The Bengaluru-based startup has partnered with various high-end designers and labels, and has its own in-house brand.
At a Glance
Founder: Shweta Poddar
Year it was founded: 2016
Where it is located: Bengaluru
The problem it solves: Making men’s designer wear affordable
Sector: Online rental
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Fashion is the highest margin category in Indian retail. According to a study by online fashion marketplace Myntra, the fashion and lifestyle industry in India, now worth $100 billion, is seen growing at 15-20 percent in the next five years.
Over the last few years, online fashion rental platforms have made it easy for women to afford designer fashion from luxury brands like Chanel or Sabyasachi. When Shweta Poddar – an Erode-based VIT graduate – decided to start up, this space caught her attention. In 2016, as furniture rental had become mainstream, she decided to get into the online fashion rental space.
Shweta hails from a family that is into the textiles business, having pre-established ties with major fashion and clothes markets in India, from Surat to Kolkata. “I knew I would use this service, and that there is a customer base and market for it. But my family was not sure about the rental market. I had to convince them about the growth of sharing economy,” she says.
Bootstrapped with Shweta’s own savings of Rs 10 lakh, CandidKnots was launched in Bengaluru as an online rental platform for men’s and women’s fashion. Soon, Shweta realised women were spoiled for choice in the online fashion rental space, with established players in the market like Flyrobe and Liberent.
While women are fashion conscious, most men blindly go for the plain black suit most times. Realising the potential for men’s fashion in online rental, Shweta focused on that category.
“Data says men are more logical customers when it comes to clothes than women (who would think twice). CandidKnots was already attracting more men than women. Also, some startups with women’s only fashion rental (like Klozee and RentMyCloset) had already closed down. So I decided to focus on men’s fashion, and we are profitable already,” says Shweta.
In the initial days, not many designers were keen to partner with CandidKnots as many online rental platforms had shut down. In two years, however, it has partnered with six designers and also owns an in-house brand for classic designs.
CandidKnots offers tuxedos, suits, sherwanis, blazers, bandi, bandgala, and Indo-western fusion wear, in addition to accessories for occasions. It targets men below the age of 45.
Shweta (28) has worked with Akamai, HSBC, and Swiggy – stints from where she learnt different ways of doing things.
Bootstrapped and growing fast
Rental options often come at 10-15 percent of the original price of designer clothes. The upside is even if you wear a different outfit for each occasion, you will end up spending less than the cost of a single outfit.
Although entrepreneurs often tend to raise funding around the launch of the startup itself, Shweta decided to concentrate on profit first. “As a solo founder, I had no time to raise funds. I had a team but at the initial time of the company, there was lot of work concerning to setting process which required my full time involvement,” she tells YourStory.
Shweta now has a team of 12. Shweta’s brother Rishi Poddar, 24, an alumnus of NIT Trichy, leads the product development team. Puneet Jain, 27, from VIT, is the marketing head and helps curate the styles.
Shweta recollects her initial days. “I come from a software engineering background. Interacting with blue collar workers was a different experience. I believe I have toughened up now. Usually, I give a lot of freedom, but I learnt to micromanage them too.”
Vast customer base
According to Shweta, word-of-mouth traction has helped the business grow. “During the wedding season, we see our old customers returning with their whole family. Everyone in the family would rent suits or tuxedos to attend the same wedding. It’s a no-brainer huge cost savings for them,” says Shweta.
Apart from weddings, Shweta says, men also rent suits for pre-wedding photoshoots, fashion shows, meetings, conferences, interviews, corporate events, college farewell/convocation and annual days. It has an in-house logistics and delivery system too. On the supply side, she adds, its collection is driven by data and customer feedback/demand in terms of fabric, colour, pattern, price range, etc.
Today, they receive around 6,000 orders per year, with average order size of Rs 1500. They had a turnover of around Rs 80 lakh in the last 12 months, with 40 percent of the customers coming back within six to eight months.
CandidKnots also has an offline store in Bengaluru where customers can try on the clothes before renting them. For orders that are placed on the website, we send the selected product in multiple sizes. (It is not a showroom; but a trial section in CandidKnots’ office.) Shweta says that out of those who come to the office, there is a 95 percent conversion rate. “We have noticed that 40 percent of our customers come to the office, and they also tend to come back online frequently,” she adds.
CandidKnots offers a free three-hour delivery in Bengaluru. Cancellation and returns are below five percent, as CandidKnots keeps each item in multiple sizes. The advantage of a rental model is that for in-house designs, you can break even with a few rentals. Whatever you get later is profit.
The startup is already profitable and is looking to raise funding for expanding to Delhi and Mumbai. CandidKnots plans to start a subscription service too.