Imagine if you were asked to create a profitable ecommerce venture, match it with the scale of funded companies and reach a milestone of 100cr. completely Bootstrapped! (Are you ready??)
I’m sure you must have not heard about Mirraw and by that nature myself as well 🙂 By qualification I am an engineer and by profession a tech entrepreneur.
Back in late 2000’s I was doing my engineering from VJTI along with my co-founder and then buddy Anup Nair. Post engineering, I went for further studies to Carnegie Mellon University, US whereas Anup took up a job with Microsoft. Post studies I took up a job at VM ware. Life was good and had all the good comforts of life. (House, car, etc, etc)
Ecommerce ventures were booming that point in time in the US. When my first pay cheque came in, I thought of buying a saree for my mom (how Indian :)) but to my surprise I couldn’t find any service that could get me a good authentic saree, gift wrap it nicely and get it delivered. That was when I realized the gap!
Fast forward a few months, I bumped into Anup and we took off for a drive to the Big Sur, California. This was a turning point. Both myself and Anup only spoke about startups & entrepreneurship. Post that meet we both decided to pack up and pursue entrepreneurship!
Both of us come from a small middle class family and our parents were surprised and shocked at our decision (recall good comforts?) No more! While doing our bit to startup we realized that the ethnic wear market in India was extremely unorganized. This was our moment of realization and we started work on it (according to a report, it’s currently pegged at $15 billion).
By May, 2011 we launched Mirraw.com – A marketplace for ethnic wear. Selling basic jewellery sets & sarees. Initially we would just list a few designers and try sell their products! It worked and one thing led to the other. Those days both of us were the receptionist, admins, operators, logistics guys 🙂 Even the website was hard coded by us! (truly bootstrapped?)
Soon word of mouth spread and we started listing more vendors, we would work almost 18 hours at a stretch. Learned all the tricks of online marketing and soon started hiring people who could be part of our vision! (Dominate ethnic wear market)
Customer feedback was also very encouraging. I recall receiving an order from Darjeeling about a Kanjivaram Saree that too for a wedding! That was one of the highlights of our business. What a difference we made into the lives of our customers.
By 2013 we were now about 40 people team and believe it or not all under a 900sq. ft office! (Money saved is Money earned)
Today we are about 150 people, all gunning towards our goal of becoming India’s largest online ethnicwear store by 2018. Let’s do this!!
How did we create a 100cr. Venture completely bootstrapped?
Recall doing everything ourselves (coding, customer support, logistics, etc) this helped us take quick decisions as well as save costs.
ROI focused marketing:
Our approach towards marketing has been very simply to generate Revenue (even today)
We stayed away from Branding. (you still haven’t heard about us…lol)
Branding may often make people feel nice and sometimes (most) you may feel you have done well for your company. But our idea since start was how do we measure the impact of branding? How can one say that a customer bought a saree because she saw a hoarding? (Idea parked)
Hiring like-minded folks:
Team that thinks together wins together! When you hire people who connect with your vision they will automatically be wanting to contribute over & above of what they can.
This type of thinking makes everyone at Mirraw.com a Jugaadu!
Super focus on customers:
We till date take each feedback very seriously. Teams are asked to resolve an issue and quality is strictly monitored. It is only because of them we have come so far.
We measured everything!
Startups often move very fast that sometimes we don’t take the effort to understand the metrics behind our execution. A habit of measuring everything from finances, customer feedback, quality, etc helps a business in our stage and beyond understand what’s going on.
We also share the bill amount of electricity with employees (unlike sending those duh emails from HR to save electricity). This way people become part of a greater cause. (Again Money saved is Money earned)
Success (measure and figure if we can repeat it?)
Failure (what went wrong and can we avoid it in future?)
Now to the important question: Why stay bootstrapped?
Simply because it’s more challenging! Performing under constraints can and will create magic. But frankly it totally depends on the course of your business.
Also you there are great learnings when you take all the decisions about your business.
So this was my story of busting a myth. Creating a profitable & scalable ecommerce venture!
Do share this story with your peers (jugaad on) & keep up the entrepreneurial fire burning.
You can connect with me on Twitter @blacklife or firstname.lastname@example.org
Big thanks to Asha & Alok for the opportunity, you guys Rock!!
Here’s the ppt presented at the Rodinhood Mumbai Open House (one rocking platform)