These two women entrepreneurs are building a niche fashion brand for GenZ
Fresh out of college in 2015, Megha Poddar and Shradha Ponappa realised one thing - younger generation needed a clothing brand they could simply resonate with. It led them to start Red Velvet, a fashion brand, which was later rebranded as.
“We were just out of college at the time in Bengaluru, and we started by making clothes for a young crowd, predominantly college students. But we realised that it wasn’t a sustainable market to cater to, especially when we had to recover the costs we incurred as we manufactured limited pieces and not bulk. But that sums up what we knew about running a business back then. We were driven solely by passion, we figured out the rest as we poured our heart and soul into nurturing Spring Diaries,” says 29-year-old Megha.
In 2015, when the seed of thought for Spring Diaries (then known as Red Velvet) was taking roots in Megha’s mind, Shradha already had a small boutique label called ‘Shradha Ponnappa’. Megha, a close friend of Shradha’s sister, instantly fell in love with her designs. She was sure that she wanted to work with Shradha to create a casual clothing line. She loved the aesthetic appeal of the designs and knew that it would garner a mass appeal.
Megha explains, “The two of us started the company and tried to work with different manufacturing units and freelancers. When we started our own workshop, we had only three employees. Later, we hired a manager to run the factory operations so we could focus on the designs and the growth of the brand. Slowly, we started hiring more people to manage the store and operations. Today, we are a team of 32 people.”
Started with a total investment of about Rs 50 lakh from a 250 sq ft. store, the brand now occupies a 2,400 sq ft. space, and houses both Spring Diaries and label Shradha Ponnappa.
Setting up the business and challenges
Megha explains, although they had much to learn about the business of running a clothing brand, the duo were sure of the kind of apparel they wanted to make.
“As we created trending and wearable casual wear for the young audience, we realised that we had a much wider scope. We slowly adapted to processes to include a large and varied customer base. Today, we make clothes for women in the age group of 18 to 50 from different walks of life,” adds Megha.
She explains that initially they faced several challenges. The manufacturing units they wanted to tie up with had a high minimum order quantity requirement, which was difficult for a small brand. Also, they knew setting up a factory on their own involved a significantly high risk and was a huge expense.
“After trying out multiple factories for over a year and a half, we decided to set up a small manufacturing unit of our own when ‘want’ had become a ‘need’! Surprisingly, it actually solved most of our problems. We now had control over the number of pieces we could manufacture in every style, which in turn automatically reduced the risk of dead stock. It gave us the liberty of understanding the market choices better and we then manufactured more of the popular pieces as opposed to manufacturing the whole collection,” says Megha.
Another challenge they faced was reaching out to the right audience. Megha says they shied away from marketing as it demands huge expenses. But that was until the team discovered the power of social media.
“Our young target group was all over social media and it became the best mode of communication for us. We started with minimal investment in digital marketing and the change we witnessed in the brand’s growth and reach has been an eye-opener,” says Megha.
Spring Diaries also saw a huge spike in business during the lockdown in 2020 due to its online presence. “We released a home-wear line brought more traffic to our website as people started shopping more during the pandemic, probably because that was the only other entertainment at home other than Netflixing,” says Shradha.
Spring Diaries witnessed a bottom-line turnover of Rs 50,000 per month in the early days, which slowly climbed up to Rs 1to Rs 2 lakh a month now.
“We hit a plateau as we were stuck at this stage for a really long time. Gradually, when we started getting recognised at exhibitions, by celebrities, and stylists, our brand started hitting over Rs 30-35 lakh a month. We are proud of the fact that we are a self-made brand that started with an initial investment of Rs 2 lakh. Although we grew very slowly as we always had limited funds, we have managed to grow organically. Today, we are managing the brand with our own funds. We are definitely looking to scale up as we are more confident today and open to the idea of having investors,” adds Megha.
The brand is currently catering to a clientele in the age group of 18-50 on the price points between Rs 1,800 to Rs 8,000. Some of the other brands operating in the space include Chidiyaa, The Kaftan Company, Okhai, and others.
Speaking about future plans, the co-founders say, “We are currently focused on growing our business online. We are already catering to the global market as they are reaching out to a wider audience and resonating with the fashion sense of buyers in India and across the world.”
Megha says, “Our aim is to make Spring Diaries a million-dollar business and we are quite certain that many promising opportunities will come our way. We are enjoying this process of growth and we would like our baby to grow into a really fine brand.”
Edited by Megha Reddy