beauty, and other items, StyleCracker is an individual’s personal style concierge.

It was this personalisation that got actor Alia Bhatt to buy a stake in the platform. Apart from the interest factor, Alia has known Co-founder Archana Walavalkar since the beginning of her career. Archana, a well-known celebrity stylist, has also been the former editor of Vogue magazine.

A small investment away from acting 

While Alia intends to focus on acting, and may possibly invest in startups she feels strongly about, StyleCracker was different. Alia says,

“StyleCracker is a fabulous platform; I personally love it. Having an expert select an entire look for you, be it a wedding or a meeting, based on your preference, and sent right to your doorstep is truly revolutionary. In today’s day, women in our country juggle so many roles; this leaves us with no time for ourselves. StyleCracker enables us to be the best version of ourselves. This is very empowering and I genuinely believe that every person deserves to look and feel good. So being a part of the company was an easy decision.”

While Alia invested in StyleCracker a few months back, the company’s journey began when Dhimaan Shah came back to India after a lucrative career. While working at a job at a vocational training company Dhimaan realised that most people aspired to look different and have a different style. And – most important - were willing to invest in themselves.

Alia Bhatt with Dhimaan and Archana

Why personalised styling 

Fashion is the first thing people invest in to look good, feel good, and be the best version of themselves. Dhimaan looked at the ecosystem in the country and realised that being a product-focused retailer wasn’t going to help. There were more than enough players in the fashion and styling segment.

The issue, he saw, wasn't just about supply, it was the curation of the supply. That was when he, and his friend, Archana started StyleCracker.

“We are intensely focused on being the stylist to every Indian, and are building one of the most robust personalised styling experiences for our customers,” Dhimaan says.

Based on customer needs and data points, StyleCracker curates a box of apparel, accessories, beauty, and other related items for each customer within a certain budget. Customers can keep what they like, and return anything that they do not.

In addition to the boxes, StyleCracker also develops its own fashion IPs, which includes the country’s largest fashion festival – The StyleCracker Borough.

Workings of the platform 

“There are millions of choices available to consumers today but each person has less time to actually choose what works for them. At StyleCracker, we work very closely with our customers to select apparel, accessories, beauty, and other categories that would work for them, within their budget and ship it to them in a box. They can keep what they like and return what they don’t. It is the deepest form of personal styling at tremendous scale,” Dhimaan says.

The process is simple: the user registers on StyleCracker and shares certain basic information like their body shape, personal style, size, budget, fashion preferences, and other requirements.

StyleCracker’s team of experienced celebrity stylists take over and curate a personalised box of apparel, accessories, bags, shoes, and beauty products, based on the available data points. The entire process is driven hugely by technology, enabling stylists to curate several hundred boxes every day.

Addressing a gap in the market 

It was this unique touch that intrigued Alia. She says,

“What I liked about StyleCracker is that it’s bridging the gap between the individual and the expert. You may have an inherent sense of style but may need some help to put it together. You may not have the time to work on a look for a business meeting or a dinner that is very important to you. StyleCracker is personal; not generic. From its personalised boxes to your own personal stylist, it’s a journey that’ll keep evolving but it’ll be yours and that’s what matters.”

Getting the stylists and consumers on the platform wasn't a challenge, as the core team comprised people in fashion, technology, and marketing. Apart from Archana and Dhimaan, the team includes Tia Paranjape, who has been in the fashion industry for 12 years and has worked with several well-known editorials and brands. Arjun Malhotra, who heads business development, comes with seven years of sales experience across industries. The average age of the team is 27 years.

“Since our business is very unique, we were careful to build a team with experience; yet we had to ensure that they had a flexible and open approach to the product,” Dhimaan says.

Numbers and the market 

The team claims to have a compounded annual growth rate of 100 percent since it was started four years back. It says that the boxes business has been growing at 40 percent month-on-month over the last six months. Dhimaan says StyleCracker is poised for even more exponential growth over the next 18-24 months with a number of new initiatives being rolled out.

The market for personalised fashion is fast growing. There are several subscription-based services like YourBox, Snobbox, Fab Bag, Pincbox, Lady Raga, and Sugar Box to name a few. The average cost of these boxes ranges between Rs 300 and Rs 4,000. StyleCracker boxes go up to Rs 7,000.

“We are already profitable at the operational level and will be EBITDA positive by March 2018,” Dhimaan says. The team recently raised a $1 million pre-Series A round and will soon be in the market to raise a more significant Series A round.

A difference like none other

Alia believes that StyleCracker has created a new category, so it really can’t be compared with the others.

“I know how much of a difference it makes to have professional help to put your look together. Now, thanks to StyleCracker, my stylist can be yours. In addition, the basic concept and the team’s execution capabilities set this company apart,” Alia says.

She explains that StyleCracker, using data and technology, deeply understands the need of every individual that visits their platform, and curate a customised box.

“One size doesn’t fit all and one style doesn’t work for everyone - StyleCracker understands that basic fundamental so well and is able to cater to that consumer need deeply and at tremendous scale,” Alia says.

Dhimaan believes there is a lot to do for the team as they’re aiming to revolutionise the way fashion is consumed in India.

“We will continue to grow the business exponentially and in an incredibly sustainable manner. We believe in being true to our core values as we grow and are well on our way to becoming the most trusted fashion advisor to millions of Indians,” Dhimaan concludes.

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