“I love brands, but I cannot buy luxury goods and products every month. I try looking for them during special occasions. But there aren’t many options, and it is a perennial problem of finding something to wear every time,” says 28-year-old freelance writer Shibani.
This was the exact problem IIT Khargpur graduates Anandita Singh and Manisha Barnwal found themselves in. Being friends and flatmates, the duo for over two years had one problem. While sharing their wardrobes, they would often crib about how they didn’t have anything to wear every time they went out.
“Combining this with our love for designer handbags, we decided to build something that addressed this problem and that gave birth to Envoged,” says 24-year-old Anandita.
Envoged is a curated platform that aims at making luxury accessible to everyone. It enables consumers to sell and shop from each other’s luxury collection. Following a consignment mode of operations, anyone can upload a photo of a luxury branded apparel, bag, footwear or accessory from their closet on their mobile application.
The Envoged team takes care of the rest. Once the team authenticates the product, it is sanitised, photographed, catalogued and delivered to the buyer once sold.
Once the product sells, the seller is credited the due amount (which is the listing price minus the commission). For a buyer, Envoged works as an e-commerce platform where individuals can buy global luxury goods at 60 to 90 percent discount.
Anandita claims to have a strong in-house team of luxury brand experts, who make sure that any inauthentic piece that fails to pass the test gets discarded.
She adds that they have built an algorithmic pricing tool that suggests the price at which the product sells with the highest probability and in the quickest possible time. It takes into account the brand, category and condition of the product; and integrates it with the data collected so far to give out the best price for every product.
Cutting across the challenges
The team realised that one of the biggest challenges as an online seller of pre-owned luxury products is gaining the trust of both buyers and sellers. A seller, who is selling some of the most precious pieces from her closet, always needs to know that their products will be taken care of and maintained. And a buyer needs to be certain of the authenticity of the product, its quality and condition before going ahead and making a purchase.
Anandita adds that it was a challenge to build that trust. However, transparent and timely communications and building strong core processes that address each of the sellers’ and buyers&8217; concerns was the easiest way to overcome this challenge.
Explaining on how they overcame the challenge, Anandita says:
In the last one year of our operations in this space, we have tried and understood what a customer is looking for, what his/her apprehensions are and how can we address them, be it selling or buying.
The team claims to have built a very strong team of authenticators, who vouch for everything that is sold. Every product that is listed has gone through a rigorous checklist of conditions that it needs to meet in order to be qualified as a 100 percent authentic product and only then does it go up for sale.
The sellers are regularly updated on where their products are, how would they be priced, and when will they be able to see it online and when it sells and reaches the buyer.
The growing market
Soon the duo roped in their juniors Harsh Khandelwal and Ikram Ansari to join the core team. Harsh has been involved in startups’ operations ever since college. The team comprises eight people. Anandita claims to have grown more than 95 percent month-on-month in the past one year and the average transaction size is at Rs 6,000.
This year seems to be the time of pre-owned fashion, which is fast growing. Over the last 10 years, funding worth $166 million has been pumped in the space. Over the past year, several startups have entered this space ‑ Spoyl, Revamp my Closet, Once Again, Exchange Room, Elanic and Etashee to name a few.
There also is Flyrobe, which raised a funding of $5.3 million led by IDG ventures. In the luxury space, there is the Rajan Anandan-backed Smytten, an online discovery and trial platform for premium products and services. Confidential Couture, a #startup in the luxury space, has a waiting list of 30–35 people for a Louis Vuitton bag, which costs above Rs 1 lakh, according to their founder Anvita Mehra.
High-net-worth individuals (HNIs) are the target for startups in the space. Nakul Bajaj, Founder of Darveys, says, “Flagship store visitors can now get the same products online at better prices. We also capitalise on the first-time buyers of luxury goods, who want to spend only about Rs 6,000.”
Envoged isn’t just a regular pre-owned fashion, rental or luxury portal, it is focussed on selling pre-owned luxury products. Anandita emphasises that they sell products with great aspirational value attached with them.
Brands that never go on sale, products that are vintage and passed on through generations, styles that don&8217;t come and go with fashion – they are classic pieces that never go out of vogue. She adds:
“If you have a drooled over the Swapnil Shinde gowns that Shraddha Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor wore for Lakme, Deepika Padukone wore for Lux or the Harley Davidson jacket Sidhharth Malhotra wore for Fair and Lovely Men, you can find the exact same pieces listed with us.”
The team also guarantees authenticity of the products with 2X money back. For every transaction that happens at Envoged, the team takes a 20 percent commission on the listing price.
The team raised their first round of funding in September 2015 from angel investors including Alok Mittal, Indian Express, Nita Mirchandani, Himanshu Aggarwal and Jackky Bhagnani. The round was led by Ankush Nijhawan, Manish Dhingra and Gaurav Bhatnagar from Travel Boutique Online.
“As we move ahead, we wish to scale our operations all across India, expand to other lifestyle categories and strengthen our foothold even further in Tier II and III cities. We want to fulfil aspirations, build a one-stop destination for all luxury related buying, selling, and all things luxury,” says Anandita.