Whenever anyone asked her, ‘What do you want to become?’, her immediate answer was - ‘An Engineer like my dad’. Priya Wagh, Co-Founder at Mavenchic, is the perfect example of an engineer turned entrepreneur, who is using her expertise to build a venture from scratch, progressing at a steady pace to materialise her dreams.
Growing up, she found her inspiration in her father, a Civil Engineer who's now retired from the post of Director at the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. His determination and total dedication towards his work motivated Priya since childhood. Priya's mother, a homemaker, gave her and her siblings the complete freedom to do things their own way. Her elder sister is a teacher professionally and has also been a guide for Priya all through her life. Her elder brother, whom she considers her superhero, has worked with giants like Tatas and Yahoo at a senior positions, and started his own venture in Singapore called ‘Travelmob’ (that got acquired by Homeaway - the largest company in US in travel)
In January 2015, Priya and her husband Bhalchandra created Mavenchic - an online fashion & image consultancy cum e-commerce portal and is currently in the process of expanding their reach. We got Priya to feature in an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers to talk about her experience in building this startup, the journey from idea to inception, the challenges they face and the future plans. Read on to know the inspiring story of this passionate womanpreneur Priya Wagh -
Priya Wagh, Co-Founder - Mavenchic.in
CE: With Engineering and MBA background and having 6 years of work experience in Sales & Finance, why did you choose fashion industry for your career?
Priya: Having done my Engineering in Electronics and MBA in Finance, I landed up in a job which was in a different industry like most of us. It was exciting and thrilling since it was my first job and campus recruits are always paid good enough to lure the employees. Though I was making good numbers and was a star performer in my organisation, the expected growth didn't happen for a long time.
I was in a Sales & Marketing for 6 years and sticking to achieving my targets everyday and building up strategies for myself and my team to excel had become a habit.While I was working and leading a team, I somehow felt that being the best doesn’t help unless you are passionate to do the work you are doing. I used to always feel somewhere down in my heart that I may not be putting the zeal and passion I have in the right place. I somewhere felt that I have to do something different and unique. And I finally I got this opportunity to discover my true inner sense when I took a sabbatical for my pregnancy. During my long career break of 2 years, I thought that I can take up some course or do something part time instead of just sitting idle.
However, destiny had different plans for me. One day, my husband Bhalchandra (who is also my business partner today) showed me an article in Times of India and suggested me to take it as a business opportunity. It was an article about Image Management by a leading institute in the field named ICBI.
I was more than excited to take up the course as it was a business partnership course. That was my first step towards becoming an entrepreneur and first step towards entering in the world of fashion. For the first time, I had taken up something by my choice and I was so happy and thrilled about it.
CE: What was the initial motivation to build a startup surrounding women's fashion platform?
Priya: As I was taking up this full time course, I used to constantly think what next after finishing this course. What ICBI was offering as a business partnership was that - They take consultants as trainers in their institute or these consultants can also start their personal ventures such as - one-on-one consultations and trainings with individuals and corporates.
By this time, I was convinced that the scope is huge and business opportunities are unlimited. The market created by these Consultants is niche as the image consultants charge very high which would not be affordable for masses to take the service and feel the difference of image makeover. That made me think again that I had to do something different and unique - something which would reach the masses, become convenient and economical for today’s women who are continuously on the go and multi tasking, managing home, family and work.
CE: When did you first think about Mavenchic?
Priya: When I was just in my 5th session of training, I started thinking of getting this image makeover concept online and reach every women of today who thinks she is different and unique and needs to look that way. I have always believed that - A woman should not work hard to look good. She should look good in whatever she wears. Every woman has the right to look her best all the times and carrying the right image creates the first ever lasting beautiful impression that you are simply gorgeous!
While I was pursuing my certification: I was also parallely working on my website. And this was possible just because of the constant support and motivation of my husband. We started Mavenchic - a smart portal that knows everything about fashion. While online shopping is growing by leaps and bounds, we believe that shopping has to be convenient and also value added. A woman should be happy of what she has bought and return back for further purchases. It’s easier to convince consumer to buy discounted stuff, but with so many options it becomes difficult to buy the right thing. We want to be leaders in this industry and drive consumers to make every purchase thoughtfully and rightly only through Mavenchic.
CE: Why the name 'MavenChic'?
Priya: Mavenchic is the one stop solution when it comes to complete advice for image makeover and help on custom bridal styling, personal shopping, wardrobe management, corporate styling etc.
We advise women on clothes that flatter their form, colours that suit their skin, fashion trends that are here to stay and makeup tricks that save the day. We also help them curate the third layer of their outfit with coats, jackets and blazers that fit their size, shape, age and sense of personal style. It is a curatorial platform where every sale happens with exclusive advisory and hence the name MAVENCHIC- which means we are the experts and trust our advice.
From a business meeting to a social event, Mavenchic not only makes it easier and quicker to shop for all your needs, it also empowers you and helps you define and achieve your personal best for all occasions. It’s not only what you wear, but how you wear it. It’s all in the wearing!
From the perspective of a woman who is looking for customized clothing we've framed that 'M' in a stitching format. Secondly, for better understanding we want to portray that when a woman goes to a boutique the tailor marks the cloth with a piece of chalk so as to take appropriate measurements keeping that aspect of a buyer in mind we've tried to give it an emotional connect.
CE: Tell us about more your co-founder Bhalchandra.
Priya: Adept at designing strategic solutions to drive sustainable value and create competitive advantage, Bhalchandra is a Mechanical Engineer and MBA (Operations) from Mumbai University. His interests include his love of cricket, food, travel, and Pilates.But his belief on the concept and his drive to take fashion to a new level has really helped Mavenchic for a headstart. He has been a constant support and inspiration for me.
Priya and Bhalchandra - The husband-wife duo, CoFounders @ Mavenchic
CE: How does the concept of Online Image Consultation and Image Makeover works?
Priya: From wardrobe management and personal shopping to bridal packages and corporate sessions, our team of certified Image Consultants will help you master every walk of life.
CE: How do you go about getting Image Consultants on board?
- A client who wants to do her image makeover will select 1 package.
- Then she selects the consultant out of 30 consultants on board with us.
- Once she selects the consultant, Mavenchic sends her an online detailed questionnaire which includes personal colour analysis, fit and fashion analysis, lifestyle, personal style analysis and makeup analysis.
- The client fixes up the appointment online with consultant of her choice and after which Mavenchic sends an email to the client along with videoconferencing link and password confirming her appointment.
- After which the consultation takes place online via 1 hr video conferencing on the said date and time. After the consultation, mavenchic sends the client a pdf report of whatever recommendations are given to her during the consultation.
Priya: We dug all social media links like Facebook, LinkedIn and used our networking to the fullest. I myself am a certified Image Consultant from ICBI. So I knew my colleagues in Mumbai. But we needed consultants pan India. So we contacted them via LinkedIn, wrote to them, and after regular follow ups to convince them about the concept, we finally got them on board. We also conducted mock sessions with them since we wanted to tie up with the best partners. The entire process of getting the best consultants took almost 3 months for us.
CE: How big is the MavenChic team at the moment? What are your expansion plans?
Priya: We have launched Mavenchic just 2 months back. We have a founder team of two, a software guy and a creative and social media guy. We would expand our team in near future adding more skills and expertise to our organisation.
CE: What makes MavenChic different from other fashion consultation firms? How do you tackle growing competition in this space?
Priya: Indian eCommerce has been rising exponentially, providing once in a century opportunities. At the same time too many players without much differentiation are creating confusion for the end consumer. Hence, we came up with this unique idea.
Mavenchic gives a highly personalised service by understanding the requirement of its customers. Mavenchic has a defined algorithm which is designed keeping in mind the scientific process for suggesting clothes to the customer based on their body shape, personal color and personal style.
Maven chic is different as we are focusing on Third Layer fashion only & our recommendation platform is much powerful than competitors. Our competitors have an in-house styling team which gives tips on wearing clothes and accessories and helps in creating mixing and matchability options to the end consumer to create a look they desire for a particular outfit. We are one step ahead in educating women create their own looks in whatever outfit they wear - only if they follow principles and elements of design in clothing. And our expert Image Consultants would help them do so.
ICBI is more into certification programs to become Image Consultants. They cater within all major metro cities in India. I am not aware if they will be coming up with market place model. Independent Image consultants have fixed client base, works mainly on referrals & repeat business from Corporates.
We have made this very easy for the customer with just 1 click option and from the comfort of sitting at their homes. This is a unique concept wherein customers will not only take our Image consultancy services, but will also come to us for all their purchases since we have an affiliate model for fashion products like third layer to start off with. We have kept minimal rates for our services since we have a huge market here.
CE: How big is the market that you are targeting?
Priya: Our target audience is pan India. Women from age group 18 to 55, HNI women, Business women, corporate women, models, celebrities etc.
Given the young demographic which is shopping for latest look online, we estimate that fashion category will grow 400% growth in next 3 years.
Women fashion is going to remain one of the largest categories for eCommerce in India. By 2020 women apparel segment will be the largest segment overtaking men. Women are becoming more and more active online as well. By 2016, 35% transactions will be by women. For this reason, we have started with women as our target customer which will help fashion oriented women make every purchase through Mavenchic as we are a one stop advisory for all shopping needs.
Not just metros, but tier 2 cities are also growing rapidly.
With rising proportion of women joining MNCs and corporate, many of them coming from tier 2 cities feel a big gap. Gap in terms of change in their lifestyle after joining corporate and understanding of maintaining a best corporate look. So we have a huge market there as Mavenchic would solve their problem by first analysing the individuals requirement through the consultants on our panel, consult them how they can best enhance their image and platform will also suggest them the kind of third layer that will best suit on them.
Government is taking initiatives to enhance image by attempting to revamp education system to instil Image management. Some of the biggest companies are getting into image management business.
CE: Tell us about the company's expansion plans. Where do you see MavenChic 2 years from now?
Priya: We aim to become a household name by mid 2016. Our target for next two years is to add all women apparels; accessories by using the same algorithm of curative purchase and also start Image Makeover services for men soon.
We would be creating our own Niche unique brand, curated by experts, image consultants which will be positioned as a brand which has been designed specifically after lot of research for image enhancement. Initially existing manufactures would be contacted who are ready for private labeling A certain amount of inventory can be kept.
Image Consulting would expand to non Image aspects like behaviour, etiquettes and communications.
CE: What is the revenue model for MavenChic?
Priya: Direct Selling, Affiliate Commission and Ad sales.
Mavenchic’s business is not very cash intensive as we will not be keeping any inventory or working on photography/product upload. Initial major investment will be in developing the web & mobile platforms and awareness creation.
Business has high margins and is less capital intensive with major cost being marketing. Profits will eventually depend on the efficiency of our marketing efforts and by keeping the customer acquisition cost low.
We are expecting the breakeven to be reached by 5th month of our operation.
We are estimating a customer acquisition cost initially as these services will be new services for our target group and will require lot of awareness creation. This eventually should go down as word of mouth increases. Model can be scaled up fast even with a small team as we are having right technology in place.
CE: What are the biggest challenges you've had to face while running this company and how did you tackle them?
Priya: The biggest challenge is finding the right guys to join Mavenchic who are equally crazy and passionate like you, who would love to work with you the way you do and who would want to see organisation growth happening along with their personal growth.We have developed an algorithm which was the most difficult aspect. It is a very unique concept of system showing you the right third layer as per your body shape, personal colour, occasion and personal style. Developing this technology was challenging.
Customer acquisition is also challenging as getting the word out about your business and having people pay for your service which is a niche a new concept in market in a scalable way is a bit challenging.
CE: What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
Priya:To come out of your comfort zone and work for more than 16 hrs. To manage everything yourself right from idea creation to getting your first repeat customer.
It is sometimes stressful to invest your own money, time, passion, creativity - in short everything you have in a startup. Also I have a small kid named Renisha. She is 4 years old. And the most challenging thing for me to bring up two babies together: Renisha and Mavenchic. It’s the most difficult task as both need my time and care equally.
CE: Any message for young engineers and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Priya: Follow your dreams and work passionately, stay motivated, don’t get upset with failures, do better with every failure, work, work and only work. Create your milestones and be your own competition. There is nothing such as overnight success. Stay focused and don’t give up.
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