In the year 2016, Shweta Poddar started CandidKnots, an online rental in Bengaluru to make men’s designer wear affordable. She raised funding from Bootstrapped. As all can see, the fashion business is growing faster than any other business in the country. On the other hand, online stores made it easy for women to afford designer wears from luxury brands like Chanel or Sabyasachi. So, Shweta Poddar decided to open online rental fashion space for men.
The Erode-based VIT graduate hails from a family which runs textiles business from Surat to Kolkata. Shweta says, “I knew I would use this service, and that there are 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 the sharing economy."
Realising the potential for men’s fashion in an online rental, Shweta focused on the men fashion space category. Bootstrapped and Shweta’s own savings of Rs 10 lakh became base for CandidKnots. Shweta says, “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."
Shweta's CandidKnots took two years to be partnered with six designers. And today, it offers tuxedos, suits, sherwanis, blazers, bandi, bandgala, and Indo-western fusion wear to the men under age 45-years.
Shweta, unlike others, decided to make a 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 a lot of work concerning setting process which required my full-time involvement."
Shweta talking about her initial days says. “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.”
Today, she has a team of 12 which also includes her brother Rishi Poddar, 24, an alumnus of NIT Trichy who leads the product development team. Puneet Jain, 27, from VIT, is the marketing head.
How her business grew:
Shweta says,“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."
CandidKnots rents clothes for the wedding, pre-wedding photoshoots, fashion shows, meetings, conferences, interviews, corporate events, college farewell/convocation and annual days. Also, it has an offline store in Bengaluru where the size of the outfits can be checked.
The startup receives 6,000 orders per year, with average order size of Rs 1500. In the last 1 year, they had a turnover of around Rs 80 lakh. The status is now in look for raising funds to expand in Delhi and Mumbai.