Chartered Accountant and business graduate from Kellogg School of Management, Nidhi Agarwal was well placed as Director – Strategy & New Business Development at Honeywell India. She was learning how to conceptualise and deploy new business models across complicated businesses like space & missiles, automation controls etc. There was no imminent need to give up her successful corporate career and embark on the tough journey of entrepreneurship…except, there was! Nidhi enjoys being a problem solver and the tougher the problem, the harder she works and greater is her joy.
“KAARYAH was born when I realized that something as basic as well fit western wear for Indian women was hard to find. As a corporate woman with a busy lifestyle myself, I understood the importance of well-fitted, functional, feminine and fashion-forward western formal wear. There was a large unmet need for these across age groups, no matter what their occupation was. I therefore, focused on bridging the gap between western formals and the Indian silhouette, its perfect fit and a variety to choose from. After 1.5 years of market and product-related research focusing on challenges with the current set of options available, I launched KAARYAH in September 2013,” says Nidhi.
Women’s western wear: A growing segment in India
An increase in disposable incomes and more women joining the workforce has led to apparel brands seeing significant growth in the women’s western wear segment. Add to these, the growing fashion consciousness of women, aspirations of women in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well as offerings of affordable fashion by multinational brands – all these put together are driving the evolution of this product segment and offering opportunities to startups like KAARYAH. The company targets discerning women in the 25-35 year age group and prices its garments at Rs 1,500-2,000.
Nidhi says “Global brands do not cater specifically to the Indian audience but they have built a brand name in the past 10 years. What makes customers opt for KAARYAH over the foreign brands is First Tim Right Fit, Parity of Fit across categories and product innovation. KAARYAH’s NPS is +90% for Fit with respect to brands like M&S, Vero Moda etc.”
The Perfect Funding Fit!
That Nidhi faced over a 100 rejections before she found funding is a well-known story in startup circles today. When validation finally came to KAARYAH, it came from none other than the iconic business leader Ratan Tata, making it indeed the perfect fit for this startup!
Ever an optimist, Nidhi says, “One of the hardest things has been obtaining funding. It took 365 days and 113 presentations on phone, in person and/or email to finally close it on the 365th day. Marching ahead with a smile and not giving up was not easy but that is exactly what I did with greater fervour with every rejection.”
Focus on Unit Economics
Having no background in fashion, it was quite challenging for Nidhi to crack this market but she saw the need gap clearly and entered the industry only after detailed data-led research, leaving nothing to chance. KAARYAH’s Gurugraam based production facilities manufacture over 2000 pieces per day and are capable of going upto 10,000 if required and the company has been close to breaking even twice since its inception.
“Once we almost broke even only 14 months into operations and the second time at 30 months. KAARYAH is a unit economic positive business model and profitability alongside brand has always been the driving factor for all decisions,” Nidhi says.
With an online first distribution model, KAARYAH derives 60% of its revenues from its website and the rest from online fashion aggregators. Stemming from the Hindi word “karya” meaning “work”, the company indeed has its work well cut out for the future – to be India’s largest tech-enabled women’s wear brand!