[100 Emerging Women Leaders] From AI to retail, how Juveca Panda found her fit with MisFit Panda
During the 2019 Lakme Fashion Week, Juveca Panda was on a complete high. Olympic medal winner PV Sindhu had worn her brand,shoes. For someone who had been in the world of Artificial Intelligence for over a decade before starting MisFit Panda, this was a big win.
A computer and cognitive science graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, Juveca came home to Mumbai in 2010. “I wanted to do something different and didn’t want a regular desk job,” Juveca tells HerStory.
She worked in the retail segment with Diesel for two years, where she became a women’s wear and accessories buyer in India. “I loved how dynamic the retail space was where you are always interacting with multiple people. I wanted to do more,” adds Juveca.
Her first venture was a women’s fast-fashion wear brand. “While I was working on the collection, season-on-season, and pushing the product out in department stores, I realised it wasn’t for me,” says Juveca.
Meanwhile, her love for footwear played out with her digging deep to understand the space. Juveca found that most products catered to the Indian or the Indo-western wear market, and the trends didn’t match with the global ones.
“The western brands positioned themselves to be expensive and inaccessible,” she explains, adding that there was a large market of young professionals growing, who are aspirational and can use new trends. This led to the birth of MisFit Panda in 2017.
“In the initial days, I would go to the markets myself, and my mother was a huge part of the journey. I would go to the local markets to know about the materials and cost, etc. And I would see what is new, and it would inspire me. We started small as a passion project, and soon, we started getting the larger online buyers like Koovs and Ajio,” says Juveca.
Soon, a few designers approached the team to do their footwear. In fact, the brand collaborated with a designer to do its solo show in 2019.
Since MisFit Panda is a PETA approved vegan brand, it ensures to source the right materials. At present, the brand designs its products in house and gets them manufactured from different parts of India and the world.
MisFit Panda offers flats, sneakers, and heels, priced around Rs 1,500 on average on its website and other marketplaces.
It is also experimenting with different kinds of design motifs. “For example, we have high-street collections that use 3D laser cut embroidery. The idea is to build a premium collection yet affordable,” she says.
“Even today, everything we use is handpicked. We look at multiple aspects, what do the young working class of today look for in a product, and can we look at unique designs. We partner with several local businesses too,” Juveca adds.
She believes this focus got the brand its solo show. In fact, it was the first time they were able to represent the brand independently.
According to an Avendus report, India’s D2C business will be worth $100 billion in five years. The country has as many as 600 D2C brands — a number that will significantly grow in the next five years — and over 16 brands with an annual turnover of more than $60 million.
MisFit Panda is among several growing D2C brands in India and competes with footwear brands like Pastels and Pop, Paaduks, Fizzy Goblet, etc.
“The idea is to continue creating great products in the footwear space. To all the young girls that want to do something on their own, I would say, have an idea that you believe in and work towards it. Do all the work and the research needed, and nothing can stop you,” Juveca concludes.