Tell us about yourself and your background
Before starting KAARYAH, I was the Director, Strategy at Honeywell India, where I helped develop the Space and Missiles business enabling component sales for the ‘Mangalyaan’ mission. Prior to that, I worked as a Strategy Consultant at Bain & Co. where I drafted market entry strategies for consumer goods companies. I developed and launched India’s first M commerce product at Airtel where I discovered my interest in Marketing Analysis & Strategy. I also worked at KPMG as a Chartered Accountant which was my first job. I have an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management where I was honoured with the Dean’s Service Award.
Tell us about the company you have set up – when did you set it up, what products or services do you provide, what is your target market?
Launched in September 2013 to cater to the largely underserved women’s Western wear category in India, KAARYAH is a technology enabled, consumer data driven apparel brand. With the latest and largest catalogue of Western wear for women in India, we offer the perfect fit in Western apparel from everyday office wear to non-casual party wear.
Focused on solving the problem of fit in women’s Western wear, our extensive research has enabled us to crack the concept of fit down to tangible IP and arrive at 18 different sizes that account for all the different fits and shapes of Indian women. We have achieved an 85% parity of fit, which is unmatched by anyone else in this space.
Any woman who wants a wardrobe solution that helps discover not just the perfect fit but flatters her body type in feminine and fashion-forward Western wear is our target market.
Why did you set up the company? / What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
It started with a white shirt, or the lack of finding one thereof. The business idea came to me as I spilled some coffee on myself just before I had to catch a flight to attend a meeting. After looking for a new shirt in a mall in Gurgaon, I still wasn’t able to find one that fit me right.
That got me thinking. I decided to find out if other women face similar problems. Therefore, I ran a survey across 250 women to find the answer to this, and a whopping 80 per cent mentioned that they also face the same problem: fit was always an issue. I could clearly see a white space there and decided to launch KAARYAH, a brand that not only offers the latest fashion but came in 18 different sizes to offer the best possible fit.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
As far as business challenges are concerned, raising funds was difficult. I pitched profusely on phone, in-person and through emails over 365 days for KAARYAH. I didn’t surrender as I was convinced that I had a good business idea. Finally, I was able to raise my first round from none other than Mr. Tata, Mr. Mohandas Pai and The Saha Fund.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Creating the “What’s My Size” algorithm that has proven 85% accuracy of fit of KAARYAH clothes sold online. The industry benchmark return rate for fit is ~15-30%. KAARYAH.com return rates are 3-10% backed by this algorithm. This algorithm was made ground up by studying 1500 women, mapping international fit standards and breaking the standard grade rule that India follows for apparel.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My parents. They have offered unconditional support to me throughout my journey so far and have always taught me to put hard work and perseverance above everything else. This is also the reason why 112 rejections from different investors did not deter me from pursuing my venture and it paid off as finally we got funded.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I like to watch movies and listen to music. Aside from this ensuring that I have breakfast every morning with my parents, spending time with Speedy (my dog) is a good way to ensure you get a reality check on who you are at heart and outside of work.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
Have faith in your venture and let hard work and determination be your greatest drivers at all times.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
I spend time off work with a number of peer entrepreneurs who are also my friends and we discuss multiple aspects about having your own venture and running it. We also exchange ideas and brainstorm together often.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
I think a democratic way of marketing brands would go a long way and therefore a true product would win not just deep pockets.
What does the future hold for you?
We aim for a steep growth trajectory. From 2500 orders a month till just 2 months back to these many orders every 10th day today, we are witnessing enormous consumer interest in our offerings. Our aim is to support and fuel this growth further. That would require automation and capacity building on the operations alongside branding efforts.
We would also like to keep beating the consumer expectations around fits and designs and will continue to offer western wear that suits the needs of today’s modern woman.
Nidhi Agarwal is the Founder & CEO of KAARYAH Lifestyle Solutions. Aside from being invested in by Mr. Ratan Tata, KAARYAH has recently raised its Series A funding from The Saha Fund & Mr. Mohandas Pai.
KAARYAH has been recognized as CNBC’s Young Turk in 2015 and has also been featured on Start up Grind (powered by Google), Bloomberg TV’s “Women Mean Business”, SHEROES, Intel Innovates & Heads Up on NDTV. KAARYAH also delivered a TedX Talk this year in November at IIM Kolkata. Also, at 18 months KAARYAH is the youngest online start up to have been recognised as a Top Digital Company and India’s Top 60 Women Entrepreneurs. Aside, KAARYAH is the only online brand to have participated in a Fashion Week (Rajasthan Heritage Week) alongside designers like Hemant Trivedi & Ritu Kumar. Nidhi was chosen to be a panelist on DIPP’s Startup India initiative for “Innovative Women Entrepreneurs” where she was also chosen (amongst only 8 others) to showcase KAARYAH to the Prime Minister of India.
Nidhi has 15+ years of experience in Strategy, New Technology Marketing and Finance. Before launching KAARYAH, Nidhi was Director, Strategy at Honeywell India where she helped build their Space & Missiles business. Prior to that she has strategized for Bain&Co. and Airtel and was an auditor at KPMG. She is a certified Chartered Accountant and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management where she earned the prestigious Dean’s Service Award.