[The Turning Point] Why these sisters decided to launch an ecommerce startup for Made in India brands

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Pune and Kochi-based Maneraa, which aims to shine the spotlight on small, unbranded fashion and lifestyle retailers.
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Sometimes a problem leads to an idea, and that idea becomes a venture. This is what happened with sisters Shabna Salam and Shaiba Salam, and led them to launch their lifestyle and fashion ecommerce platform Maneraain 2019.

The sister realised that fashion is no longer the domain of the urban elite, and decided to focus on youth in Tier II and III cities with their curated platform. The Pune-based ecommerce startup is “made in India, made for India”. 

“Increased internet penetration and smartphone usage have led to a significant rise in first-time online shoppers, especially in the non-metros and Tier II and III cities. Maneraa is looking forward to extending its reach to those first-time online shoppers,” Shabna says.

The eureka moment

Shabna, a dentist by profession, and Shaiba, a commerce graduate, quit their jobs in 2019 when they got an opportunity to be a part of a Dubai-based online aggregator for Indian ethnic fashion. While working with that firm, the sisters came across a lot of smaller brands and retailers from India that lacked market exposure despite the ecommerce boom in the country.

Shabna claims about 70 percent of the $100 billion Indian fashion retail space comprises unorganised and unbranded retailers, smaller brands, and unknown designers. They either have no online presence or get lost among the bigger names on large platforms.

 “We realised that there was an untapped opportunity in this space. We thought of creating a platform for these smaller brands and budding designers, and giving them an opportunity to display their unique collections and compete with bigger brands,” Shabna says.

The sisters immediately started figuring out the way forward. They knew they needed sophisticated technology to compete with the likes of Amazonand Myntra. They researched and spoke to family and friends, and finally joined hands with a family friend, Prince Jose, their technology partner who helped build the Maneraa platform.

The two founders of Maneraa.

Plans for the future

 “Maneraa will craft a space in the ecommerce market, letting our buyers choose from hundreds of brands with new designs that have been created by talented yet unrecognised designers from around the country,” says Shabna, Co-Founder and Director, Maneraa.

She says the idea is to recognise the potential of small, unbranded fashion and lifestyle retailers, to help them manage quality, and give them an opportunity to share their unique products with the India-wide market on an online platform.

With its headquarters in Pune and an office in Kochi, Maneraa has a team of 15 people, working towards building a platform that bridges the gap between aspiration and access, for both buyers and sellers, and can stand tall amidst the likes of Myntra, Nykaa Fashion, Limeroad, Amazon Fashion, and others.

The ecommerce startup has more than 80 sellers listed on its platform with over 9,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs). In 2021, the company aims to onboard over 500 unique sellers to cater to more than two million buyers across India. In the last couple of months, it has completed around 10,000 orders across cities such as Kochi, Bengaluru, Pune, Trivandrum, Calicut, and others.

The sisters have bootstrapped the startup with seed investment of Rs 1 crore so far, but are now looking for funding to scale operations and support the growth they are planning in 2021.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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