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This Gorakhpur-based online seller is taking affordable ethnic wear to women across India

Libza Mannan
13th Feb 2018
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Wardha sells apparel and accessories on e-commerce sites, notching up monthly sales of 9,000 pieces. Founder Arunn Guptaa, who opened Eastern UP’s first co-working space, is betting on product diversification to grow business.

At a glance

Startup: Wardha

Founder: Arunn Guptaa

Year it was founded: 2013

Where is it based: Gorakhpur, UP

The problem it solves: Sells affordable women ethnic wear online by sourcing products directly from manufacturers and eliminating middle men

Sector: E-commerce

Funding raised: Bootstrapped

In 2008-2009, when e-commerce started the Indian market, it became the go-to business model for numerous e-tailers who did not have deep pockets to set up an offline store and wanted to sell their products at minimal costs.

The sector also created newer avenues for many businesses and entrepreneurs based in Tier II and III cities. Leveraging the power of the internet, vendors in smaller towns started reaching millions of customers across the country.

One such entrepreneur who’s been harnessing the power of the internet to script an e-tail success story is Gorakhpur-based Arunn Guptaa, who is offering dress material and sarees online at a price range as low as Rs 349.

Arunn started e-tail journey by selling dress material and sarees, which he sourced from Surat. After witnessing traction from online shoppers, Wardha diversified into jewellery, footwear, and accessories. Arunn, who is the one-man army behind his online business reveals that he gets the fashion jewellery and accessories from Mumbai while the footwear comes from Agra.

Arunn Guptaa

The brand, which started off with one order a day in the first month, now gets nearly 300 orders per day. Arunn highlights that some of their bestselling designs have also fetched him 1,000-15,00 orders per day during festive season.

Wardha: a one-man show

In 2013, Arunn started his e-commerce business by selling dress material and sarees on portals like Amazon and Flipkart under the brand name of Wardha.

When he started out, it was difficult to source a large number of pieces and numerous designs, as he did not have large capital to invest in the business.

“One manufacturer was selling women’s ethnic wear online in a set of 12 to 16 designs by the brand name Catalogue. Since customers mostly buy single pieces and not bulk orders, it was not yielding much profit,” Arunn says.

Arunn observed this often limited many manufacturers from taking the online route. Banking on this opportunity, he started approaching manufacturers in Surat to give him a particular design rather than many from the catalogue.

After collecting hundreds of designs from the manufacturer, Arunn started uploading them on e-commerce portals. The label received only one order in the first month. However, with 10 orders in the third month, business started picking up and soon reached 100 orders a month towards the year-end. By the end of the first year, Arunn had enough funds to create his own designs and get them manufactured in Surat at a low cost.

Donning many hats

After graduating in commerce from Gorakhpur University, Arunn, 30, studied animation, visual effects, and graphic design. He then worked with an animation college and production house and. Two years later, Arunn decided to open his own animation academy - AniClick Animation - in 2010. However, by the end of 2012, the institute was unable to generate enough funds to keep operating.

An ecommerce enthusiast, Arunn was once collecting his e-Bay order from a courier company office in Gorakhpur. Seeing the large volume of online delivery orders, he realised the potential of the e-commerce sector. He soon started researching the market potential and how to start up as an e-commerce vendor.

Arunn forayed into e-commerce business by selling air conditioners. However, he wanted to explore a product category that could cater to a larger section of Indian consumers. To get a better understanding of consumer demand, he visited multiple courier hubs and spoke to key people managing courier businesses in Gorakhpur. After significant research, he found that women’s ethnic wear products, such as like dress materials, sarees, and salwar suits, were the among the fastest-selling items in India.

An entrepreneur by heart, Arunn decided to help other aspiring businessmen in his region. In October 2017, he opened Gorakhpur’s first co-working space, Startup Café, to boost the startup ecosystem in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and help entrepreneurs get the right infrastructure and resources. The cafe provides a day plan of Rs 999 and a monthly plan of Rs 4,999 per seat, and has nearly 50 subscribers on a daily basis.

The ecommerce space

According to PwC, the ecommerce sector in India has grown by 34 percent (CAGR) since 2009 to touch $16.4 billion in 2014.

RedSeer Consulting says e-tailers saw a 33 percent rise in monthly active shoppers in 2017 from 15 million in 2016 to 20 million last year. Flipkart and Amazon are the dominant players in this space with a seller base of close to 100K and 285K sellers respectively. The RedSeer data further reveals that residents from non-metro towns will account for 55 percent of all active online shoppers in 2020 and predicts that overall there will be 185 million active shoppers in 2020.

However, like any other market, the ecommerce boom, which was at its peak a couple of years ago, seems to be slowing down. The change is most apparent in metro cities. In the initial years of online retail, metro markets drove growth, leading to a whopping 180 percent growth in 2015. The growth in metros has slowed with only 11 percent growth in unique shoppers; a similar trend is expected to follow in smaller towns as well.

However, Arunn hopes that Wardha’s product diversification and other expansion plans will help the online label to maintain its niche.

Future plans

The company, currently bootstrapped, is run by a small five-member team including the founder, and people to handle accounts, packing, dispatch, and uploading. The brand, which initially started with the ethnic wear category, has recently forayed into western wear, footwear and accessories.

Arunn highlights that the company makes a profit of nearly 10 percent after paying taxes, commissions, and other costs.

Since inception, the online seller claims to have catered to more than 2 lakh customers and sold more than 6 lakh pieces.

Going forward, the brand is eyeing to get into manufacturing of its own products and is also planning to leverage StartUp Café’s platform to collaborate with co-workers to start its own e-commerce website.

“Once we reach good sales figures in any one of the categories, we will start manufacturing. It will help in minimising the selling price of the product and getting high sales volume and profit,” Arunn ends.

 

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