KOCHI: For entrepreneur Arpita Ganesh, founder of Buttercups, lingerie is more than just a product with everyday utility quotient. It’s a pathway for empowering women with a healthy body image. Winner of Google SMB Heroes 2017 award for impacting change through digital technology, the Bengaluru-based startup states this vision: “For every woman to be comfortable and happy with her body.”
A territory untouched
During her trip to New York a few years ago, Arpita came across the concept of “bra-fitting” which made her realise that the Indian lingerie market forced women to make do with whatever was available instead of finding what fit them well. “It pretty much changed my life when I found a bra that fit me well. I came back to India and did research because it made such a big difference to my body confidence. I realised that in India we had only 15-20 sizes whereas in US there were about 100 sizes.”
Back in India, Arpita started a retail business in Hyderabad of international brands, which soon had to shut down as it was not scalable. She immediately set to work to have her own brand and wanted to make it an online venture as she saw huge potential in it. However, funding was a hurdle. She resorted to crowdfunding and was able to raise Rs 4 lakh from 100 women who were able to relate to her cause. Thus, in 2014, Buttercups saw its inception. Later that year, the startup was able to secure angel funding. “Indian women have become more aware of what they want. Urban women at least have realised that finding the right fitting bra is a problem. Women would earlier be shy to walk into a lingerie store. Today they walk in and ask what kind they want,” says Arpita. The brand focuses on age group of 28 to 45 years where women are willing to pay for comfort as opposed to those younger to look for “quick fashion”.
While sales happen online, the company has ensured that even in their all-women staffed ‘experience stores’, there are no mannequins, making it easy for women to walk in without feeling conscious.
Unconventional and unfazed
“I could be selling tea for all I care. It’s all about the seriousness with which you approach the business,” says the entrepreneur. Nonetheless, convincing an all-male investor team for the project might not have been easy. Arpita reasons that as she is not shy to talk about her business as investors’ responses are encouraging. But there indeed were awkward instances. “There are times when they look down when I am talking. But the investors know me now, so it doesn’t happen that often,” she says, narrating an anecdote: The only challenge, Arpita adds on, has been to make men understand the basic problem concerning wearing the right kind of bra. To which, she usually asks them to talk to women in their family for them to understand the context.
As on date, Buttercups has two experience centers but all orders are taken only online. The company wants to add eight more to this number by next March. Harnessing digital technology and driven by data analytics, online sales will continue to be their area of focus. The company’s technology is built in-house has around 12 members in business operations.According to Arpita, they are seeing a 15-18 per cent growth in new customers every month, a 49 per cent repeat customer base and a 25 per cent in searches on Google maps. The company is now in the process of raising Pre Series A funding.