#Asia She turned her hobby into a startup that’s taking off in India

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Bhavana

Startups are Bhavana Motwani’s game. After getting her master’s in tech and information technology, she spent just south of a decade working at early-stage startups. In her spare time, though, ever since she was a child, she was sketching dresses and designing clothes.

“Maybe that’s where my engineer design and engineer structure [training] meet,” says Bhavana. Knowing what styles fit different body types, for example, is something that has always come naturally to her.

She began to notice that although women like her were comfortable using ecommerce to buy much of what they needed, like gadgets, makeup, and accessories, they were less willing to buy their clothing online because of the possibility of a bad fit – particularly when it came to Indian ethnic clothing. A lot of ready-made brands exist, but the sizes are not standardized. Also, it’s hard to reduce these clothes to small, medium, or large size labels.

“Ethnic wear, unlike T-shirts, [can only] look good if there’s a really good fit there,” she explains. Her solution was to bring Indian wear online with an added bonus – the clothing would be made to measure.

So she launched StitchMyFit in August, which does just this. Women can upload their measurements and order clothes from the startup’s partner boutiques in customized designs. Buyers get their clothes delivered to their homes, and their numbers are then stored for all future orders.

Offering a tailoring service as part of a clothing ecommerce store has been a hot trend in India this year, offered by Indian wear specialists like Cbazaar and Kaneesha, as well as brands with a little more western influence like Enah. StitchMyFit also offers a private stylist feature, in which one of the startup’s stylists comes directly to the customer’s home to take her measurements. The stylists are also on hand to discuss designs with shoppers. The result? Cool, customized clothing delivered to your doorstep that doesn’t risk looking like someone else’s.

StitchMyFit takes the work out of finding a boutique, serving as a middle point between customers and boutiques. It offers its own stylists and freelance tailors to ensure that each customer gets to express her own personaal style.

“Currently, boutiques in India are […] not in an organized system,” Bhavana says. Customers are limited by where they live, personal taste, and time. Boutiques, on the other hand, have limited customer reach.

Dressed to the nines

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Though the website is only three months old, Bhavana has been surprised by its success. StitchMyFit works with six boutiques and is in the process of gaining five more as partners. The shops offer competitive prices because they know that they’re reaching customers they may not have been able to access beforehand, which Bhavana says allows her to keep prices competitive for customers. Since the sizing and fitting happens at home, boutiques and tailors also appreciate having dressing rooms freed up in their stores. She and her staff work on a 20 percent commission with their partner shops.

StitchMyFit tries to reach out to men as well as women. “[He can] just book a stylist for [his] wife, and doesn’t have to keep guessing [her] size,” she explains. “If you buy too small, she gets mad at you. If you buy too big, she gets mad again.”

“I see many men who come in for their wives,” she adds. “My dad is one of them.”

The website targets upper to middle class women in tier one cities, most of whom are actively working and don’t have the time to search for a design or tailor service. It is currently live in Mumbai and is expanding to Bangalore. Bhavana hopes to expand even further in the future. Just three months in, Bhavana is part of a staff of five, though she’s adding three more people soon. One of the three is Neetu Singh, Bhavana’s friend and engineer with a flair for fashion. She will join Bhavana as co-founder.

“We have been friends for 15 years, and she also has a tech background and has her own designer line,” says Bhavana, who holds that a small team is the way to go.

Neetu’s line, Art Amour by Neetu, specializes in handcrafted items. Neetu practices embroidery, pattern designing, and Thai clay art, among others. Her expertise will help add more boutiques to StitchMyFit’s partners as well as enrich the startup’s coverage of designs beyond what it already talks about on its blog.

Fashion statement

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StitchMyFit is still young. Tailors work for the company on a freelance basis, meaning that they juggle StitchMyFit’s jobs with other jobs. Bhavana’s goal is to offer further incentives to get the startup’s clothing to become a priority, and she’s planned the construction of a workshop so that tailors can do jobs solely on the startup’s payroll.

Bhavana tries to visit at least three customers per day in order to get feedback from shoppers. “That is what keeps me going. Talking to customers is always my favorite thing. I’m loving it.”

Of course, the fact that she’s managed to start doing what all of us dream of doing – making money off of our passion – doesn’t hurt.

“I have always done these little projects on the side – designing clothes, sketching clothes,” Bhavana says. “That is something I have done from the beginning, and I think this is the right way to bring my knowledge and my passion together.”

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