Keeping a business afloat, let alone thriving, during the pandemic is no easy feat. While Ankita Bansal rose to fame with her appearance on Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking, it’s her denim label ‘THERE!’ that became the talk of the town after the show wrapped.
A desi brand based in a clothing staple made for men and women around the globe, sister duo Ankita and Gayatri Bansal talked to TC46 about what it means to be in the fashion business in India, and how you can compete in the cluttered market of denim wear.
1. What prompted the idea for ‘THERE!’?
We both were at crossroads with respect to our careers when we decided to start the brand together. Gayatri has always wanted to have her own fashion label, and I’ve always enjoyed the aspect of marketing and customer experience, we just needed to find a space that didn’t already exist in the market as a full-fledged fashion label and that’s when our love for denim came into play and we, without another thought, went ahead with the idea of introducing an all denim wear brand.
2. What was your first milestone and how did you get there?
I think our first milestone was a flea pop that we had been a part of in Mumbai back in November 2018. We’d travelled to Bombay with 6 cartons and had come back with 3. I knew it was a milestone because after that for a week, Gayatri took it so easy at work as she was in such a daze that I thought all my prayers of having a laid back partner like me had finally been answered. Jokes apart, we’ve not looked back since that day, there was so much recognition we had received that people had started to identify us as ‘The denim brand who was at the flea in Bombay’ What a wonderful feeling that was!
3. What suggestions would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to start an online business or wants to shift their offline practices online?
This is one move I tell anyone to take without a single doubt in mind. I had always been hell bent on starting our own offline studio space but we resisted it, and I couldn’t be happier about not investing in that space. If there is one thing the pandemic has really pushed you to understand is that there are only very few things/jobs that require a continuous physical or offline presence but ours is such where we could be anywhere in the world and it would still be functional. Being online also gives you the extra of being accessible to consumers globally. It takes a while to make your space, but once you start to – it’s a journey upward. My suggestion – get yourself a partner like Gayatri. Just not her, because she’s mine!
4. What were some of the best financial decisions you made?
The best decision we’ve made to date, hands down, is definitely an investment not push hard on having an offline presence and starting with an online storefront instead. For ‘THERE!’, we used Shopify as our platform. We had no coding background so the ease of having our store set up on Shopify saved us so much time and money. We quickly had our own website without incurring huge capital costs, warehousing costs and retailing costs.
Again, when the show came out on Netflix because we were online, it was so easy for people to log online and shop with us. And when Indian Matchmaking happened, we didn’t have international payments at that time, I think it was 10 days into this when Shopify immediately connected us to their payment partners, PayPal. We were able to cater to an international audience with a payment interface that was suitable for global standards. To be honest, if you’re a budding entrepreneur, I suggest you start operations online because offline is more cost-intensive and we, personally, have found a good fit in Shopify.
The second good decision we made was to not open up our own unit; instead, we utilised an existing available space of a manufacturing unit. We’ve been working with a set team (freelance) for all our work since the very beginning.
5. How long did it take you to monetise your venture?
We definitely saw a rise for us right before the pandemic hit and then as we all know, the world shut down. Post pandemic we’ve done revenues beyond what we would, which are now being utilised to cover the small losses we incurred during the pandemic.
6. Which networking groups or events have helped you generate collaboration opportunities?
As a small brand, we really focussed on a lot of exhibitions and pop-ups for the first year. This was definitely what widened our network and got us the kind of identity that any new brand looks for.
7. Are you looking for funding for your business?
We are currently focussing on this year ahead of us where we’ve decided to collaborate with multiple other brands and individuals and put our collections out for the world to feast on! We’ve been in talks internally to raise funding, so this year also will be focussed on that.
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