‘I started my fashion brand with Rs 2.5 lakh, touched Rs 1.8 crore turnover, now set to close at Rs 5 crore’
Vol 13 | Issue 29
Fashion designer Ruchi Verma, 34, a NIFT Mumbai graduate, hailing from the small town of Darbhanga in Bihar, gave wings to her long cherished dream of becoming an entrepreneur in 2020 after working in various fashion houses for around seven years.
Investing Rs 2.5 lakh from her personal savings, and drawing on her experience as a designer for some of the top brands in the country and her innate creativity, she dived into the project and created her own brand ‘Aaruvi Ruchi Verma’ from scratch.
|Ruchi Verma launched 'Aaruvi Ruchi Verma' in 2020 after working in various fashion houses for seven years with Rs 2.5 lakh (Photos: Special Arrangement)|
The brand specializes in maternity wear dresses for women, though it has recently launched casual wear as well. Her products are available on leading ecommerce portals such as Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Ajio, Nykaa, and Firstcry.
The brand achieved a turnover of Rs 1.8 crore in FY 2021-22 and is pegged at Rs 5 crore ARR this year.
Ruchi Verma shares her story, beginning with the circumstances that made her take the entrepreneurial plunge, starting with the online research she made, the things she learned and her business model that can inspire other young aspiring entrepreneurs as well.
"I studied design at NIFT Mumbai and soon started working in large corporate houses with brands like Tata Westside and Spencer's. While this was exciting at the start, after seven years, I began to feel something was missing.
The stability and income, supposed to be the strengths of a good job, began to bother me. It did not feel fulfilling at all to me and during most days, I felt trapped.
The 9-5 routine, stress of day-to-day targets and the work during weekends did not leave me any time to follow my passion for creativity.
Ever since I was a kid, I have been a creative person, making dolls and doing my paintings - which I still do by the way. I have always loved to share my work with the rest of the world. But the corporate culture created barriers and prevented me from experimenting at my workplace. Hence I started dreaming of creating my own brand.
|Ruchi watched You Tube videos to learn about launching a small business|
But this was not easy. I had no business background or knowledge. I also came from a small town called Darbhanga in Bihar. It just seemed a distant dream to me, one that I might never live.
It was during one of those lazy Sundays, as I was shopping online on my phone, I began to notice how so many new D2C brands were coming up with their beautiful collections at affordable prices.
I felt fascinated seeing this and began to research more and more online. Thanks to my educational training, I am good at evaluating design patterns and trends. However the lack of business background still made me feel inadequate to the task of starting something on my own.
Add to that, starting my own business meant leaving a high paying, comfortable job. It also meant letting go of comfort and consistency and treading an unknown territory that ever seemed so tough.
However, I continued my research and started learning more about how to set up a small business on YouTube - including steps to register a company, tax guidance, how to launch your products online and so on.
This gave me confidence that it is not as difficult as it looks from the outside and with the help of some self learning, starting a business might indeed be possible.
As I was pondering my big move and hesitating to take the plunge, the breaking point for me was the expectation at my workplace to work overtime and late nights.
When this started happening continuously, I decided to quit. I did it in an instant because I thought if I continue to think about this, I might never do it. My family and friends were shocked to learn about my decision.
They said venturing out into the unknown was going to be tough and warned about pitfalls I might have to encounter. However, I did not listen and with my modest savings of Rs 2.5 lakh, I invested into building my own brand.
|Ruchi operates from her home with limited overhead cost|
Starting up was tough, I had no fancy office, no employees and no one to give me targets and goals. I needed to be self driven and motivated every day.
But it came to me naturally because I was following my own passion and living my dream. I simply created my designs from my home computer and sent it to a vendor who created my design into a sample and after I approved it proceeded for bulk production.
I set a goal for myself to launch my first collection of maternity wear dresses and tunics and list them on Amazon and Flipkart in the next three months.
I went live and remember the day the first sale was made, Jul 31, 2020. Within 24 hours of launching I had my first customer - I even remember her name, Malathi - and I was on cloud nine. I soon started seeing more sales and good reviews which further helped sales.
I wanted to invest and expand more - raise money, open an office and hire employees, but the pandemic and lockdowns forced me to think differently.
What if I don’t go the conventional route? What if I decide to focus on my core competency i.e. rolling out a strong product and let the ecosystem take care of the rest?
What if I fail? There were many "what ifs" but I decided to give it a try and completely focus 100% on rolling out styles that my customers loved.
Soon I started expanding my range from 10 styles to 50 styles. The order volumes grew disproportionately and so did good reviews and repeat users. More marketplaces began to work with me.
|A model in a maternity outfit designed by Ruchi|
I continued focussing on rolling out new designs every month and partnered with external companies for everything else - manufacturing, sales, marketing, logistics, photo shoot, GST management etc.
I learnt that running a profitable business is hard but there already is a huge ecosystem of companies that are willing to partner and grow creators and entrepreneurs like me.
Using a completely ecosystem driven model, I was able to work on my passion while growing my business manifold to be on track to 5Cr ARR this year and a healthy profit margin.
Today "Aaruvi Ruchi Verma" is a top maternity wear brand on marketplaces with sales growing 30% month-on-month. I still work from home, with nil overhead cost, as I have outsourced all my work to other vendors.
I have been able to fund my entire expansion using profits created from my sales and continue to rollout new products every month. Today, my range is live on Myntra, Ajio, Nykaa fashion, Firstcry etc. I recently opened my website and rolled out my first collection of casual wear (non-maternity) dresses last month.
Overall, I am excited by the response I have and will continue to scale my business to new heights. I believe my story will be relevant for all the budding entrepreneurs with a passion to create things.
The message I want to share is nothing is impossible and there are many opportunities out there now to achieve your dream.