STARTER'S BLOC

Shop till you drop

Retail therapy Retail therapy: Shah (centre) with his team at the Shopsense office in Mumbai | Amey Mansabdar

Shopsense lets you browse through a store’s collection on a touch-screen before you buy something

The employees at Mumbai-based startup Shopsense are sporting Batman and Superman T-shirts; they are celebrating superhero day at office. On the fridge are magnets brought back by those who have gone abroad. There are mugs and knick-knacks from various parts of the world. A number of books line a shelf by the wall. On a white board in the room, the names of everyone who comes late are noted. They will be charged Rs100 each time they come late with which the team will buy ice-cream or beer.

Clearly, the culture here is casual. “We had envisioned a very fun office when we started the company,” says co-founder Harsh Shah. “When a few interns started coming late, we thought of how much time, not just theirs but ours too, they were wasting. As we come from a consulting background, we calculated the number of hours they wasted and made them buy us ice-cream corresponding to that figure.” The white board also features the names of employees who have won awards for being the best ‘enthu’ person or the best ‘fighter’.

The startup, founded in 2012 by three IIT Mumbai graduates, Shah, Farooq Adam and Sreeraman M.G., provides kiosks with a touch-screen display to shops. These kiosks let you mix and match clothes to see what looks good on you before you try them on, thus eliminating the time you have to stand in queues outside changing rooms. You can browse through the entire collection in the store by simply swiping and tapping on the touch-screen. If the item is not available in the store, they will show you the nearest store where it is available. They also have a provision whereby you can WhatsApp or email your choice to your friends for their approval; or you can go with what fashion experts say.

Aishwarya Ramakrishnan, 27, usually shops online as it allows her to choose from a variety of options without physically walking through a store. But she says Shopsense gives her the best of both worlds. “It gives you the feeling of shopping online and also helps you narrow down your search,” she says. “If I want a particular outfit, I can just check if it is available on the device instead of searching for it across the store.”

Shah once ordered pizza and was offered an add-on as well. That’s when the Shopsense idea struck him: why not use customer behaviour to give customers what they want? The startup got its first round of investment from Kae Capital in 2013 and partnered with its first store in February 2014. Today, it has partnered with 150 stores; its clients include Diesel, Being Human and Decathlon.

For the past one and a half years, the co-founders have been setting up the foundation for the next phase of the business. “We are the largest company in the country that has access to information on every product in our stores across cities,” says Shah. “Now that we have access to the stores, we are wondering whether we can get access to customers outside the store through a mobile app. So can we get whatever you see on the device onto an app?” He says that store owners are under massive pressure to increase the effectiveness of the stores. While e-commerce sites help brands off-load their inventory, they don’t help customers get their hands on the merchandise quickly. Shopsense wants to offer customers a shorter window of time to access the merchandise they like. If you like a particular brand’s product, you can place an order through the app and have it delivered to your house. Then you can try it on and decide whether you want to buy it or have it returned.

They are not too worried about raising funds because Shopsense is probably one of the few startups in India that have achieved operational profitability already. “We’ve got really good contracts from our clients so we didn’t have to spend much on sales and marketing,” says Shah.

As Shah and Adam were athletes, they knew the importance of competition and the need to be on time to work. The founders are the first ones to reach office every day at 8am. “Everyone else comes in at 9:30am and then we become busy with meetings and reviews so mornings are the time I get most of my work done,” says Shah.

Shopsense maintains a high standard of excellence by reviewing their employees not just on the basis of their performance but also on the basis of initiative they have taken outside of work. The startup gives interns the freedom to work on new projects and technologies that can make a difference. “We give them eight to ten weeks to give us a product and the person who comes up with the best demo gets an iPad and a placement offer,” says Shah. As a result, interns have come up with innovations such as a provision to integrate WhatsApp with the product and a camera that helps identify the gender of the customer.

QUICK BITES

HARSH SHAH

A goof-up
Pressing ‘Reply All’ instead of ‘Reply’ and sending something embarrassing to the whole company
Childhood dream
To do something of my own
On speed dial
My parents, co-founders, colleagues and a few friends
First office
The study of our home in Noida
Top on to-do list
Reply to emails

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Topics : #business

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