Weekly Startup Profiles > Myntra Designs
|How often do you get to create the product you buy? Mukesh's brainchild Myntra lets you do just that. A bit of tweaking is all it takes to set up a one stop personalized product solutions company.|
Online personalized merchandise/gifting service
Mukesh Bansal may not be the best company to have for a shopping expedition, or even a dinner date. For, he is not your usual kind of customer. The boring sameness of mass produced goods is not for him, nor the monotony of menu cards. In fact, he admits that he has often asks restaurant chefs to tweak the dishes to suit his palate.
Mukesh - the buyer - wants to see a reflection of him in every little thing he pays for. Mukesh - the entrepreneur - wants to give the same to his customers. It was this thought that led him to create Myntra Designs - a one stop personalized product solutions company.
A Computer Science graduate from IIT Kanpur, Mukesh began his career by working for Deloitte Consulting in the US in 1997. A part of him always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he soon realized that his experience in Deloitte was not helping him gather the skills required to start a venture.
So he quit in 1999 and in the next seven years worked for four startups: Nextag and Newscale in customer space and Ewanted and Centracta in enterprise software. In his last two jobs at Centracta and Newscale, he often traveled to India. The country had changed phenomenally from the time he had left as a fresh graduate, and he began to see the emerging opportunities in the country. So he returned to India in September 2006 to start his own venture.
A brainstorming session with friends in Bangalore saw tons of business ideas flying - from mobile technologies to social networking - but it was the idea of personalized shopping that stuck
It perhaps had something to do with his mindset as a shopper. "I was thinking...can we do something that can make people more creative? Can I help them make products themselves? Can we help them communicate through the internet?" shares Mukesh.
Myntra was an answer to these questions.
Through Myntra's online portal, customers can select from the 15 'personalizable' products - like t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, calendars, watches, teddy bears, pendants and jigsaw puzzles - and create their own designs or select from the online design library for it. Customers can order for the products online and Myntra will home deliver them within three days.
His research comprised simple math: At least 100 million people made three to four gifting choices annually in India. At least 50 million had access to the internet, out of which 4 million had broadband connection. This was the market Mukesh wanted to tap with Myntra.
In mid-2006, there were no large companies with good funding in this niche space of on-demand personalization in the country. However, US companies like Zazzale and Cafepress had built success stories around this idea, and Mukesh closely followed their strategy.
Initially, Mukesh assumed his target customers to be individuals who will go the extra way and pay the extra money to personalize their products. Few months after launching the online portal, he was forced to change strategy to accommodate the growing demand from groups too.
Mukesh strategically placed Myntra to take on the demand for mass personalization, coming from project teams for their milestone celebrations, farewells and fan clubs. Corporate gifting players wanted volume but team level requirements were not that much. Some kiosks and small stores provided personalized gifting options but they required in-person communication which was inconvenient.
"We developed products relevant to the group. An easy-to-use online interface allowed customers to choose products and create designs on their own or use the design library. Our customer support team ensured timely delivery and a pleasant customer experience," Mukesh points out.
Myntra's trump card is the 1,500-strong community of designers from whom they source over 10,000 products and designs. "We decided to attract freelancers through online marketing, alumni networks and design contests rather than hire our own team. Each time a design sells, the designer gets royalty. Additionally, we give away prizes worth Rs 25,000 every month for the best designs, which also helps in viral marketing," Mukesh explains.
A few players have emerged in the similar merchandise space in the last one year, like Dilsebol.com, hepfly.com, pringoo.com and genome.in, but Mukesh is not wary of competition yet.
"Presently, the market is huge and we have only occupied 0.01% of it. There is more than enough room for everyone. In fact, it doesn't even make sense to compete. We are only focused on staying ahead of the demand," Mukesh feels.
Mukesh was planned for his start-up well in advance, saving money during his years in the US to fund his enterprise. He began by investing Rs 30 lakh and later received funding from Erasmic, an early stage funding company and four angel investors. Myntra has received up to $ 1 million till date.
"At present, we are managing the burn rate well. However, there is a risk of the business becoming cash guzzling, especially when we scale up," he admits.
Mukesh?s best experience in Myntra was when his founding team of six came together. Vineet Saxena and Ashutosh Lawania were his juniors from IIT Kanpur, Rahul Agrawal was an alumnus of IIM Bangalore, Sankar Bora was from REC Calicut and Raveen Sastry was a graduate of McGill University, Canada. Four of them had prior startup experience.
The opportunity to start something new enthused them. The six-member team has now grown to 25, covering sales, operations and product development.
"If you have a good team, you can overcome any setback. I knew it theoretically, but now I am learning it in real life," says Mukesh.
Myntra is growing at a rate of 30% month-on-month, with over 12,000 items shipped every month. Over 100,000 people have used Myntra products in the last 12 months. The company recently partnered with large websites including ibibo.com, bigadda.com, indyarocks.com, chakpak.com and holidayiq.com to drive traffic.
Mukesh believes they have a long way to go. "Our business seems simple but it is evolved. In the last 18 months, we have only managed to resolve one-third of the problems. There are issues of data management, backend automation and scaling in terms of products, operations and locations that we need to tackle," he says.
The focus in the coming years will be on building a network of suppliers, getting the best designers and enabling personalization of newer products. "We are working towards creating a brand that will stand for creativity and customer experience," Mukesh adds.
"Profitability is not the only priority; creating wealth for the stakeholders is more important. Building Myntra into a big company is my key concern," he says.
As an entrepreneur, you have no boss or organization to blame when things go wrong. You are in control and completely accountable for your actions. Entrepreneurship comes with immense responsibility.
I worked for four startups, out of which two failed. One of them was formed during the dotcom boom, and was cash rich. But they made poor choices, blew money and finally shut shop. The second company was a high profile venture, with a great team and excellent execution. But the business model wasn't clear; the strategies were too flexible and this lack of commitment led to its fall. These were important lessons to me.
My biggest fear is not having enough funds to pay my employees. I can handle the panic moments that comes with the day-to-day running of a startup, but not having funds is a scary thought.
In India, students are taught to believe that you either join a large company through placement, or opt out of placement and start your own company.
For students who eventually want to become entrepreneurs, there is a third untold option - the option that Mukesh Bansal took.
When Mukesh graduated in 1997, he asked himself: "What skills would I need to become an entrepreneur? What work experience would be relevant to start a company? How can I grow, personally and professionally, to take on the leadership role?" He consciously chose to get ten years of startup experience before taking the plunge.
Myntra's success is directly linked to the experiential learning Mukesh gained from working at startups.
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