How this first-time entrepreneur from Pune started and grew her online jewellery business
After toiling for 10 years in the IT industry, Prachi Patwardhan began to feel that her work-life balance was beginning to be skewed.
“My job started to take a toll -- heading to work every day no longer brought me the joy or satisfaction I felt during the early days of my career,” shares Prachi. It was during this time, she began to contemplate becoming an entrepreneur. “The idea occurred several times. But I was hesitant. I knew setting up one’s own business is not a cakewalk.”
However, seeing how unhappy she was with the regular grind of an IT job, her husband who was then a business head in Flipkart encouraged her to start her own online business.
“I knew I could start a business in the artificial jewellery segment because I had a passion for it and understood customer trends. But I also understood that it wouldn’t be enough. So I spent some time doing market research.”
It was then she realised that a lot of sellers often focused on the affordability of artificial jewellery, compromising on quality. “So, I decided to focus on the quality of my products. Naturally, my pricing was slightly higher than most of the other competitors.” It was a decision that worked in her favour in the long run.
Why a presence on Flipkart makes a difference to a business that is just starting up
Prachi began her career as an online seller by selling her products on e-commerce marketplaces that didn’t warrant a registration.
“Soon, I realised that if I had to make my business profitable, I needed to be present on recognised platforms like Flipkart, that had an unmatched reach. That’s when I decided to sell under the brand name GirlZFashion and registered on Flipkart in 2014. The registration process was a breeze, but as a first-time entrepreneur, I found the catalogue listing challenging. However, with continued guidance from the Flipkart team on the listing procedure, I understood it well and soon enough it was a piece of cake.”
Delving further into the challenges she faced in her initial days as a first-time entrepreneur she says, “Since I was sourcing my products, I had to approach multiple vendors to get an understanding of their capacity for quality jewellery. This was time-consuming and tedious. Once I had that sorted out, photographing the products was a challenge, especially because I didn’t have the resources to hire a professional photographer. So in the initial days, I clicked the pictures of my products against a white background and put it up on the portal. Even though it wasn’t great as it is today, it still helped me get my first few orders. At that moment, I felt elated because my efforts had proved to be worthwhile.”
GirlZFashion, sells everything from earrings, bangles, necklaces to anklets and nose pins. Today, 85 percent of the business comes from online retail, of which 75 percent comes through Flipkart alone.
“The biggest advantage of selling online, especially on a platform like Flipkart is that you become a national seller almost instantly. Sitting in Pune, I sell my products to customers across India. In addition, I found a great partner in Flipkart at every step of my journey as an online business - from onboarding to listing to addressing technical glitches,” she adds.
Sharing a key learning on why sellers must pay attention to packaging, Prachi says, “Jewellery is often delicate. So, in the initial days, I bubble-wrapped every single order and shipped them in an envelope. The idea was that while this avoided bulky shipment and additional packaging cost, it still ensured the jewellery reached undamaged. But, when I began putting more thought into my business, I realised that it was not just about ensuring safe shipment but also creating excitement. I wanted the customers to be excited as soon as they are handed over the shipment, even before they opened it. So, I introduced boxes for different kinds of jewellery and used the Flipkart cello-tape which added authenticity. Today, my customers appreciate how well thought through the packaging is.”
For Prachi, the year 2014-15 was one of trial and learning. Post that, however, the journey has been a smooth ride. GirlZFashion also witnessed a peak during The Big Billion Days in 2017. “While my business was doing good and I expected a jump in the business, I hadn’t anticipated the volume of demand that I received. So, it became challenging to fulfil the order. While, ultimately I did, the effort was demanding. But it helped me understand why sellers see TBBD as a huge opportunity. For the next TBBD, I was well prepared. With my family pitching in to help, especially with the packaging, it was a great experience. TBBD 2017, 2018 and 2019 have been some of the best months for us as a business.”
Growing through customer reviews
In addition to offering a wide range of artificial jewellery options, GirlZFashion recently ventured into selling women’s accessories like scarves.
“Most of it has been preempted by customer reviews. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, customer reviews on Flipkart have been a key growth driver. They helped me uncover the likes and dislikes of customers, their sentiments and also the demand for new product segments. It helped me expand my offering, source better designs, and ensure the quality is never compromised.”
GirlZFashion has grown from a single-member, founder-led business to a three-member team. “We are still a very small business with annual revenue of Rs 10 lakhs. But, the business has given me the flexibility to manage my family responsibilities while also growing a business. We have been seeing a consistent 25 percent year on year growth. If anything, I am only excited about what the future holds for my career as an entrepreneur.”
What does a regular day look like for a first-time entrepreneur?
“My work starts after the kids go to school and the husband to work. I take an overview of the packaging, inventory and catalogue management. I also call up customers for feedback, which sometimes takes up half of my workday. Around evening, I remove my businesswoman cape and get back to the business of managing the house. I take my son for his ice skating classes, assist him with his studies, cook for the family and enjoy some family time together. My day is always busy but I love it. Every bit of it. I couldn’t have asked for more.”