How this woman entrepreneur took to influencer marketing to launch a womenswear brand, now clocking Rs 33 Cr in revenue
Pari Choudhary had a typical middle-class upbringing in Jaipur, with expectations of her becoming a doctor, engineer, or civil servant. The idea that she may someday leverage the internet to build a successful D2C brand, fulfilling orders from across India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, was unfathomable.
But, build she did, as she found her calling in entrepreneurship with, a D2C women’s wear brand with just four people including herself. And looking back, Pari says she would not have it any other way. Today, Bunaai has nearly 1000 people working for it, including over 400 full time employees, and women artisans working on project basis.
The Bunaai story
In 2014, whilst Pari was pursuing her Masters in Delhi, she was also tapping her creative side by picking up certificate courses in fine arts, street photography, visual arts, and luxury brand management, among others.
She immersed herself into the social media world when influencer marketing was still at a nascent stage and confined mostly to the metros. For the two years that she was in Delhi, she received invitations to be part of fashion events like the Amazon Fashion Week in Delhi.
However, this was followed by a sudden lull after she returned to her hometown in Jaipur. She found that while on the one hand big brands were not so keen on influencers based in lower tier cities, on the other, smaller brands and businesses were yet to learn the value of business reach through influencers.
Determined to make something of her Instagram presence with over 105,000 followers by then, she decided to work on a small collection of contemporary ethnic wear for women. And, putting her creative and design skills to good use, in November 2016, she launched a collection of 13 dresses online, which got sold out within a week.
Not wasting any time, Pari soon invested Rs 53,000 and bought a couple of sewing machines. She then hired two tailors, and a worker to help with packaging, and set forth on her entrepreneurial journey.
“At the time, I did everything - from painting the office, putting furniture in place, designing the collections, and doing the photoshoot. The response was great,” she recalls. Over the years, Bunaai has diversified its product offerings into home decor, jewellery, accessories, and shoes.
Selling solely on its own website, the brand has grown multifold over the years. It clocked a revenue of Rs 33 crore in FY 2020-21, up from Rs 15 crore the previous year, thanks to a rise in demand for loungewear and night suits as remote working became the norm.
“My team and I penned down the restriction details of all the areas, and were constantly in touch with our customers, requesting them to be patient enough. To our blessing, our customers held it for us. We also took care of the stock and constantly tracked our bestsellers,” she explains.
The women’s D2C segment has seen exponential growth over the last few years, aided by social media and increasing benefits for women entrepreneurs. But despite this growth in competition, Pari sees potential to grow in India’s women’s apparel market, that is expected to reach nearly $39 billion by 2025, according to Statista.
Building the brand
Today, Bunaai boasts of a strong Instagram presence with over a million followers, although Pari plays it down by saying it seldom translates to business transactions.
The entrepreneur however does admit that being an early rider of the ecommerce wave in India and influencer marketing made a huge difference.
“Being an influencer and the face of my own brand has helped because I am a size that people can relate to: average Indian height and the size. That really helps,” she says.
Even as Pari is living her entrepreneurial dream, one challenge is that other brands and smaller competitors are quick to churn copied designs into the market.
As a handmade brand that does labour-intensive work, the coronavirus-induced lockdowns also posed a huge challenge as most workers returned to their villages.
While Bunaai has been targeting the age group of 18 to 24 who are likely to be active internet users, the pandemic has blurred the lines, and increased her audience base. But, to serve the older demographic with a hybrid model, Pari hopes to launch experiential stores across India where customers can try their apparels before purchasing in the next one year.
To aspiring and young entrepreneurs, Pari says it is important to strike a balance between one’s passion and the business.
“As women, we are never really taught to take care of finances entirely. I would urge women entrepreneurs to do that. Looking at customers' needs, and support them to reach greater heights,” she advises.
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