Starting with Rs. 60K, Passionate Couple Builds a Rs.5 Crore Maternity Fashion Brand
Vol 14 | Issue 48
Often, the key to a business succeeding or failing is just timing. It matters when you start your business, what the market is like at that time, and how much people want what you are selling.
If all these line up well, you are on your way to big success. This is exactly what happened for Deepika Thiyagarajan and her husband Thiyagarajan. The timing was right for them, and it helped them achieve their dream of starting their own business in India.
|Deepika and Thiyagarajan launched Putchi with Rs 60,000 in 2020 (Photos: Special Arrangement)
The couple, who lived in Australia because of Thiyagarajan's job, moved back to India just before the Covid pandemic. They started a D2C maternity brand named 'Putchi' in Coimbatore with an initial investment of Rs. 60,000.
In just three years, they built it into a successful brand with a turnover of Rs. 5 crore. Starting with maternity and feeding dresses, Putchi has now expanded its range.
Their popular products include maternity dresses, feeding kurtas, baby essentials, toys & books, heavy flow maternity sanitary pads, twinning combos for mommy and baby, nursing essentials, period care products, intimate wear, bump support pants, nursing bras, and nursing friendly kaftans.
Putchi started with just Deepika and her husband but now has a team of 30 employees. “We started with an Instagram page featuring 10 styles of feeding dresses on March 9, 2020. The response was amazing and really boosted our confidence,” shares Deepika.
“But then, within two weeks, there was a lockdown. Despite that, within three months, we moved ahead, did our research, and launched a full-fledged Shopify website for Putchi.” Putchi Maternity Solutions, a sole proprietorship owned by Deepika, is based in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
Deepika's husband, Thiyagarajan, is a B.Tech graduate with an MBA in marketing, and he used to work in real estate in Australia. In 2019, just before the Covid pandemic, the couple chose to return to India.
|During her pregnancy, Deepika struggled to find comfortable maternity clothes that were also stylish
Deepika was pregnant at that time. “Despite having a good income in Australia, we were keen to start our own venture in India. It was a bit daunting as neither of us had a background in business,” says Deepika.
Throughout her pregnancy, she struggled to find comfortable maternity clothes that were also stylish. Most brands didn't meet her needs for comfort and style, and she noticed the market was more focused on baby products than maternity wear.
Deepika shares, “The birth of my son Abhimanyu inspired me to become an entrepreneur. That's when I knew what I wanted to do.”
After discussing her idea with her husband, and once he agreed, Deepika and Thiyagarajan decided to venture into maternity wear fashion. They bought fabric from local shops in Coimbatore.
Deepika, keeping in mind her own need for comfort, designed the clothes herself and worked with a local unit to stitch the first 10 feeding dresses.
Their son, whom they lovingly call Putchi, inspired the brand's name. Later, they discovered 'Putchi' means 'life’s energy' in Korean.
For the next three months, Deepika continued buying fabrics, designing, and getting the clothes stitched locally before setting up their own manufacturing unit.
The brand grew, and Deepika started launching seven new outfits every week, mainly focusing on maternity and feeding dresses.
Three years after starting, Putchi has grown into a prominent brand in maternity fashion.
The brand's internal team is in charge of designing the products, carrying out research and development, creating the initial samples, and then forwarding these to four separate outsourced manufacturing units for the final production processes.
Deepika, now 32, was born in the town of Gobichettipalayam in Tamil Nadu. Her father is a lawyer and her mother a homemaker. She completed her Class 12 in computer science from Shree Vidyalaya Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Gobichettipalayam in 2009.
|Deepika worked in Tamil News Channel Puthiyathalaimurai as a Creative Producer
After that, she joined GRD Arts & Science College in Coimbatore and pursued a B.Sc in Visual Communication, completing her degree in 2012.
After completing her graduation, Deepika joined the Tamil News Channel Puthiyathalaimurai in Chennai. From 2012 to 2014, she worked there as a Creative Producer.
In 2014, she took up the role of head of operations at Studio A, a photography firm based in Chennai. Deepika then took a break from her career to get married. In 2017, she relocated to Melbourne, Australia, and continued to work remotely for Studio A until 2019.
With the launch of Putchi, until August 2023, the brand focused on making and selling its own products through its website. But from August 2023, Deepika brought in about 100 Indian mom-baby brands to sell their products on Putchi's website.
Among these, 90 are small-scale brands led by mothers, which lack their own websites and marketing or tech support. Putchi has become a platform for showcasing their products.
When orders are placed on Putchi's site, they are forwarded to the respective brands, and drop shipping is arranged for delivery. Putchi earns a commission of 20-30% on sales from these homegrown brands.
Putchi has three different ways of selling its products. First, they have a 500 sq. ft. rented store in Peelamedu, Coimbatore, exclusively showcasing Putchi products. But most of their sales come from their website. Deepika has recently involved women who work from home as sales partners.
This group includes about 275 women, many of whom are homemakers, those on a career break, or seeking financial independence. They promote and sell Putchi products on WhatsApp and Instagram, earning a commission from each sale.
|Deepika and Thiyagarajan with the Putchi team
Deepika describes these women as her brand ambassadors. “I see my brand as a mom-led marketplace,” she says. “These women use their social media handles effectively, whether they are middle-aged and using WhatsApp or younger mothers leveraging Instagram.”
Putchi gives these women special coupon codes that offer a 10% discount to buyers. In exchange, they get a 5% commission on every sale. The sales made by these women are tracked on the Putchi website, and their earnings are calculated and paid at the end of each month.
Deepika has faced many challenges, but one particularly tough experience happened this Diwali, the biggest festival and sales season of the year. Putchi used to get 80% of its fabric from one vendor.
Deepika had placed her order well in advance, allowing a buffer of four months. But the vendor kept promising to deliver on time and ended up supplying only 20% of the fabric just a month before Diwali.
This put a lot of pressure on Putchi. They had to find new vendors at the last minute, which nearly doubled their costs and added a lot of stress.
Putchi has a 1000 sq. ft warehouse in Peelamedu, Coimbatore, where they store their products. Their shipping partners are Amazon, Blue Dart, and Delhivery.
Most of their sales, about 95%, come from online, while their store accounts for the remaining 5%. Around 90% of their business comes from within India, with the US and Australia contributing the rest.
|The couple with their son Abhimanyu
In total, they offer over 900 styles, of which 40% are Putchi’s own products and the remaining 60% are from various other brands.
Deepika and Thiyagarajan find it challenging to manage timely pickups and deliveries in Coimbatore, a tier-2 city, especially compared to bigger cities like Chennai, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. Hiring for management and business development roles is also a challenge.
For relaxation, Deepika enjoys cooking and loves to spend her leisure time with her 4-year-old son, Abhimanyu. - ©TWL