Starting up in final month of pregnancy, Harvi Shah nurtured Bling Bag into a profitable business in a yearAthira Nair
Bling Bag helps fashion-savvy but busy working women build their accessories collection with high quality jewellery in a subscription box model.
At a glance
Founders: Harvi Shah
Sector: Fashion ecommerce
Problem it solves: Discovery of affordable trendy jewellery
The dedication at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince goes thus:
“To Mackenzie, my beautiful daughter, I dedicate her ink and paper twin.”
Author JK Rowling was dedicating the sixth book in the world-famous series to her youngest daughter, Mackenzie, whom she was pregnant with while writing it. The baby was born around the time the book was published.
That’s the thing about creativity – what you produce becomes your baby. For entrepreneurs too, it’s just the same.
Mumbai-based Harvi Shah, a computer engineer-turned-entrepreneur, agrees. Her startup, Bling Bag, was launched during her final month of pregnancy. The ecommerce platform follows a subscription model for jewellery.
“I believe I have twins - Bling Bag and my son - who require my equal attention for their right growth. With my strong passion, determination and extremely supportive husband and professional house help, I manage to do justice to both with no compromises,” she says.
But building a team without external funding was extremely difficult. “In the early days, I used to take breaks from feeding my newborn baby and utilise the time to pack the boxes for the customers,” Harvi recalls.
Harvi has 11 years of work experience, including five as a business consultant at CTS. While travelling on work to places like Singapore, London, and Dubai, she observed that women in those cities accessorised their outfits effortlessly. She felt that although the Indian fashion industry offers great variety in apparels, we are not accessorising these apparels to create unique styles.
“On speaking to a few people in the malls and with online surveys, I realised that people do not include accessories in their style as they don't know how to accessorise, what is trending and where to buy unique and high-quality jewellery from,” she says.
This is exactly why Bling Bag was born - to help the busy, fashion-conscious woman discover and get affordable premium quality jewellery that keeps up with the latest trends, without spending hours searching for it online or offline.
Bling Bag was bootstrapped with Rs 5 lakh of Harvi’s personal savings. Harvi launched it in February 2015, with a limited client base of friends and family. “We wanted to have a strong offering in place before we officially launched our subscriptions in December 2015,” she says.
Evolution of a new offering
Initially, Blingbag launched subscriptions at a lower price point, with jewellery that was not curated and could be found easily in local markets. This did not add much value apart from perhaps saving some time for the customer.
To create value for customers with quality products, Harvi changed the strategy and launched subscriptions with higher price point. These collections, she claims, were trendy and unique, and based on themes like festivals, seasons, celebrity style etc.
But in 2015, subscription ecommerce was a new concept. Only Fabbag, Sugarbox and a few others were doing it in the Indian market. Since explaining the concept to people was challenging, Bling Bag got a short explainer video on the website to educate people.
“Subscriptions being discovery and surprise-driven, our biggest challenge was to make our customers trust us and fall in love with our collection and the items we handpick for them,” says Harvi.
Coming up with a new theme every month according to the ongoing trends and seasons, and curating an entire subscription collection for that theme, was also hard. But Harvi says, “With the right set of manufacturers and vendors we have partnered with, we have enough variety of designs to offer every month. We are also working towards getting our own designs manufactured as per our planned themes.”
BlingBag has tie-ups with large domestic and global manufacturers who supply even 10,000 pieces of a single design. With the subscription model, Harvi says the economies of scale, as well as direct tie-ups with manufacturers, help in getting jewellery at good prices with good contribution margin.
“Our monthly subscription is worth over Rs 3,500, which we offer to our subscribers at Rs 1,500,” she adds. Apart from monthly subscriptions, they also have an online store called 'Bling Boutique' for accessories. The plan is to build on it and make it a one-stop accessories shop.
While their main revenue stream is monthly subscriptions, Bling Boutique revenues have grown well in the last two quarters. Harvi elaborates, “Subscribers regularly take up longer subscription plans. There is strong cross-sell, where most of them end up buying a lot of matching accessories from our Bling Boutique, making an average cart value of Rs 2,000.”
Caring for the customer
Bling Bag targets fashion-savvy women in the 22-40 age group, who are comfortable with online shopping. Currently, it has 20,000 registered customers, whom it has managed to reach out to via social media and fashion influencers. Its curation app captures the style profiles of customers and allows stylists to assign the products to be sent out to each subscriber.
“We have started getting orders from men, gifting Bling Bag subscriptions with messages to their wife, daughter, girlfriend, and sister on special occasions,” Harvi says. Today, Bling Bag has a repeat customer base of 45 percent.
Harvi adds that while their focus was on Indo-Western accessories, they went on to offer ethnic jewellery as well due to customer demand. Bling Bag allows customers to return the subscription if they are not happy, which most players don’t do.
Also, in response to subscribers’ demand to enable them to select the pieces they want in their bag, Bling Bag rolled out 'Build Your Bling Bag', which lets you choose products worth double the cost of the bag. It has also launched a ‘Mini Bling Bag’ offering with more affordable yet personalised products.
The curation of bag, packing and fulfilment happens at BlingBag’s own warehouse so that they have control on the quality of products. “We are expanding our team to cover more functions in-house for better coordination and control,” Harvi says. Currently, BlingBag is a team of nine.
Bling Bag recently started international shipping to 13 countries and plans to expand to over 50 more by the end of May 2018. In India, it currently serves over 75,000 pin codes through third-party logistics companies like Delhivery, FedEx, Aramex and Xpressbees.
Bling Bag closely tracks Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Customer Churn Rate. Building on tech, it wants to give a more personalised experience to users, by showing products she is likely to love on top of the page.
Bling Bag turned profitable in the first year itself. Its monthly revenue growth is 10 percent with no paid marketing. Their next move is to build inorganic growth by investing in marketing and to increase the subscriber base and team.
Huge market opportunity
According to ATKearney, the fashion and lifestyle industry will overtake consumer electronics industry to become the number one in ecommerce by 2020. Fashion accessories market is expected to reach $7.5 billion by 2020 with more than 50 percent share taken by jewellery.
The competition is not lean in the category. But while the brand's e-store 'Bling Boutique' competes with Label Life, ToniQ, Pipabella, Style Fiesta and the likes, Bling Bag Jewellery subscription is India's only personalised jewellery subscription bag.
“The value for money and personalization set us apart. Most of our growth so far has been organic with positive social media engagement and over 1,000 review videos and styling looks on YouTube made by our subscribers and influencers,” she adds.
While the curation of the products is done manually today, Bling Bag aims to build a more scalable solution using machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the curation of bags.
“We are also generating content around ‘How To’ style the jewellery pieces we send out in the subscription bags to help our subscribers with styling ideas and inspiration,” Harvi adds.
Now that unit economics is in place, BlingBag is looking to raise seed fund. “Our GMV for FY18 is likely to reach Rs75 lakh. We are targeting GMV of Rs 4 crore for FY19 after closing our seed funding,” Harvi concludes.