The caped-crusader is back in ‘Man of Steel – the latest Superman movie, sparking an interest in tees emblazoned with the logo for diehard superhero fans all over again. We bring you a few startups which thrive on the cult and other quirky art. If wearing your art on your tee defines you, read on about the new age dotcoms who design customized tees reflective of pop-culture, accessories, super hero memorabilia and more.
Founders: Pratik Arora (24) and Charanjit Singh Malik (24)
Price: Rs.580 each
Shirtmogul is a Delhi-based start up whose pop culture t-shirts feature designs inspired from TV shows, movies, video games, books, comics and other media. Its USP lies in its ability to rope in talented artists from across the world who earn $1 royalty on every sale.
Charanjit and I (Pratik) were introduced by a common friend. He wanted to get out of the drudgery of office life and I wanted to do something new as well. It was an evolutionary process. I love TV and am a cinephile. To inculcate that into a business, t-shirts inspired from TV shows and movies seemed very logical. We have employed various business models for selling t-shirts online – daily deals, limited edition and print on demand. Also, a great tee can be an awesome ice-breaker.
The website went live on July 23, 2012 and was launched with a startup capital of Rs 50,000 from each of us. Finding the right blanks was difficult. We must have changed around six suppliers before we finalized the current one. Similar is the case with finding the right print provider, the right business model for sustainability and growth and everything else. When you are a small company there’s a lot of trial and error.
Some new ‘India-only’ and ‘me-too’ websites that started a few months ago and are ripping-off designs from the internet. Some of our artists, like Daniel from Bolivia or Steve from the US are professional t-shirt artists. This is their only source of bread and butter. These ‘me-too’ websites are also ruining the respect for India based e-commerce businesses. An artist we approached refused to work with us because he had been stung by one of these ‘me-too’ Indian websites which was using his art without his permission, without giving due credit and obviously without giving him any royalty.
Our most memorable moment was when we got our first international order – from Netherlands. Another great one was when we partnered with our first international artist – Madalina from Romania. We plan to begin hiring from next month along with launching new product lines.
We invite artwork from people. We encourage it. We pay royalty on every sale to artists. Currently, we are working with 11 international artists based in the UK, USA, Australia, Romania, Bolivia and other countries. We find a great design, track down its artist and then get in touch with him.
The start-up life
It gives you a sense of ownership and confidence that working for somene else can never give. It’s absolutely mental. You are your own boss, so occasionally you can have a Wednesday off and sometimes you are working Sundays at 2 am.
Founders: Ameya Thakur(25), Vivek Malhotra(25) and Rahul Jaisheel (25)
Price: Rs.449 each
Redwolf is a Mumbai-based indie clothing brand with a line of graphic tees specializing in minimalistic and subtle designs. In addition to this, they also act as consultants on design and production of merchandise for corporates, brands and events.
I (Ameya) always wanted to start a t-shirt brand purely because I could not find stuff that I liked around here. The big brands were always too expensive and the alternative was tacky mass produced tees with pseudo-funny one liners. I knew Vivek through AISEC (International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences), an international students’ organisation and when I told him that I wanted to start Redwolf and the idea behind it, he connected with it instantly. I wooed Rahul, who was abroad, over a skype call and he decided to join Redwolf. Each of us pooled in Rs. 1.25 lakhs making the total start-up capital Rs.3.75 lakhs.
We believed that there was a huge scope in the Indian market for good TV shows, movies and pop culture inspired design. We plan to branch out into other genres like music and abstract design too. We decided that the e-commerce space is perfect to be in so as to reach out to our target audience all over India and then slowly take things global.
Why ‘Redwolf’? For one, we thought it’d be a cool name. But we always wanted to do name it something related to an animal to get that primal and earthy feel.
The website was officially launched on March 11, 2012 and sales began to rise exponentially when we started investing in Facebook advertising. We now have about 12,500 fans on Facebook, around 7000 registered customers on our website and are sending out an average of 50-60 tees every day. We have also launched international delivery of our products which we will start advertising soon.
We have made merchandise for companies like Godrej and Sony Music and colleges such as St. Xaviers and IIM, Lucknow. Music Bands like BLACK, SPLIT and Dualist have also been our clients. We got a big project recently and made tees for The Norah Jones India Tour which has been the highlight of our work in the music merchandise space. We have launched a range of quirky badges recently and will also be launching girl’s T-shirts in the coming month or two.
Our designs can be described as ‘fan art’ as they are not official merchandise. Since the beginning, we wanted to make designs that are inspired by the things we love. We don’t use any faces, copyrighted logos or designs to stay away from any copyright troubles. We are working with several talented designers and believe in simple design. In fact, we have a t-shirt with just our logo on it and customers love it. We’ve always encouraged our customers to give us design suggestions and we receive quite a few of them. If the design is original and we like it, then we print it and pay them either a fixed amount for the design or a royalty per sale. A design made by Anish Sundaran, inspired from the Lord of the Rings novels is a popular design on the site. We also offer merchandise services and an online platform to sell the merchandise on our ‘Redwolf Marketplace’.
The start-up life
It beats the hell out of working for someone else and the freedom you get is unparalleled. But, with that freedom, comes a lot of responsibility and accountability to your colleagues and yourself. This is the kind of real world experience that you won’t get in a B-school or anywhere else.
Founders: Sumit Shah (27), Karan Rai (30) and
Ayushi Singh (26)
Price: Rs.450 to Rs.600 each
Planetsuperheroes is an exclusive range of superhero merchandise with a wide array of clothing, the first of its kind in the Indian online domain, based in Mumbai. Whether you want to be the Hulk, all beefed up, or the donut-and-beer-headed Homer Simpsons, or even be the cool bad guy, Joker – officially licensed t-shirts are available in different colors and prints.
Being a super hero enthusiast, I (Karan Rai) always felt that there was a need for a common platform for superhero fans to get access to funky super hero merchandise without pinching the pocket and this is what Planetsuperheores.com is all about – fast fashion at pocket friendly rates that’s available right at your doorstep. Sumit and I had both seen super hero stores abroad and wondered why such stores weren’t available in India. It was very hard to find good quality, reasonable merchandise branded with favorite comic book characters earlier. When Ayushi, my former colleague joined the team, we conceptualized the company to help all of our fellow super hero fans, to flaunt their favorite super hero apparels.
The website went live on March 2, 2013 and the response has been phenomenal. We never seem to have an idea of where the stock is. We took about 2000 pieces to Comic Con, a unique event that celebrates comics and popular culture held in Bengaluru in early June and had to salvage the last 2 or 3 pieces for ourselves. Recently, a customer walked into our store and said, “Give me everything you have on Superman! All the stock and all the sizes!” Love for super heroes has been there for a very long time and it will continue. ciate with. It’s not just a mad craze.
Recently, we were judged the ‘Best performing store’ at Comic Con. People loved our store and online traffic has gone up since. We had put up effigies of 3 characters – the Hulk, Iron Man and Batman. After the event, people were fighting over taking them home.
We have some exciting future plans as well! We plan to introduce a line of accessories including belt buckles, caps and hats. Pajamas and boxers are coming in next week. We also plan to start an exclusive super hero offline store in a few months in Bengaluru or Mumbai. So far, our target customers have been in the age group of 16 to 35 years bracket, but we’re introducing a kids line as well.
We sell official merchandise at reasonable prices. Our categories are exhaustive and include various favorite super heroes and comic characters like Iron Man, Batman, Superman, Wolverine, Captain America, Hulk, Spider Man, Sponge Bob, Homer, Mickey and Asterix. These products are really expensive abroad but even companies like DC and Marvel understand the price point that works in India. We have got all the official licenses and cater to hardcore fans.
The start-up life
Sumit and I did our MBA in Duke University and University of Oxford, respectively. But, this is the real MBA. We all live out here like a family.