If you now want to dump your so called NY-T Shirts and add Indian-ness to your tees then here goes your choice.
Meet Navneet Rai and kashyap Dalal, the two IITians and the owner of Inkfruit.com. Inkfruit.com is a platform where you can upload your designs and the popular and the best designs get rewards. In addition, these designs then are printed in tees, mugs and knickknacks. Let’s hear the story of Inkfruit from the founders:
How was the beginning? What was the inspiration to launch inkfruit?
We were really excited about the merchandise space in India to start with. The gap between India and the more developed countries in 2007 was very stark when it came to quality creative merchandise – there were only a few brands and even there the offerings were largely stereotyped.
We were fascinated by a scalable model in this space that could offer a truly differentiated product. Using the Internet to build a large community of people who would together co-create seemed to be a challenge attractive enough to pursue. The model would give an amazing opportunity to artists across India (and outside) and we believed that such a model would bring about a design revolution, leading to amazing designs across product categories. That’s what got us started.
We aspire to be the first company to have all major decisions governed by its customers rather than internal team members. This would be a major shift in the conventional working of things. We believe that this model will also lead to Inkfruit offering an unparalleled level of creativity and quality in product design.
What opportunities and challenges are there for a new entrant in creative merchandise space? What was the toughest challenge for you?
I think Entrepreneurship is all about facing one hurdle after another. Infact I think we would be worried if suddenly there weren’t any hurdles to face – cause that would mean we aren’t doing anything different.
We started with the initial hurdle of picking up skills needed in product creation. Navneet and I (Kashyap) are not from the apparel field and one of our biggest product categories is T-shirts. So we picked up the ropes in this area – and being outsiders to the field, we ended up creating the best quality of merchandise as we saw everything from the consumers’ eyes.
Next was the entire task of making designers feel secure participating on the site and starting the community that has now grown to 10,00,000 people. The initial growth in this area was very gradual. But having got the initial members, the spread has been really rapid due to the engaging nature of the model.
Post this challenge, the next one was to convince investors about the scalability of such a business.
Currently we are facing the hurdle of scaling up our operations beyond apparels as a category and also scaling up the team as volumes grow.
For a new player, the initial challenges will be about sourcing products and finding the first few customers. There is a lot of inertia that a new player faces from all business partners, and it’s a critical challenge to negotiate and push things through for the first 6 months.
What has been your marketing strategy?
Our marketing plan is to keep our customers happy, so that they talk about Inkfruit to others. Apart from this, our artists are our ambassadors. We are always looking for ways to make things more fun for them.
According to you, what are the low cost marketing tools available for start-ups in this space?
Word of mouth is the best low cost tool available. If the initial customers are happy, they will surely lead the spread of the brand/site.
Is there any special qualification required to enter into this space?
The critical areas for this space are strength in creation of great designs liked by customers, sourcing/production of the merchandise, managing and growing sales channels, ensuring great customer care and managing finance. Experience in these fields would help.
What are your future plans for Inkfruit?
Our vision is to be the leading democratic product company. We plan to expand into all categories where products can be offered through community co-creation. Inkfruit.com will be a destination for artists and customers looking for creative products. There are plans for expansion into categories like apparel, accessories, bags, footwear, stationary, home decor and many others.
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