How this techie launched a homegrown workwear brand for today’s boss lady
Though Rupanshi Agarwal graduated in computer science, she always had a keen eye for fashion and a passion for it.
She gave up her techie job to tread the entrepreneurial path to start Qua, a women’s workwear brand, with her brother Bharat Agarwal in 2018. Qua offers smart and functional clothing that is powerful yet feminine.
Models sporting Qua
Speaking to HerStory on the pain point behind the venture, Rupanshi says,
“While working in tech, I realised that there was a massive gap between women’s workwear and its quality in our country. I struggled with limited options comprising old boring monotonous colours and very uninspired designs.”
As a modern woman, she wanted her workwear to reflect her style according to modern trends. The gap in the market was very apparent. This inspired her to work on reinventing workwear to meet the needs of the modern working woman who is building her career and is conscious of her personal brand.
Workwear for working women
With 5.2 million urban women set to enter the workforce in 2023, the sector is growing at a CAGR of 7 percent and per capita expenditure is expected to be Rs 6,400 by 2023, rising from Rs 3,900 in 2018.
“With no previous experience of working in the fashion space, it was essential for us to learn the trade first. I launched the first collection comprising formal shirts, trousers, blazers, and pantsuits. We focussed on social media marketing and participated in various offline exhibitions,” Rupanshi says.
The early feedback they received was that the prices were out of reach of customers and they wanted to try the clothes before purchasing them because fit plays a big role in workwear.
“Based on this feedback, we ran several experiments on prices until we achieved a sweet spot, where our customers responded. Simultaneously, we also started a free trial-at-home service where our customers can try clothes at their home free of cost and can buy the clothes after that. It was a big success for us as it had a 95 percent conversion rate."
Qua is also building a connected community of working women to inspire, inform, and help them be successful.
Soon, the brand introduced dresses, co-ords, and jewellery in its second collection. This collection comprised versatile styles that could easily be styled up or down depending on the event one is dressing up for.
In the next collection, they are planning to introduce jumpsuits and supima t-shirts along with more dresses and pantsuits. One consistent feature in all these launches is high-quality fabrics and practical functionality (pockets, modest necklines, gape buttons).
As part of the customer experience, the brand offers a 90-day free return policy, free standard shipping where the order gets delivered in three-four days, and express shipping where the orders are delivered in one to two days. Free home trials were launched in Delhi-NCR and the plan is to expand this service to other metro cities as well. The founders use WhatsApp for customer service and queries.
PV Sindhu spotted in a Qua creation
Its ideal customer profile is a working woman aged between 26-50 years living in metro cities. It works on a transaction-based revenue model.
“We see ourselves as affordable luxury with our AOV being Rs 3,450, which is 3x the industry average. Forty-five percent of our orders come from Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. The brand is available on our website, Instagram page, and also on social media platforms like Myntra,” she says.
Qua has been worn by prominent celebrities like PV Sindhu, Gauahar Khan, Shereen Bhan, Maanvi Gagroo organically.
Bootstrapped, the founders invested Rs 30 lakh initially where the majority of the costs went into the production of the collection. It is seeing a monthly revenue of around Rs 2 lakh on an average.
With the pandemic striking, and the shift towards online shopping, Qua saw exponential growth in Q4 of FY 20-21 with revenues jumping 4x from Q3.
“The biggest success is that we have achieved an order return rate of 10 percent against the industry average of 30 percent. Our customer retention rate is 19 percent against the industry average of 11 percent,” she says.
During the pandemic, the whole game of workwear changed with ‘work from home’, and Qua adapted to the change and introduced co-ord sets in the latter half of 2020. The co-ords, Rupanshi says, provided the comfort of loungewear with a formal and polished look for Zoom meetings.
Along with the co-ords, Qual also introduced chic (and comfy) dresses and work-appropriate jewellery, and saw a sudden jump in the number of orders coming through our online store during the lockdown period.
“We are planning to use WhatsApp more actively to engage with existing and potential customers by providing them more personalised services like live styling sessions. With the shift happening from offline shopping to online, we believe virtual trial rooms are about to become a norm. We are also planning to use blockchain in our technical system in the near future and will start accepting payments in cryptocurrencies subject to government policies,” Rupanshi says.