Meet the three women entrepreneurs at the forefront of India’s retail revolution

By Simantika Choudhury
November 29, 2022, Updated on : Wed Jan 11 2023 11:44:58 GMT+0000
Meet the three women entrepreneurs at the forefront of India’s retail revolution
AWS Women in Tech Series put the spotlight on three women entrepreneurs who didn’t just make the most of the retail evolution, but also scaled despite the challenges.
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India’s retail industry saw massive changes in the past few years largely driven by the pandemic. It led to changing customer expectations and habits as consumers got even more demanding about product quality, durability, trendiness - only this time from the comfort of their homes. The era tossed away the age-old retail issues like location, shelf space, and gave way to technology-led disruptions. Bain & Company called the pandemic a watershed moment for India’s e-retail market. The market rose to approximately $40 billion in 2021 and is now estimated to increase to $150–$170 billion by 2027. This points towards 25 – 30 percent annual growth and doubling of market penetration to 9 – 10 percent over the next five years.


Some of the tech solutions that became critical were AR/VR services, omnichannel retail, AI/ML, digital distribution models, among others. Brands which successfully embraced these technologies managed to stay ahead of the curve and truly stand out in India’s cluttered $810 billion Indian retail market. Through our AWS Women In Tech Series, we put the spotlight on three leaders who didn’t just make the most of the retail evolution, but also scaled despite the challenges. Heads Up For Tails, Chumbak and MirrAR each leveraged technology to make a difference and today, they are examples for others.

Heads Up For Tails | Rashi Narang, Founder and CEO

The Heads Up For Tails story began with Sara, Rashi’s dog. After getting Sara home, Rashi noticed that pet parents in India don’t have access to high quality products that add value and joy to their lives as well as their pets’ lives. Most pet products were solving only the most basic necessities. The glaring gap in the pet product market and her love for animals made Rashi launch her holistic pet care brand, Heads Up For Tails in 2008.


Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength. In 2015, Heads Up For Tails raised their angel round from HNI investors. A few years later, they opened their Khan Market store and also collaborated with designer duo Shivan and Narresh to launch India’s first designer line of pet products. More recently, they became the first pet care brand in India to work with Disney. They also opened India’s first cat-only store in Bengaluru and got investors Sequoia and Verlinvest on board. “We also launched a project extremely close to my heart, the HUFT Foundation, to work toward changing several mindsets in favour of our beloved animals.” Rashi said.


Throughout this journey, AWS remained a big support. “Our warehouse and inventory management, and delivery predictions are routed through AWS technology. Our upcoming app will also be powered by AWS for a seamless experience,” she explained.


Rashi credits her growth to her grit, a combination of passion, perseverance and purpose. “Passion is a word often used to describe entrepreneurs. But you also need grit. I’ve had to persevere for many years, and the road ahead is still long and challenging. On some days it really seemed easier to give up and let it go. But when I made those products for my pet Sara and subsequently for other families, I saw what it gave them and what it meant to their families. And in that, I found purpose and conviction that I am creating an impact for the better. Purpose is what makes me come back to the drawing board and regroup time and again,” Rashi added.

mirrAR | Meghna Saraogi, Founder and CEO

Meghna remembers relying only on her fashion enthusiastic friends for the right fit, pattern and colours when shopping. But not everyone can depend on someone like that and that led Meghna to build StyleDotMe, one of India’s first real-time fashion advice platforms. On her journey, she saw how the fashion retail industry was digitising itself. “Only being able to access and assess what products would look like on oneself inside retail stores needed to change, big time, That’s where mirrAR came in,” said Meghna.


Her proprietary technology, mirrAR, enables brands and retailers to serve 3D and 360-degree shopping experiences on their websites, mobile apps, and social channels. It lets shoppers virtually try-on products on themselves or virtually interact with them in their physical environment (i.e. preview placement) before making a purchase. Meghna started with the jewellery industry but has now expanded into different categories like beauty, watches, eyewear, furniture, and home appliances.


She added that she has been using AWS for all infrastructure needs. “The database of resources and documentation available is immense and customer care is highly responsive.There’s a plethora of solutions available for all use cases. There’s something for everyone with AWS,” she said.


Meghna aims to democratise immersive experiences for shoppers across 3 billion smartphones globally while changing the digital commerce interface for discovery-driven product categories. And they have come a long way. After five years, the team has over 50 portfolio clients, 2.5 lakhs+ inventory from various categories and millions of virtual try-ons per month. Her venture mirrAR has helped many businesses across industries digitise themselves and enable virtual try-ons for millions of shoppers. More recently, they expanded their made-in-India technology to the US, UAE and The Caribbean.

Chumbak | Shubhra Chadda, Co-founder

For Shubhra, Chumbak was a reflection of her love for travel. She would travel to a lot of new places and bring back souvenirs from each of those. It was on these trips that she decided to create fun collectibles and souvenirs inspired by India.


The team started out with a product-based approach, and over the years, they ended up building an entire ecosystem. They witnessed their growth from large format stores, to bringing in a brand ambassador, building depth in categories and technology that made the brand accessible to millions across the country. Today, Chumbak is a globally inspired home and lifestyle brand, creating products in categories across home décor, accessories and personal care, which are all designed to brighten up their customers’ living spaces, offices, wardrobes. The brand’s omnichannel presence, which offers customers a seamless shopping experience, alongside a spunky touch of India through their products.


Chumbak’s online business runs on AWS, which is 50 percent of their business. Shubhra stated that they use Lambda, an AWS plug and play platform for a better user interface. It enables them to create a code for their pincode service that customers use while checking if their area is serviceable by Chumbak. The Lambda platform also helps them run secure logins on their website using OTPs. “Some of our third party SaaS platforms today run on AWS providing us a seamless experience both online and offline from our POS, CRM, omnichannel presence to digital marketing services,” she revealed.


Looking back at her journey, Shubhra holds some memories close. “Our first fund-raise will always remain surreal. It takes me back to a time when we realised Chumbak was much bigger than the idea we started out with,” she reminisced. She credits the team’s success to a culture that is caring, respectful, empathetic and believes in equality at the workplace. “We are a close-knit team, and we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty,” she added.

Breaking stereotypes

Being a woman entrepreneur in a cluttered space comes with its own share of ups and downs. And that is something binding Rashi, Meghna and Shubhra to one another.


Rashi says while her gender never came in the way of her entrepreneurial journey, there are decades or even centuries of conditioning that have made women believe ‘it’s harder for us’ or ‘we can’t do it without a man’s support’. “But even then, there are enough shining examples in the world who have shown us that discrimination does not stand a chance in front of perseverance and passion,” she explained. As per Rashi, hurdles are propellers of growth. One must take every obstacle as an opportunity to grow. “To make workspaces equally welcoming for women, I think the sex ratio needs to be balanced. Any instances, small or big, of sexism should not be tolerated at all. And there definitely needs to be equal respect for every voice in the room,” she added.


mirrAR’s Meghna said, “Gender biases exist, not just in this industry, but across sectors. How one treats them and deals with them is what actually matters.” She said that she never expects to be treated differently, and has always been a firm believer in the fact that if you are passionate about your product, you will get through anything. But women, she feels, are sometimes unaware of the potential they harbour within themselves. And that will change only when they are given more resources and opportunities.


Shubhra believes that being a woman entrepreneur in Bengaluru is a blessing, the ecosystem offers a lot of support with respect to tech and otherwise to scale. “We were one of the first D2C brands with a women-centric approach. Thanks to technology, 50 percent of our business today is online and accessible to millions of people. It’s amazing to see the number of women-centric D2C brands coming up these days, thanks to tech,” she said. For Shubhra too, equality is key, along with empathy and safe spaces. “From flexible working hours for young mothers, or acknowledging that fathers too have responsibilities are some of the simple yet important things that companies need to focus on today,” she added.


As India’s retail space continues to grow and thrive, it is interesting to follow the stories of leaders who are leveraging technology with the support of AWS to succeed in the crowded industry. Their success stories aren’t just symbols of their determination and strength, but they are also examples for many other female entrepreneurs.

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