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The Clothing Rental - Specializes in Indian as well as Western Wear for Women and Men

We have 3 verticals : Menswear , Womenswear and Indian wear. The Indian wear is targeted for the bridal industry, that market size is 100,000 crores Menswear market is stated to grow 9% per annum and reach a 1,76,000 Crore by 2020.

Started in 2005, The Clothing Rental has been a secret destination for the film and media industry professionals. A favorite of top stylists, celebrities and fashionistas The Clothing Rental has dressed the best names in the country. The startup was founded by Shilpa Bhatia, an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience as a stylist, public relations, brand building and business development specialist.

She lives and works between Mumbai and New York. Shilpa holds degrees in Sociology, Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing from SNDT, IED Milan and Parsons New York. She keeps her self-updated on latest consumer trends, finance, business and technology.

In an interaction with BWDisrupt Team, Shilpa Bhatia, Founder, The Clothing Rental, shares journey of her venture.

What inspired you to start this business? What are the unique key features/services?

More than a decade ago, in 2005 when I was an established fashion and costume stylist for ad films, press campaigns and more. Very often we had a need for fine clothing on shoe string budgets. Since a shoot only lasts a few days, buying something didn't make relevant sense. We also had limited availability of western trends, I noticed certain key pieces were in high demand and often expensive. I borrowed a small seed capital of 10 lakh rupees from my very first investor and went on a shopping spree. Soon I had to add more funds. Luckily for me this was a off-shoot of my primary service. I made money by styling and not having any real income through the rental.

It eased my styling life and it made sense to me at that point.

Eventually there came a time in my life when I had started another business and lost a lot of personal savings in that, and was wondering if I should keep the rental alive or look into other options. I'd be honest it was some tough times then. One of my friend recommended me to seek business mentoring.

11 entrepreneurs were selected to meet a mentor (little did I know this mentor was an angel investor), 10 of the other entrepreneurs came out of the session with sad faces, I was wondering how will someone help me or guide me here.

I didn't expect much, however it turned out to quite an entertaining meeting, he asked me for my business plan, business brochure, marketing material or just a plain simple business card. I didn't have any of those, he was surprised but I more than made up for the lack of relevant material by my passion for my business. I knew what I was doing and what people wanted. He gave me some extremely helpful tips and I implemented all of those over a period of 2 years.

That meeting helped me to realize that my business has potential to scale. I started investing and understanding it better to structure it for growth.

Our USP is offering great product at a great price with a big smile. We love to help our clients and we make them feel special.


We are privately funded. Currently we aren't seeking funding. Focusing on steady growth.

Traction details, future plans and marketing plans

Over the years, we have expanded into 2 retail stores in Mumbai's prime locations : Bandra and Versova.

To create brand awareness and generate traffic we concentrate our efforts on digital growth website, building iOS and Android App. On a conservative side, I would say we rent 1000 units a month (this number has been doubling since last 3-4 years).

Future Plans: Omni Channel Expansion

Grow in every direction where our clients need us. We are building a strong base that we can scale from.

It's important for us to have the base in place. Supply chain, vendor management, logistics, employee retention and customer loyalty. Once these are in place we are in good health to scale as we like.

Challenges faced since inception

Initial challenge was to convince people that one can rent high fashion clothes for cheap. Many ridiculed the concept by calling our products fake or replicas. That was discouraging, but you can't let others ignorance disturb your inner peace.

Once they realized the product is great yet they get it cheap, often they don't respect the product.
So I would say educating the consumer is a big challenge. As the consumer is a certain mindset that can be detrimental to a good business. Yet customer is always right, so learning to balance the fine line is a big one.

Second challenge is that when people notice you do something well, they want to copy you.
We've had many come in to our stores, pretend to be clients and then go ahead and copy everything we do.

I take this as a compliment as first people ridicule you, then they imitate you and finally they step out of the way and respect you. The ball has started rolling :)

Market size & opportunity

India is an immense market, it's a diamond mine waiting to explode. There is a market for retail and then a secondary market for rental or resale.

We have 3 verticals : Menswear , Womenswear and Indian wear. The Indian wear is targeted for the bridal industry, that market size is 100,000 crores Menswear market is stated to grow 9% per annum and reach a 1,76,000 Crore by 2020. As for Womenswear, we all can notice that the western wear category is getting well accepted in conjunction with the ethnic wear. And I believe that we will achieve growth in all three verticals, being a decade into the business we have learnt which vertical to focus more on and which trends to pick on.

Our aim is to get a small share of the enormously big pie, the small share might not be that small once put in perspective.

This is India, with our brand name 'The Clothing Rental' we have the world open for us to grow anywhere. We are in talks with parties to expand into US, UK and China. However we are still in initial talks. I would say rental and shared economy is the future trend and the world is ours to conquer.

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