Dhruv Mehta is the founder of YourDesignerWear.com – an e-commerce store that started with selling traditional Indian wear back in 2007. Today, the store has scaled to hundreds of product categories and hoards of loyal customers majorly from the US, offering them not just the products themselves but customizations and stitching for an added level of personalization. Dhruv was kind enough to have us over and share his experience and insights from the past decade running YourDesignerWear.
What lead to starting YourDesignWear?
I had worked with this e-commerce firm for some time – gained a lot of insights and marketing skills while at it, so I decided to take a jump into e-commerce as I felt the time was ripe(this was right around the time Flipkart had taken off) and I launched two stores – yourdesignwear.com to sell ethnic and traditional Indian wear and onlinerakhistore.com – a seasonal store catering to customers who’d make purchases during Rakshabandhan(or the Rakhi festival) in India and ended up doing really good in terms of sales. Answering your question – we chose these verticals as back in 2008/9, we weren’t facing any competition in these niches which made selling that much easier for us. We just focused on some SEO and we did well – got a ton of feedback from our customers and kept adding to our catalog. When I started we just sold sarees back then, and now we’ve not only expanded into selling every other category of Indian traditional wear but also started customizing these outfits and offering stitching on our orders. This is how our ticket sizes went up – our customers asked for a service which we then added as an option for others as well. This worked well for us as >90% of our customers were Indians living outside India – where the number of tailors stitching Indian style is fairly scarce, so customers from there simply prefer having their apparel stitched from the same place where they ordered it as it’s much more convenient and cost-effective. A lot of these customers end up buying from us again owing to service quality and convenience.
Did you experience any reality hits along the way? How did you transition through such challenges?
You always see such challenges while growing your business, like initially I mentioned we didn’t have much competition compared to now where there are a ton of similar stores, pricing the product and services perfectly to be appealing both for cost and brand conscious audience while balancing profitability, getting an order from a new country/city your delivery partner doesn’t cover or has an entirely different set of Customs rules – these are some of the things we never expected to face when I started, but you eventually learn to figure them out on the fly.
Are you spending on Ads?
Yes – you have to, as the competition has heated up. We don’t go aggressive throughout the year, even yourdesignerwear has peak seasons and we tend to spend anywhere between Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 2,00,000($500-2000) a month during those periods, that too just on Facebook Ads as of now.
Do you feel your sales are somewhat proportional to your ad spend?
No. We have a lot of recurring customers and organic traffic converting, none of which is tied to our Ad spend. We heavily rely on repeating customers so as to optimize their LTVs. You can only acquire so many customers until a certain point – you have to make them return for sales to consistently grow.
If you were to start YourDesignWear or any other e-commerce business from scratch in 2019 – how would you do it?
I believe if you’re planning to get into e-commerce in 2019, you need to have strong financial backing, as e-commerce is now a business with one of the highest burn rates. The market is flooded with products and brands and you need to give your audience a reason to buy from you, which is very tough. It takes great products + great marketing to get sales. Competition’s intense and there are thousands of people spending millions on Ads – your chances get slimmer the lesser resources you deploy. You also need to be able to sustain yourself while you’re at it – profit margins aren’t the same as they used to be a few years ago. Businesses like ours are based on turnovers – the more times you repeat the cycle, the more money you end up making.
Finally, what advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs?
Just start. Wherever you’re is just as good, thinking on an idea over and over just leads to what we call analysis paralysis. A product or a business cannot take shape in your head, it only happens to work when you do – perfect products and ideas don’t just happen, they need to be perfected over time based on user behavior and feedback and its all part of the process. I’m seeing a lot of wannabe entrepreneurs fail even before they start – because they never do start. I would have told my younger self to start earlier and double down on yourdesginerwear – had I scaled this more aggressively, we potentially could have been much bigger than what we’re today owing to internet penetration and rise in Indian’s Income across the globe.
Future plans for YourDesignWear?
We’re updating our catalog regularly and apart from that, we’re adding new categories like footwear, accessories like handbags and purses and also we’ll be adding products like Kaftan to cater to our growing segment of Middle Eastern customers. We weren’t focusing on Men’s categories first, but we introduced a few such categories and are they’re showing good signs – We’re planning to expand more on those. We currently don’t sell on marketplaces like Flipkart and Amazon as we can’t compete on prices as traders ourselves – but we might launch our brand and a catalog along with it sometime in the future and it might make sense then to list on marketplaces.