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For women, by women - how this startup is 'Pursu-ing' the accessories market

Libza Mannan
14th Aug 2018
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Started by two women and staffed entirely by women, Pursu offers stylish clutches and handbags that accentuate your style quotient, and are light on the pocket.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but handbags come a close second!

From expensive brands like Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Hermès, to premium Indian labels, including Da Milano and Hidesign, women tend to have a soft spot for luxury handbags. But the price factor often comes in the way.

Keen to end the “luxury versus affordability” debate, two sisters – and fashion enthusiasts - hopped on to the entrepreneurial bandwagon. The result? The birth of accessories brand Pursu in January 2018.

“India is one of the leading economies of the world and has attracted global players to come and start shop here. India also happens to be the manufacturer of most high street brands across the globe. But if you see the market, there is a huge disparity in terms of design, price, and quality. Most high-street brands are only accessible to people with deep pockets. This is unfair to the maximum chunk of the population - the middle class. There is a gap that needed to be addressed and that is where Pursu fits in,” says Sulagna Kapoor, Co-founder of Pursu.

Pursu, which offers bags in various styles like totes, satchels, and clutches among others, has reportedly served around 600 customers so far, and of these, almost 32 percent are referrals. The products are reportedly designed and made in Italy; they are also manufactured in China and India.

Preeti Sahai, an HR consultant, and a Pursu consumer, says, “I love their bags crafted in silk. They look so elegant and are a must-have for my wardrobe as they are a great accessory for every occasion and complement all outfits.”

Pursu’s go-to market strategy

The founders say they were clear about how they wanted to penetrate the market with Pursu since the beginning. The idea was to come up with products that were premium, designed as per global fashion trends, and yet be reasonable in pricing.

Pursu offers different styles of bags, crafted in leather, silk, brocade, and others.

Debsena Chakraborty, Sulagna’s sister and Co-founder of Pursu, says they did not want Pursu to be just another ecommerce site. The duo wanted customers to identify with Pursu, and so focused on brand building rather than direct sales, and worked on a go-to-market plan that resonated with their idea.

The brand claims to have focused on digital marketing activities from day one. It then slowly started building on BTL (below the line advertising activities; said to be more one to one) for promotions, banking on the quality of its products.

Besides translating the idea to the product range, one of major challenges Pursu had to tackle was figuring out quality vendors.

Finding the right vendor is the key to success or failure. We tried a dozen vendors before freezing on one. From sample development to a finished product is a long journey. We made mistakes and kept correcting them. What you see now is the final outcome of this tough journey,” Debsena says.

By women, for women

Sulagna and Debsena have over decade-long stints each in the corporate world. Debsena, 33, is an IT engineer with over 13 years of experience in digital and mobile marketing and the advertising industry, with expertise in mobile product implementation and monitoring. She has worked with clients across Europe, APAC, the Middle East, and Africa. Sulagna, 39, has worked in different roles and industries during the 15 years of her professional career. Some of the companies she was associated with include Dainik Jagran and Aakash Educational Services.

Their careers led them to travel the world extensively and the duo says this exposure helped them come up with Pursu.

We are an all-women team. For women, by women. When I took a sabbatical to have my daughter and then decided to get back to my career after two years I was shocked to see how the role and package get suddenly compromised. This was very disheartening. So when we decided to launch our business, we made a conscious call to hire only women,” Sulagna says.

Apart from the sisters, Pursu is backed by a 12-member team (all women) looking into design, logistics, production, and marketing. The core team comprises Veena Khanna, 54, who looks after logistics; Kalpita Bala, 29, who takes care of Pursu’s digital marketing strategies; and Shaila Abhay, 33, who heads production.

Debsena Chakraborty (left), and Sulagna Kapoor.

Bagging the market

According to a US-based management consulting firm AT Kearney’s report, the Indian fashion and lifestyle market is estimated to be Rs 2.2 lakh crore, and is poised to grow at nearly 12 percent CAGR by 2021.

Sensing the huge potential of the market, big fashion ecommerce players like Myntra, Jabong, LimeRoad as well as mid-size marketplaces including Voonik, Smytten, and others are locking horns to grab a bigger share of the pie.

Speaking about the competitive edge Pursu offers amid the sea of handbag brands on the market, the sisters want to ensure there is a stylish handbag available for every fashionista at a reasonable price point.

“Our revenue model is very straight and simple. We keep a margin on every product that we sell. The difference between the price at which it is manufactured and the price at which it is sold is the money we make,” Sulagna says.

In the future

Pursu products are available only online as of now, but the brand soon plans to expand its reach: it is looking at entering the offline market by tying up with retailers. The brand, which doesn’t allow cash on delivery, plans to soon woo more women and increase its customer base substantially.

The brand, which started with an initial investment of Rs 20 lakh, claims a profit of 35 percent.

“So far, we have sold roughly 800 bags at an average price of Rs 3,750. We think it is too early to share revenue details at this juncture,” Debsena says.

The self-funded startup plans to raise funding in the future. Moving ahead, Pursu is looking to add new categories - jewellery, wigs, and cocktail dresses. Style is never going to go out of fashion, and Pursu is eyeing a huge chunk of this market with its stylish accessories.

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