Urban Skinny is a lifestyle brand founded by Bindu Nair. Bindu has a background in journalism and has enjoyed doodling since she was a kid. With Urban Skinny, Bindu has been able to take her love for illustrations and graphic art and create a platform of chic, quirky, minimal products for the online Indian consumer. We chat with Bindu. An Excerpt from the Interview: • What made you start your venture? I was always interested in starting my own brand- one that offered lifestyle products that were designed with a minimal aesthetic in mind. There was so much kitsch, bold art in the market, I felt there was an opportunity in offering a product that had a minimal, global aesthetic that could work all year round, which was also affordable. I made small attempts to start a brand while I was working as a full-time journalist around six years ago but found it hard to sustain such a project with a very demanding job that required me to travel extensively. I gave up the thought at the time. Years later, I joined Kyoorius magazine as editor and in the course of that job- met a lot of creative folks- artists, illustrators. That was the point of osmosis for me. There were so many possibilities available and that’s when the idea for a graphic art start-up was being initiated by someone who was in my circle of friends. I became involved in the project during the start-up phase and really enjoyed the journey of curating artists, giving voice to the brand and the actual launch phase. That’s when I realised that this was it- I had to build something of my own- it was now or never. I parted ways with the start-up and took a break from any full-time gigs, and started working on Urban Skinny from around mid- 2013. We launched recently and stock products for the home- namely art prints, quirky cushions, home accent pieces and a small line of furniture that we are still building. • What has been the key to your business’s success? We’re only a few weeks old, but I think what works for us is that we are pretty clear about the kind of customer that will buy an Urban Skinny product. We’re not trying to be broad-based, we want to appeal largely to the average 25 to 35 year old, I don’t like to use the term hipster because its so over-done but it’s the closest approximation to the kind of people who will love and buy our products. What we also want to do is curate artists and brands from India and abroad that fit in with our aesthetic to retail on the site, offer products that will hopefully make you say, “Hey, I’ve never seen this kind of stuff in the market and I want it.” • What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them? The actual product curation is tricky- it takes a lot of research and sampling and tedious visits in dingy workshops to figure out whether a new idea is going to work. Sampling takes time and a lot of patience. The entire process of ideation to sampling to product to photography and final upload on the site takes time and we really wish we could cut down our actualisation time in half but I guess that’ll happen in due course of time. • Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business? There are a lot of people who I’ve consulted over the course of the last one year on how to go about setting up a business, what to avoid and how to think like an entrepreneur. Every single person was forthcoming and helpful. My parents have a solid grounding in investments and they’ve helped fund the start-up to a large extent and kept me grounded when I might have been feeling a little too indulgent about expenditure; advertising agency CEO Praveen Kenneth is someone I turned to, for advice many times over about the basics of company ownership and what it meant to have equity in a company; my former editor Anant Rangaswami is also someone who I have constantly turned to, for advice. Friends in advertising- far too many to name- who have all given helpful tips on what it means to start a company. I am grateful for every piece of advice that I have got. • Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations? Not yet. It’s all work in progress. I am certainly interested in knowing what’s out there that can be relevant for a business like Urban Skinny. • What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion? I think customer service is top priority, we certainly make every attempt to please our customer. Considering the budgets we keep for search and social media marketing, keeping an existing customer happy and getting him/ her to come back to the site is a far more organic way to grow the business and build word-of-mouth. If we screw up, we say sorry. Recently due to an avoidable mistake on the backend, customers on the site were unable to make any transactions for an entire day. We fixed it as soon as we could- and offered a discount for the next 24 hours. Customers were happy, we saw sales go up, and we were happy too. • What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Patience, hunger (not the literal kind) and the passion to keep at it even on days/ weeks when everything seems to be going wrong. I saw this TED video recently by author Elizabeth Gilbert and it resonated with me- about the importance of cultivating the drive to keep creating. Visit their Website: www.urbanskinny.co.in Follow them on: Facebook: www.facebook.com/urbanskinnyindia Twitter: www.twitter.com/urbanskinnychic Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/uskinny Vimeo: vimeo.com/user18962479
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