Why Mech Engineer Kapil Hetamsaria Built 'VelvetCase': A Designer Jewellery Marketplace In India
Born and brought up in Mumbai and coming from humble beginnings, Kapil Hetamsaria completed his B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from VJTI, Mumbai in 1999. In 2005, he completed MBA in Finance, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Later he worked in the field of Product Management at Dell for about a year, and then went on to become the Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co where he worked for more than 3 years. He also worked for several years at Microsoft as Director and then the Asia Lead.
In March 2013, Kapil started his own company 'VelvetCase' in India with his friend Runit Shah. A first generation entrepreneur in his family, in the last couple of years, Kapil built this portal that sells customised jewellery designs.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, we got Kapil to talk about his venture, his biggest challenges and competitors, his future scaling up plans and a lot more! Read on!
Kapil Hetamsaria, Founder & CEO - VelvetCase
CE: Give us a sneak peek into your work experience.
Kapil Hetamsaria: A typical academic background of any decently smart kid in India is where I began. Completed my engineering from VJTI, Mumbai which was among the premier institutions in the field of engineering with a 100+ year legacy when I started in the mid 1990s. While in engineering, I spent a full year learning how to cut and polish diamonds only because my mother wanted to get into the fine jewelry business. Post that spent 10 years in the US including a 2 yr MBA at The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business – Chicago Booth, as its now called. This was a turning point in my life since the school taught me how to think of fundamentals and to think big and create businesses that add real value. After spending a few years with global companies like McKinsey & Co., Microsoft, Dell, etc, I returned to India in early 2011 to create a new business unit for Microsoft. I led this business unit across Asia for over 18 months and grew it from a 5-person team to over 50 people in my tenure.
CE: When did you think of VelvetCase - the Online Jewellery Shopping Store?
Kapil Hetamsaria: Along with my co-founder, Runit Shah, I started Velvetcase in 2012 and went live with the first version of our product in Nov 2012. Velvetcase.com was born out of the need to “give a customer what they really want” – not what jewellers carry in their stock. Upon returning from the US – I went shopping with my wife for a piece of jewellery. And upon visiting among the best known jewellers in the city, she was still not 100% happy. In almost all the designs she saw, she wanted to personalize / customize the design – either with a different colour of gold or a different quality of diamond, or something else. And this was not something any jeweller was willing to do – they were interested in selling what they have since they wanted to turn over their inventory. This experience brought to light the need for a professional jewelers who a modern, working woman could visit and get what she really wanted.
CE: What were the biggest challenges you had to face in the first few months of operation? How did you tackle them?
Kapil Hetamsaria: Lots of them – from building a robust ‘zero inventory’ supply chain that can consistently deliver world-class products within a 7-10 day period to getting set up to export one piece at a time across to world to hiring the right team with the right attitude – everything required patience and persistence. Luckily for us, customers welcomed the model with open arms which has always been something we are forever grateful to our early adopters.
CE: As the CEO of your startup, you must be donning multiple hats. What parts of the company are you directly involved in? What role do you enjoy the most?
Kapil Hetamsaria: I do don a lot of hats on a day-to-day basis. However, the one that I enjoy the most is interacting with customers. It gives me an insight of what they want in terms of service as well as jewellery design. I also enjoy solving issues related to technology and coming up with solutions for a seamless user experience.
CE: Why the fascinating name 'VelvetCase'?
Kapil Hetamsaria: I have realized that a lot of times, you have to leave important decisions to the women in your life. For me, it was my wife who christened the business “VelvetCase.”
CE: Who are your biggest competitors in this domain? How do you maintain an edge over them?
Kapil Hetamsaria: It’s a first of its kind platform – a global platform to enable designers and manufacturers across the world to build their brand online. In addition to the marketplace, consumers find a lot of value in our customization features that allow them to get a unique piece designed by one of our designer partners – jewellery is always an emotional and personal purchase and we make sure we treat it as such! In the broader segment, there are a few online jewellery companies in India and globally – namely BlueNile.com / JamesAllen.com / CaratLane.com / Bluestone.com – however none of them are taking a platform or a curated marketplace approach to this segment.
CE: How do you plan to scale up from here? How do you go about reaching out to your target customer base?
Kapil Hetamsaria: Over the next 5 years, we hope to be at a $100+ USD Million (Rs. 500 Crore plus) revenue with thousands of loyal VelvetCase customers feeling proud to be a part of creating India’s first global luxury brand. Similar to how Dell revolutionized the PC industry and Amazon created an e-commerce market, we will create a model for consumers to enjoy the jewellery they buy knowing well that it’s an investment they have made for their future. Over this time, we want to be known as India’s first global consumer luxury brand specializing in high quality craftsmanship with transparent policies really making fine jewellery an asset class similar to real estate and the equity markets that people invest in for their future. The only advantage with jewellery is that people can enjoy wearing the same while their assets continue to appreciate.
CE: Any message to your readers aka engineers and wannabe entrepreneurs?
Kapil Hetamsaria: Don’t get restricted to what you can do. Engineering is a great way to build analytical skills, which can be applied to any field that you are passionate about.