Founded in 2017, Mumbai-based TryNDBuy Fashions has created patented software that can be loaded into a fashion retailer’s app to create a digital trial room; the selfie-based module aims to make online shopping a breeze.
Nothing quite like trying on that little black dress before you hand over your card at the checkout counter, is there? What if you could do the trying in a virtual trial room? Nitin Vats wondered how more fashion-conscious offline shoppers could be brought online, and decided that virtual experiences could be key. In 2017, he founded TryNDBuy Fashions, which aims to bring online shopping as close to the offline experience as possible. The platform allows people to try apparel through virtual stylists and virtual trial rooms before buying.
How does it work? Nitin has created patented software that can be loaded into a retailer’s app to create a digital trial room. All an online shopper needs to do while browsing is take a selfie, and see how a particular piece of apparel looks on him or her. The platform aims to “become the world’s biggest human face/body data and intelligence data library, which can create ‘selfie models’ of every online user”.
With global retailers, including ecommerce companies, keen to increase customer stickiness and seeking digital strategies that add extra value to their marketing channels, Nitin believes his Mumbai-based startup and its “image-based trial room” can change things for retailers globally. “This wins the customer faster and the retailer can increase sales,” Nitin says.
Nitin has over 70 patents in his name, but the one that led him to turn entrepreneur was a real-time customisation of a 3D model representing a real product interactive display system. This involved a screen cut to the shape of the displayed object for “realistic visualisation and user interaction”. This made it a better option than augmented reality-based digital mirrors, which involve a hardware cost and do not fit the apparel to every inch of the digital image of the shopper’s body.
Over the last three months, Nitin has caught the eye of several investors from TiE-San Francisco and TiE Mumbai. The quirky and unassuming entrepreneur is more mathematics geek than a marketing guy. A mechanical engineering graduate from Meerut, BIET, he joined Microsoft as a research scientist in 2007.
“I worked with Microsoft Research as a computer scientist (positive hacker) before starting this company. I was a math geek in early years and a big fan of Ramanujan. I am a dreamer; I think the world is virtual now, so why don’t we make the virtual world realistic?” Nitin says.
At Microsoft, where he was also the head of the International Mathematical Olympiad, he cracked CTRU, a French cryptosystem (for which professors from France set up a company and filed patents). Cracking code and mathematical problems was a part-time hobby while at Microsoft.
Nitin understood the value of tech; he was clear that marketing, products, and discounts could not guarantee the survival of the company in the future. However, deep tech could.
“I am solving a complex set of problems for business. My first interest was to provide a real showroom experience to online shoppers. Fashion ecommerce can conceptually provide a better experience of shopping than real showrooms, but ecommerce companies seem to be delivery boys. The reason is their tech limitation,” Nitin says.
In 2012, he founded Brain Programmers on his own; this was a software programming company that would build products for real-world problems and use technology to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. The firm did well, with Nitin helming operations as the CEO. However, a fashion solution that became a big hit at a fashion conference in London in early 2017 led Nitin to spin off the technology to another business.
Soon after, he founded TryNDBuy Fashion, aiming to be the top fashion tech company and keen to bring offline fashion - 95 percent of the business now - completely online. Fashion is a $633 billion industry worldwide, according to KPMG.
So what does TryNDBuy Fashion, which began operations in February 2017, do?
“Everyone wants a very realistic body model of themselves on a fashion portal. Users should be able to mix and match clothes, and do fit, hairstyle, and accessory checks easily to see the complete look. A virtual assistant who guides them to choose clothes should be handy,” Nitin says.
The idea took a year to take shape and he invested $1 million of his own money in TryNDBuy Fashion.
“We made a ‘photo-realistic’ virtual trial room. It is a selfie-based module where the user can generate a model by uploading a photo of any person and by inputting basic data such as height and weight,” Nitin says. The software converts the catalogue images of the ecommerce portal into 3D clothes automatically; no photo shoot is required. This means a company need not invest in models to don the dress and can do with fewer photo shoots.
The software lets users mix and match clothes, check the fit (not only size suggestion, but also how bigger/smaller sizes will look), get recommendations from an AI-based virtual fashion designer, and generate a video of the users in the chosen apparel.
Soon, Nitin began to take his product to ecommerce retailers. He pitched it to many ecommerce giants, but Jabong gave his startup the first chance. The product went commercial this year.
Nitin’s TryNDBuy competes with fashion tech companies worldwide, including True Fit, Body Labs, Phisix, Fitiquette, Metail, and Microsoft Kinect, but Nitin says his product is the differentiator.
Amazon’s Body Labs requires a body scan – but 2 billion active internet users can’t go for a body scan. Creating 3D clothes is a manual job as the body lab needs to do a photo shoot and convert the apparel into a 3D product. Also, the result doesn’t look real.
“It can’t take the load of fashion portals where 100,000 new clothes are uploaded per month on an average,” Nitin says.
The other companies’ software offer size suggestions, generate 3D models manually, or create “flat” models – however, this does not give the “real feel” that TryNDBuy does, according to Nitin.
As of now, Jabong is TryNDBuy’s only reference client. The business model for the company is to make money on the number of images scanned; it can also license the technology. Nitin refused to disclose details as the startup is under an NDA for the next year.
“Every month, images of almost 6 million new clothes are uploaded on to the internet, around the world. The potential is huge. In the future, we will not only offer the fit and look, but an AI-driven complete, personalised wardrobe. We aim to make virtual trials an essential feature of every fashion portal,” Nitin says.
Nitin began his venture with $1million of his own money. He has marquee angel investors backing him with an undisclosed amount. TryNDBuy has got seed funding from industry experts like Madhur Deep (Strategy Head, Alibaba), Muralikrishnan B (COO, Xiaomi), Vinod Sood (MD, Hughes; mentor of Ritesh Agarwal of OYO), and Vishal Gupta (investment banker, London; Co-founder, Kabeela Life).
The fashion tech startup has raised $1 million from Venture Catalyst and undisclosed funding from Artesian Venture Partners & SOSV, US.
Atul Nishar, Chairman of TiE-Mumbai, feels that an AI-based fashion designer will help users and can aid humans to sell better. “India has great talent in AI applications; these entrepreneurs will go global.”