[Startup Bharat] How this Chandigarh-based firm knocks the socks off entrepreneur Mukesh Bansal and the sheikhs of Dubai
The sharply dressed men of Wall Street in their dark and dapper suits grabbed Pritika Mehta’s attention during her four years stint in the US. They also got her thinking. What if the attire had a dash of colour, courtesy some cool and vibrant socks?
That one thought led Pritika, a postgraduate in artificial intelligence from State University of New York, to launch SocksBakery in 2018. Earlier, she had worked for the likes of Bank of America in Manhattan, and Tripadvisor in Boston. She was also involved with the Global Shapers community of World Economic Forum and TEDx talks.
But the zest to do something of her own led her to quit her high-paying job in the US and move back to Chandigarh. “In that one year, I travelled to 12 countries, started KiddyCoders (an initiative to teach coding to young kids), curated a conference - TEDxChandigarh, worked with Queen Elizabeth Young Leaders, and consulted for tech startups in Silicon Valley,” Pritika says.
Pulling up her socks
Soon, Pritika began to focus on her idea of a “socks startup”. Research showed her that socks were the most neglected category by brands. According to her, over 91 percent of men say they want better socks, yet they aren’t able to find the right pair.
“When I thought of SocksBakery, ML Jethi and Yatin Jethi were the first people who came to my mind. The father-son duo, who happen to be family friends, bring decades of experience in apparel manufacturing, R&D, and operations. In fact, ML Jethi is 67 years old; he quit his banker job to start his own venture at the age of 55,” Pritika says.
Tying up with ML Jethi and Yatin helped Pritika build vendor relationships, where they could outsource manufacturing. The team buys their own yarn, which they were able to source thanks to earlier connections.
She also roped in Simarpreet Singh, a friend from her under-graduation days, who had founded media-tech company Mindbatteries. Simarpreet is the fourth co-founder at SocksBakery.
Putting style at men’s feet
Cut to seven months down the line. SocksBakery is a direct-to-consumer fashion brand, which makes premium-quality, designer socks for men.
The team currently makes luxury socks, theme-based socks, and regular socks. They also create gift boxes based on individual personalities. For example, the Luxury Collection is for people who prefer subtle colours, the Power Collection is for CEOs, and the Explorer Collection is loved by travellers. Popular designs include the Silicon Valley edition, Steve Jobs edition, London edition, and the Vikings edition.
Socks can be ordered on the startup’s website, WhatsApp number, or Instagram page. A pair of regular socks is priced at Rs 299; the gift boxes go up to Rs 10,000.
“People can buy single pairs as well as gift boxes. There is no minimum order, and shipping is free across India. You can also request handwritten customised notes if you’re gifting. We also offer one-day delivery and other customisations,” Pritika says.
While the team refused to share the revenue details, they claim to see a 40 percent month-on-month growth and close to 70 percent repeat customer base.
“Our clientele is diverse and includes top CEOs (Mukesh Bansal, Nikhil Kamath, Amit Chaudhary), sheikhs in Dubai, consultants, IT professionals, doctors, lawyers, and even men from Tier II and III cities of India. On an average, every person who buys our socks recommends us to at least four people,” Pritika says.
According to the Indian Retailer, the socks market is estimated to be valued between Rs 900 crore and Rs 1,000 crore. It is believed to contribute four percent of the innerwear market.
SocksBakery competes mainly with Swedish brand Happy Socks, Stance and to a small extent Mustang Socks, the largest socks manufacturer in the country (selling over a million pairs a month). However, the biggest differentiator for SocksBakery is that it works on an online model and focuses on direct consumer reach and customisation.
Pritika says socks may seem a simple piece of apparel but are complex to make.
“From choice of yarn and designs to machinery and craftsmanship, you need to get everything right on the supply chain side. It is expensive to try to build a socks company, and that’s why you don’t see a lot of companies doing this. The reason we’ve been able to innovate in this industry is because our team has decades of experience in varied domains and deep relationships with vendors,” she says.
SocksBakery has been shipping globally since day one and aims to become the “Nike for socks”. The team has also opened a main office in Delhi few days back and in the next five months the team is also opening an office in New York.
“We are also looking to launch into other verticals of men’s fashion after we see significant growth and traction in socks,” Pritika says.