The passion of American engineers Ashri Jaiswal and Varun Ramani for fashion and the circular economy brought them back to India to launchin 2018 to make luxury fashion accessories accessible to the Indian public.
A graduate in engineering management from George Washington University, Ashri talks about a time when she always bought new clothes before the holidays since her childhood.
Varun Ramani and Ashri Jaiswal, co-founders of Ziniosa
“It was neither durable nor easy to use. Once when I went to Hawaii for a vacation I came across “Rent the Runway” and bought a few outfits from there because I couldn’t afford to buy new things every time. . I had just landed my first job and was living on my own in the United States, ”she says. His history.
This experience became the basis of Ziniosa. Founded in 2018, Ziniosa rents and resells luxury fashion accessories such as shoes, handbags and sunglasses from brands such as Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
Luxury fashion decryption
The duo spent about a year interacting with customers and researching before officially launching the startup.
Passionate about fashion, Ashri says that despite her wardrobe full of clothes and accessories, they still feel like they have nothing to wear, and she wanted to solve that problem.
However, digging deeper into and talking to shoppers outside of malls across cities highlighted four clearly defined issues.
She says affordability is the number one barrier preventing a large portion of shoppers from taking advantage of luxury brands, as these brands increase their prices by 25% every year.
The duo also noted that while luxury shoppers were on the rise in India, there weren’t any online stores for the same, just a handful of stores in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
Ashri says Millennials are a whole different demographic whose life on Instagram dictates that they don’t repeat the same outfits and accessories.
“Many, interestingly, told us that they would get a dress in the malls, wear it without removing the tag, and make the same. That’s how important it is for them to be seen in a different outfit or handbag, ”she explains.
The fourth and most disturbing of all is that these consumer trends have made fashion the second most polluting industry in the world.
The founders therefore felt that Ziniosa could be a solution that meets the needs of the public while helping to build a circular economy.
When in doubt, talk to customers
What started as a subscription rental model has pivoted twice to meet customer needs.
When the startup was selected to incubate at IIM Bangalore’s NSRCEL Entrepreneurship Center, the mentors asked the founders to break away from their assumptions about how clients want things and talk to around 1,000 people for a while. weekend.
“We opened a pop-up at the JW Marriott in Bangalore, spoke to about 500 people and found that people didn’t want a subscription model. They wanted to grab and rent anything on the website, just like any other ecommerce platform, and we made the first hub in 2019, ”recalls Ashri.
“Become completely agile and do what customers want” was the advice that continues to guide Ziniosa today.
Plus, weddings are one of the main reasons the rental of luxury accessories has thrived. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting an end to large Indian marriages for good and resulting in smaller and more intimate marriages, Ziniosa has started to lose clients and sales.
However, noting that many were looking to sell luxury goods, the startup began testing its now successful model of reselling “pre-loved” accessories by auctioning them off on Instagram.
In 2020, Ziniosa adopted the resale model with a detailed pricing method, where sellers must send photos of authenticity with the purchase price, and Ziniosa’s stylist calculates a sale price based on the condition.
This varies between Rs 15,000 and Rs 5 lakh, while the rental model charges users 8-10% of the MRP. To increase the inventory of its resale model, the startup bought products from its competitor who was closing his store.
“It really helped us get through the pandemic because so much has changed including the fact that the population doing luxury shopping on a regular basis could not travel overseas initially and started shopping for the pre-items. loved ones, ”Ashri said.
In FY21, it recorded 4.7% sales growth. Bootstrap with Rs 20 lakh, the startup reached the breakeven point in March 2020.
Embrace the praised and pre-loved fashion
“One of the biggest challenges we still face is that a lot of people don’t like to share the rented accessory. We’re trying to solve this problem through community building efforts and collaborations with influencers who believe in pre-loved articles for a circular economy, ”she says.
In fact, Ziniosa worked with Ami Pandya, a bride on the Netflix reality show Big Day, and now has all of her bridal clothes and accessories for sale on the platform. She also suggested that the proceeds from the sale go to the NGO The Railway Children fund.
In the future, Ziniosa hopes to grow further and hire more in the marketing and sales team. It also aims to grow beyond accessories and venture into portfolios such as clothing and become “the Amazon of circular fashion”.
“We also want to explore Southeast Asian markets like the United Arab Emirates to supply them with products, as there is a lot going on in the region when it comes to luxury. If they are ready to sell, I think there is a huge audience in India ready to buy, ”she says.