Mumbai startup StyleNook blends data science and styling to help women suit up for workSohini Mitter
Modelled after an American personal styling service, StyleNook matches the professional urban woman with clothes curated for her body type and job profile.
At a glance
Founders: Kuntal Malia, Arti Gupta
Founded in: 2016
Where it is based: Mumbai
The problem it solves: Online personal styling service for urban, working women
Sector: Fashion tech
Funding raised: Rs 1 crore (angel round)
Have you spent hours rummaging through your wardrobe teeming with clothes, and still not found that suitable formal shirt for a meeting? Are there too many white shirts in your closet that have started to look the same? Has your dress code at work turned monotonous? Does sorting out workwear feel like a task now?
If answers to all of the above are yes, and if you are a woman in urban India, then StyleNook is possibly for you. Or the likes of you.
This online personal styling service is modelled on Stitch Fix, the breakout US startup that earlier this week beat Wall Street estimates to post quarterly revenues of $317 million, and claimed that it had 2.7 million active clients. While personal styling is a big market in the West, and Stitch Fix is a broader offering compared to StyleNook, the latter’s core concept is similar.
As a user, you log into the site, fill out a ‘style profile’ form (that asks for your clothing preferences, body type and size, and budget preferences), get five handpicked pieces of clothing delivered in a box at your doorstep, keep what you like, return the rest. Shipping is free, and you could either subscribe to the service or make a one-off purchase.
While Stitch Fix caters to a wider section of buyers, including kids, StyleNook services a niche - working women aged 25-40 in urban India - which it claims is the fastest-growing segment of fashion ecommerce.
It’s been more than a year since StyleNook launched in Mumbai and Pune. The platform has grown to about 10,000 profiles, and is fulfilling 2,000 style requests at any given time. It works with 30-50 vendors, including fashion portals like Myntra, brands like FabIndia, The Label Life, and host of other small-and-boutique vendors.
The startup is the handiwork of Kuntal Malia and Arti Gupta, two women with a collective experience of nearly 25 years in the field of ecommerce, user behaviour, data analytics and strategy across India and the US. While Kuntal served as the analytics head of American fashion portal ModCloth, Arti was a part of the founding team at Hopscotch, a homegrown kidswear platform.
Both joined hands in 2015 to set up StyleNook for a “well-defined niche audience” that was waiting to be tapped into in a manner that existing fashion portals and brands had not done thus far.
The founders tell YourStory,
“When we started StyleNook, we kept thinking about how people are going to be shopping in 10 years’ time. And we didn’t feel the solution to that was launching yet another fashion brand or a store or platform where someone would have to browse through thousands of products to find the right piece.”
While fashion ecommerce platforms provide abundant choice, it also means that users have to sift through more, put in a lot of effort, spend hours together and, at times, obligatorily make do with what’s readily on offer; what Arti describes as, “The size might fit you but it may not flatter you.”
Blending data and style
StyleNook stepped in and wanted to bring about more personalisation and greater convenience to the whole act of shopping for clothes; in this case, workwear that matches a woman’s job profile and industry. The startup blended data science and styling art to offer personalised recommendations to those leaving profiles on their site.
The founders explain,
“We thought the answer lay at the intersection of strong curation and big data. Developing a deep understanding of users at one end and products on the other, and using this information to generate great recommendations is what we believe will be the future of retail. StyleNook is just that - a really good matchmaker between demand and supply.”
Besides developing a “robust mechanism” of fashion brands and suppliers, StyleNook also roped in styling advisors, some of whom were passouts from the National Institute of Design (NID). “We wanted to make sure that we were going in the right direction,” says Arti.
While the backend runs on complex machine learning algorithms that generates data sets for StyleNook to throw up more relevant, personalised recommendations for shoppers, the front end has “human stylists who are on top of really good trends and aesthetics.”
With this unique mix of data and style, technology and human interface, StyleNook creates boxes for each customer. An average box (containing five pieces of apparel) is priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 based on the shopper’s budget preference, and is delivered on a fixed date.
Kuntal says, “Even though the brands and products are not revealed, we typically see shoppers keeping about three items from the box, and returning the rest.” Most buyers are women in corporates, startups, freelancing jobs, and so on. “About 30 percent of them are repeat visitors,” says Arti.
In the domestic market, StyleNook competes with the likes of StyleCracker, one of the earliest entrants in the online personal styling space, SnopBox (another women-centric styling service), Tee20 (personal styling for men), SugarBox, and a few others. But, StyleNook’s focus on women’s workwear makes it niche and more targeted.
StyleNook counts Lathika Pai, tech entrepreneur and Founder, SounderConnect (that backs women-led ventures), and Shuchi Kothari, who founded fashion tech startup Porte Mode in the US, among its investors. It has raised about Rs 1 crore so far, and is closing in on a round of Rs 3 crore shortly.
Arti says StyleNook has received “a lot of support” from the startup community, and it is “in a powerful position”. “Because we are the target audience, we know how to adapt.”