Interview with Bhavana Motwani, StitchMyFit.com – India’s first marketplace of boutiques offering made-to-measure women’s wear.
Introduction : StitchMyFit.com is India’s first marketplace of boutiques offering made-to-measure women’s wear. Their lady stylists provide doorstep services to lady customers for taking measurements which are then passed to the boutique to create its design as per the customer’s fitting, thus acting as a bridge between the customer and the boutique. They also provide doorstep tailoring services.
This lean model intends to disrupt the currently unorganized boutique space by bringing them online and increasing their reach without any additional investment.
Bhavana Motwani is the person behind this venture. She is an Engineer, (MTech from IIT Roorkee), has a decade of IT experience in Indian IT giants like Infosys, MNCs like Symantec and several startups. Her last stint before founding StitchMyFit was at Localbanya as head of technology. While she was doing quite well in her career in 2015 she followed her heart and founded StitchMyFit.com. Probably the fashionista inside her decided to articulate herself to outside world.
TechXpla met with her to discuss all these pointers.
Q1. What was the motivation behind StitchMyFit.com? (were you bored as an engineer or you look at it as alliance of Bhavana the engineer and Bhavana a keen follower of fashion or simply it was expression of businesswoman wanting to be in business of fashion)
Bhavana : While working in key tech roles in early to mid stage startups, I was getting very well conversant with the inner workings of business and I was starting to realize that technology has to be an enabler for any business to scale up.
The birth of StitchMyFit was pretty much need based. While facing a personal conundrum for getting well fitting clothes, without having to waste precious hours outside the trial rooms trying to find the right fit in the non-standardized “standard” fit clothes, the thought occurred for creating a doorstep service for customizable women’s wear.
Q2. Who was your founding team? How did you find them? Who did all the work related to the website?
Bhavana : It was pretty much me in the initial days. A php developer from one of my previous organizations and I set to design the website. While I designed most of the database and backend stuff, he took the pains to make it into a very efficient and smooth user interface.
We used the codeigniter framework of php. We built features as and when we felt the requirement of those as opposed to starting with a mammoth that would have been difficult to deal with. We were careful to create small modules and features at very regular intervals and only if they were of justifiable priority.
Q3. What is your business model? Please explain in detail.
Bhavana : There are essentially two business models, each catering to a different social segment.
The first is the curated marketplace of boutiques where we enable designers and boutiques constrained in resources to increase their reach and showcase their designs beyond their vicinity. We upload their designs and attach curated customizable options in easy key-value pairs indicating what options are present with the customer. She can opt for the dress in a different colour, different sleeves, different necklines, etc. Our stylist visits the customer to take her measurements which are passed by the boutique for creating the design as per the customer’s measurements. StitchMyFit takes a percentage commission on such orders. This model is for the online shoppers who are unsatisfied with the standard sizes offered by other ecommerce portals and lack customizations.
The other model is Tailoring Services where we offer stitching on customer’s fabric. This model is for the offline shoppers who are not very comfortable with the traditional online shopping and like to purchase the fabric themselves. We help them create all kinds of designs as per their body type and preference.
Q4. This looks very much like an aggregation/marketplace kind of model. What is your differentiation? What is the user experience?
Bhavana : This is India’s first marketplace that brings a made-to-measure experience at the customer’s doorstep. This is basically serving the offline experience via the online medium. The users love the face time they get with our qualified and experienced stylists. In other ecommerce media, there is absolutely no face time, which I believe is an absolute must in something as personal as fashion and style.
Q5. Who are investors in StitchMyFit.com? When are you likely to break even?
Bhavana : I have invested my personal savings and funds raised from immediate family in this venture. At the current scale, we are likely to break even in three more months.
Q6. What is your customer acquisition strategy? How are you driving traffic to your website?
Bhavana : It is a mix of BTL and social media marketing. But I believe at the early stages of any business it is the word of mouth that matters the most and is a key driver for early traction. With meaningful tieups with other brands, one can achieve much more with limited budget. It is very important to be very clear about the target audience. It must be defined as specifically as possible. Even if you cater to a niche sub segment, you must focus and strategize toward that sub segment rather than spreading yourself thin across a larger audience.
We are working with fashion bloggers to drive relevant traffic to our website and also the SMS campaigns we run carry our link so that everything is available at the customer’s fingertips.
Q7. These are days of social e-commerce . Do you have a strategy to have your website users / customers create there content. Any other strategy to engage the users?
Bhavana : That’s a very good question indeed! Currently we do not have a big social ecommerce angle attached to StitchMyFit.com. But going forward, customers will be able to review their experiences with respect to the boutiques and designs in particular. They will be able to upload their own DIY style hack to inspire others.
Q8. What is technology roadmap for the website? Currently what tech you have deployed and planning to deploy in next 2 – 3 years .
Bhavana : We use the codeigniter framework in php for the website and its backend, with extensive use of less and grunt. Special focus is laid on designing the database tables. It has been my experience that most of the projects undergo problems with a larger volume later on in the journey if the initial steps have not been taken correctly. The right index in the right tables can make or break the efficiency of the system.
The design has to be ready for multi city launches too.
Our focus will be on developing a software that can take measurements of the user from the camera of her phone or laptop. This will be a huge game changer.
Q9. Artificial intelligence can help businesses align supply and demand, scale personal service and design better products. These are still early days for application of Artificial Intelligence in fashion but we are seeing some early adopters. What do you think of AI and how it can be employed in your business?
Bhavana : AI can definitely be used and should be used to scale personal services better. Constructing the 3D image of a person with limited measurements, recommending what textures and colours and patterns will suit based on the body type is just one of the applications. Chat bots can exchange messages and recommendations without manual intervention, designs can be created on the fly.
AI is the only way the personal touch can be retained at a large scale too.
Q10. Do you have any message/tips to budding startups founded by ladies?
Bhavana : Without wanting to generalize, I think women are born with the ability to multi task and can take more patient business and financial decisions. Women tend to do business more naturally even without a formal education in it.
My tip is to stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible and you will be surprised at the results! This quote of Muhammad Ali inspires me the most “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.”
It was indeed pleasure of TechXpla talking with Bhavana. Wish her all the best of future.