From Not Finding One Good Saree To Selling Loads
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I have observed that every Indian residing outside India, even for a couple of months, go through their own ‘Swades' moment. Call it nostalgia, the food or just simple traditions, everyone goes through this pull.
Shailesh Jain, Co-Founder of Mirraw, India’s leading online marketplace for ethnic wear, felt the same pull when he first thought about buying a Saree for his mother after receiving his first pay check. Who would have known then that his inability to find a good Saree in US would be his pull towards both India and entrepreneurship.
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
Discussing Shailesh’s 'swades' moment, we had a heart to heart conversation with him about Mirraw and his entrepreneurial life.
Was entrepreneurship something you always wanted to do?
I am a first generation entrepreneur with a keen interest in marketing and technology. After completing my bachelor’s in computer technology from VJTI, I moved on the US to complete his Masters from Carnegie Mellon University.
Hence, entrepreneurship was not planned as such but the idea of coming back to India was there in the hindsight always.
From your inability to buy a Saree to establishing a fully fledged business, how did it all happen?
Our culture is deeply rooted with our parents. When I was in US and got my first job, just like most Indians, I thought of buying a Saree, but at that point in time 2009, I just couldn’t. That’s when the thought originated. When I bumped into my friend and (now) co-founder Anup we spoke of starting up and came back to India.
At that point in time, our country was just ripe for ecommerce. Our goal was to create value through a large business that solves a large problem.
According to a report from Technopark, ethnic wear market is a $15 billion market. Highly unorganized market with gaps that only technology could address.
The pinch of 2009 and the Indian ethnic wear market felt just the right opportunity. Mirraw.com was launched in May, 2011 with my co-founder Anup Nair.
Well a mirror is close to each one of us while dressing and part of our everyday lives. We felt that once dressed up the reflection of beauty is best shown by a Mirror. We just gave it a latin twist and coined the term Mirraw – Reflects the true beauty.
Describe your personal entrepreneurial battle.
Remember the movie “The Walk” the building on the other side is the opportunity, the pole is your team, the rope is your cash (too thin and you die, too thick and you burn unnecessarily) people watching beneath are the sellers who sell on Mirraw.com
We faced huge challenges to have the right pole (the team) a lot of people didn’t feel that we could sell sarees and salwars online and didn’t join us. This meant we do a lot of things ourselves. The rope (Cash) has been a challenge that we have managed to deal with through Jugaads and intricate maths. We do not believe in branding opportunity that cannot be tracked. Our marketing has been strictly ROI based. Back in 2013 it would be close to 30 people in a 700sq. ft office!
The people beneath (our sellers) similar to the candidates had their doubts. It was a huge challenge. We had to show them our office, the process (manually most of the time) and get them on board.
Who do you look up to as an entrepreneur?
I admire Elon Musk a lot. Big fan! His ability to think Mega scale plus problem solving skills as an engineer is something I really appreciate.
What keeps you motivated?
As soon as I wake I have to spend some quality time with my son. It makes me feel closure to life and gives me the much required energy to take on challenges.
The goal of reaching 1500 crores by 2018 is another goal that keeps me motivated.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you because of Mirraw?
Not been able to sleep out of joy! When we shipped a product over 17000kms to Chile that feeling was so exhilarating. Still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.
What are some of your favourite books and movies?
I am digital entrepreneur so I read a lot of blogs on technology. I follow Jason Fried, Adam Hunting and Elon Musk.
In movies, Lagaan has been a great favorite of mine. How a small farmer takes on the British regime. It really reflects an entrepreneurial journey on how his idea is rejected, and then accepted to finally taking on the challenge and overcoming it. Simply brilliant!