High prices have always been a turnoff and a deterrent for shoppers, but Rustorange has cashed in on affordability and fashion with its unique designs and contemporary ethnic wear brand.
In an exclusive interaction with MyBigPlunge, Samik Sarkar, Co-Founder of Rustorange, gives an insight about the startup’s journey so far:
What is Rustorange all about?
Rustorange is a Direct to Consumer Women’s Contemporary Ethnic Wear Brand. Founded in 2016, it is hugely popular among Indian millennial women looking for unique designs at great prices. The brand absorbs the Indian tradition from its very roots and its designs are crafted with skilled designers who aim to showcase the diversity of the Indian subcontinent. The silhouettes, the prints, the colours, and the overall aesthetics were done to give the Indian women a rather classy look. Every piece is produced with a lot of hard work from our team and goes through many stages before finally getting exposed to the public eye. In addition, all Rustorange garments are made from certified breathable and sustainable fabrics, which are ideal for Indian tropical conditions and also soft on the skin and their flowy nature gives the garments a great fall which is much adored by its customers.
How did you come up with this concept? And why the retail fashion industry?
The founders of Rustorange originally started with Zakoopi where they were building a listing of all nearby fashion stores in major Indian cities, similar to what Zomato did with restaurants. While listing designers while building Zakoopi, they would visit a lot of designers. They saw women flocking to designers in numbers, but they would never purchase. While interacting with these women, the major reason they never purchased was very high prices. While interacting with designers, they said the high price was due to lack of economics of scale.
While traditional brands are not able to experiment much due to large design production cycles and high risks of non performing inventory, designers who were able to experiment and produce unique garments lacked economics of scale. They thought if unique designs are provided at great prices, there is a market to it. A digital platform would allow them maintain a high velocity of new design launches with minimal initial inventory which would help prospective customers get lots of unique styles. High in demand styles would be mass produced giving benefits of economics of scale and resulting in great prices for customers.
To maintain uniqueness of new designs, they made existing customers vote them before actual sale; only designs which were above the benchmark, made it to final merchandise. Rustorange was launched in beta version with the above business model in late 2016.
What challenges did you experience in starting up Zakoopi and Rustorange?
The major challenges faced by us during our tenure –
- Building the correct team – Startups are all about people. Great companies are built by great human beings. In our initial days, it was really challenging to get talented and persistent individuals to join us.
- Working capital management – We have raised very minimal capital in the last five years. When we started Rustorange, we were determined to grow it in a profitable manner. But there were times, when working capital management was really tough.
- How to produce great designs?- Designing a process for selecting designs and getting a talented team to do it was a challenging task.
- Focus and Persistence – In the last five years, the world around us has seen demonetization to the pandemic. For a young company it has been challenging to keep us and our team focussed and passionate irrespective of whats happening outside.
Has the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business?
Apart from short team fund flow issued, the COVID pandemic has impacted the business in a positive way.
- Access to new customers – A lot of customers who had never purchased online started trying new brands as they were not able to step out due to travel restrictions.
- Better business metrics – With a lot of companies reducing their marketing spends a lot of idle media inventory was available. This led to reducing marketing costs.
- Better hiring – With work from home work model doing so well, we are now able to hire candidate who are in all parts of the country.
- Business shutdowns gave us an opportunity to take a pause and holistically look at how we were building Rustorange. We got rid of non-core activities like inventory management, order dispatches and are now focusing on things that really matter
- Already hitting higher revenue numbers than pre-Covid levels
Please elaborate on the feedback from your customers.
Some of the feedback has been:
- New Product Development – To maintain uniqueness of new designs, existing customers vote them before actual sale.
New design illustrations are voted via Instagram Stories by all our followers. Only designs which were above the benchmark make it to final merchandize for soft launch.
- After Sale Customer Feedback – Customers are given incentives to give feedbacks on design, quality, fit, material etc. post purchase. The same is passed on to product development and production teams to implement the suggestions.
Customers are also given incentives to share their pictures wearing Rustorange garments, which helps prospective customers get a real world feedback on look of our garments.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
The brand of first recall in the ethnic/fusion wear segment; mastering the omni-channel play in a way that hasn’t been done yet in India; and clocking annual turnover of at-least INR 200 crore.
Rustorange is a 100% sustainable D2C Indian fashion brand. The company was started in 2016 by three B-school friends Samik Sarkar, Shashank Agnihotri and Kuvalaya Singh. It purely performs through innovation-driven culture by adopting data-driven solutions and interactive experiences to build its retail models which they call Democratic Fashion.