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Kajol Taneja

The author is Intern with BW Businessworld

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We are working to convert replica buyers to authentic renters: Chinmoy Panda, Founder, Date The Ramp

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Chinmoy Panda, Founder, Date The Ramp, talks about business model, investment, funding and more

1. Brief us about your business model like how did the idea come to start and how does it work (step by step procedure)?

During a chance conversation a few years back, I learned about how people wanted real designer products but faced two barriers: high cost and low availability. They ultimately settled for replicas but there was the regret of compromise. It struck me that technology/Internet combined with a new-age sharing model could reduce cost and increase availability of authentic designer products. This would make high fashion convenient and accessible to a greater number of people, bypassing ownership and enabling the experience.

How it works is that people apply for membership (which is free). After membership is approved, they may do Personal visit or Virtual visit (video call) to any of our stores in 9 cities. During pandemic, we have also introduced Home Trials. Once they select a product, they can book it for their occasion. It is completely headache-free: alteration, delivery and return pick, and all cleaning and sanitisation are done by us and are free. They do not have to pay a security deposit (and wait for refund), there’s no advance payment, no damage penalty in case of accidental damage. In short no tricks, only old-world warmth.

2. What are the unique key points of your company?
The largest collection of 5000+ authentic designer products, 100% authentic and purchased direct from designers, 150+ designers represented under one roof, retail presence in 10 cities.
Our flagship stores in Delhi and Mumbai, at 12,000 sq ft each, are the Largest Fashion Rental stores in the entire world!

3. How are you different from the existing competitors?
Our membership-based approach elevates rental to aspiration, ensures personalized service since we know our members closely, and generates unparalleled convenience.
Ours is the easiest and most convenient method to experience authentic designer fashion, anywhere in the world.
We own our inventory of products, which guarantees authentic quality for our members.

4.What is the funding status and monetization model?
DateTheRamp is entirely bootstrapped, self-funded as of now. Monetization is based on value and consumption of our service.

5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?
The lack of focus on making durable products hits us hard. Even some top designers fail on this count. We have learnt and include only durable products in our inventory now.

For us, replica makers who rob the creative output of designers, are the true enemy. We are working to convert replica buyers to authentic renters. The inability of some designers to understand that we are on the same team, and that we expand their market reach, is disappointing.

If you’re asking about challenges during pandemic, the core challenge is that we deal with women’s occasionwear. Since occasions are muted or negligible during this time, the core driver of demand for our service has been impacted.

6. How has been the people's response so far?
Great. The uptake is very good, and our fears of whether we could succeed in convincing people about new concepts - fashion rental, membership, authentic - have proven exaggerated. People understand naturally.

7. What are the traction details (like users, app downloads & other achievements of the company)?
We have had 150k+ people who have applied for membership, and every day 500+ people apply. These are people who fill in a questionnaire about lifestyle, consumption patterns, and so on - so there is engagement and intent.
Revenue was picking up beautifully after we opened our stores in November, but in 4 short months the pandemic locked down things. It will pick up again now.

8. How do you look at expansion?
Demand and risk appetite are the parents of expansion. We will expand in various directions - cities, categories, price range, service packaging - while sticking to our core ethos of making fashion sustainable through new-age sharing.

9. What are your marketing plans?
We are looking ahead to a massive year in 2021. We expect it will be our breakout year. We will extend our service to 100 cities, bank on celebrity-led awareness but continue secrecy, and launch new categories and services. Sustainability and circular fashion will be the cornerstone of our brand, with an exclusive bridge into celebrity fashion being our consumer proposition.

10. What has been the biggest learning so far?
Our biggest learning has been that we underestimate the consumer. People can understand value and luxury even when they’re together. We did not have to push as hard on concept selling as we thought we’d have to, and the credit for that goes to the smart consumer who can understand things for herself.

11. What is the market size and opportunity?
Womenswear in India is about 150,000 crores. This is all purchase. In 5 years, rental should start mainstreaming and have 1-5% of the entire market, which would be at 250,000 crores. That’s a billion-dollar revenue opportunity we’re looking at, and the only way ahead is up.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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