Sold three lakh units in last 12 months, says Joker & Witch Co-founder Maya Varma

Joker & Witch co-founder Maya Varma revealed how the D2C brand got its name, its success mantra, and how it is looking to expand. Maya also revealed her love for watch and accessory stacks and the lack of it in India.
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The journey of jewellery and watch company Joker & Witch started when accessory designer Maya Varma and Satish Singh met each other in Bengaluru. Maya, who had successful stints at bag and accessory giants like Hidesign and Holii, moved to Bengaluru to work at an upcoming fashion ecommerce website called Styletag where she met her husband and partner, Satish. 

They both quit their jobs in 2015 to start Joker & Witch, a D2C fashion jewellery and watch brand.

“We were quick to realise the fragmented state of the Indian fashion accessories market and the huge lag between global fashion trends and what was available in the Indian market. We also went one step ahead and became the first brand in the country to launch curated watch and bracelet stacks and thoughtfully put together pre-styled watch and jewellery gift sets,” says Maya.

While Bengaluru-based Joker & Witch was started in 2015, within six years, they started another oxidised silver jewellery brand named Teejh. 

On working with her husband as her business partner, Maya says, “Our strengths and experiences complement each other and together we complete the team being able to handle most of the functions independently.”

One of the main attractions of this venture is that it is affordable. Their watches range between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 and their accessories are all under Rs 3,000. 

In a conversation with HerStory, Maya Varma, Co-founder, Joker & Witch, speaks about her journey of starting the D2C brand along with her husband, the challenges she faced in her entrepreneurial journey, and more. 

Edited excerpts from the interview:

HerStory (HS): Tell us about your life before Joker & Witch. What has your career graph been like?

Maya Varma (MV): I did Bachelor’s in Fashion & Lifestyle Accessory Design from NIFT, New Delhi, and started my career working as an accessory designer with one of India’s top designers Rajesh Pratap Singh. I then went on to work with Hidesign & Holii in Pondicherry. In 2013, I moved to Bengaluru to join a fashion ecommerce startup Styletag.com, which is where I met my husband Satish, and the idea of Joker & Witch initiated. 

HS: What motivated you to start Joker & Witch? 

MV: Our innate love for watches and jewellery and the lack of fast fashion watch and accessories brands focusing on the aspirations of the millennials and Gen Z in the Indian market led to the genesis of the brand Joker & Witch. We were quick to realise the fragmented state of the Indian fashion accessories market and the huge lag between global fashion trends and what was available in the Indian market. We also went one step ahead and became the first brand in the country to launch curated watch and bracelet stacks and thoughtfully put together pre-styled watch & jewellery gift sets.

HS: How and when did you start Joker & Witch?

MV: It all started in 2015 when Satish and I met and fell in love and jokingly started calling each other Joker & Witch based on our individual alter egos. The brand started from our two-bedroom flat in Bengaluru where we spent many late nights packing and processing hundreds of orders just by ourselves. As newlyweds, we had quit our comfortable jobs and had ventured on a path of uncertainty and challenges. Being first generation entrepreneurs from humble backgrounds, we started the business with a capital of mere Rs 2 lakh. 

HS: How did you fund Joker & Witch and what are your future funding plans?

MV: We are extremely proud to have been able to build two profitable D2C brands (Joker & Witch and Teejh) while staying bootstrapped all this while. For the next stage in our growth story, we are already in talks with a few potential investors and we are looking to raise funds by next financial year so that we can scale up, reach a much wider audience, and grow the business at a much faster pace. 

HS: Tell us about Joker & Witch's revenue. What has been its highest profit so far and how long did it take for you to reach there?

MV: We’ve been fortunate to be able to monetise our venture from the very first month of business owing to positive unit economics. While we can’t reveal our revenue figures owing to confidentiality, but just to give a sense of our business metrics, we sold almost three lakh units in the last 12 months, and we have been growing at more than 200 percent YoY for the last three financial years. Our highest profit was in August 2021, which was more than our FY16 and FY17 annual revenues put together. 

HS: What are your thoughts on bringing Joker & Witch into the offline space?

MV: Currently we are only present online and retail through our website as well as multiple marketplaces like Myntra, Amazon, Nykaa, Flipkart, etc. In the coming months and years, we intend to go omni-channel and focus on opening kiosks and stand stores.

HS: How does Joker and Witch compete with other top jewellery and watch brands in the market?

MV: We’ve seen the Indian fashion accessories industry work in a very fragmented state where organised players constitute only 30 percent of the market share, especially when we talk about fashion jewellery. Hence there’s enough room to coexist and shine out if you follow the right approach. 

HS: How has been the distribution of work between you and your partner? 

MV: Based on our separate strengths and weaknesses, our areas of work are also divided accordingly. While I look at all aspects of design, merchandising, creatives, hiring, social media, and organic marketing, Satish handles everything around P&L, finance, paid marketing, operations, cross-border manufacturing and customer relations. 

HS: What were some of the top challenges in your entrepreneurial journey?

MV: Some major challenges that we faced were non-payment of dues or payment delays by some marketplace channels leading to capital crunch, cracking cross border manufacturing and import processes and delays, finding the right accounting partners and most importantly ensuring the brand always stays profitable and able to sustain the ecosystem. 

HS: How do you think the startup ecosystem has been towards women entrepreneurs?

MV: As fellow entrepreneurs, I feel there have been far more women entrepreneurs starting off with or without a founding team and realising their passions, irrespective of the phase in their life. Moreover, I’ve seen that female founding members in the team add immense value and a different perspective to problem-solving. 

HS: How has the digital revolution changed the way entrepreneurship is done around the globe?

MV: The internet has transformed the way we live, communicate, and work in a very positive manner. The digital revolution has aided entrepreneurship in three ways -- instant gratification, consumer connect, and the digital medium has shrunk the whole world into multiple small knit digital communities where entrepreneurs can connect with their peers, mentors, investors, and talent pool to and have the opportunity of being a part of a digital ecosystem that contributes to their growth.

HS: What have been your top moments in your entrepreneurial journey?

MV: With the kind of varied challenges that come with entrepreneurship, every little achievement seemed like a milestone. For us some such moments were: 

Our first big moment was when we acquired more than 5,000 customers in the third month of our business. It was a great initial boost.

Then we launched our second brand Teejh in November 2019. When we finally got down to launching the brand, we went from conception to launch in two months and built and took the site live in less than a week’s time. The brand instantly clicked, and the response was overwhelming. We were recently picked as one of Grazia’s Most Loved Brands 2021, which is a great honour for us as it recognises us as a Millennial & Gen Z approved brand! 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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