Say bye to buy! Date My Closet is a peer to peer designer fashion rental platform for the urban Indian woman, which actualises aspirations affordably and lets fashion pay you back. DMC was recently launched in India by co-founders Sakhi Gandhi (WG’17) and Siddharth Shah (WG’17). WJ got together with Sakhi to know the story of Date My Closet.
1. Did you come into Wharton knowing that you want to start a company?
I came to Wharton knowing that I would like to venture into entrepreneurship – my area of interest lied in education and social impact, and by the virtue of my interest, I started exploring ideas in the same space. I worked on an ed-tech idea with two of my fellow classmates for a few months but ended up shelving it as we didn’t see enough traction. I never thought I would be working in the fashion space – but there’s always that 1% chance when the unexpected happens.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Date My Closest?
I stumbled upon the idea of Date My Closet, two times. Coming into Wharton, I soon saw my friends borrowing fashion items from my closet. The endless fashion dilemma existed in the mind of all my female friends – we all had a closet full of clothes yet nothing to wear. And unfortunately, our wallets couldn’t always follow our shopping desires. This was the first instance.
The second time that women’s fashion consumption patterns caught my attention, was last November, during my sister’s big fat Indian wedding! To look our best selves, we spent tons of money buying expensive designer wear for the 5 day wedding ceremony! Looking back, I couldn’t see myself wearing those clothes again, cause once the pictures were up on social media – the garments had lost their value!
That’s when I finally started looking into this more. I shared these thought with Siddharth Shah, my co-founder and thats where it all started.
3. Who is your target customer and what is the problem that you trying to solve for them?
Our target customer is an 18-35 year old working woman – who values spending money carefully and looking fashionable equally. She is active on social media, attends ~10 formal events (usually weddings) every year and has 3-5 social circles.
The problem that we are trying to solve for the skewed consumption of fashion. On one hand, there over 200 million women in India, who aspire but cannot afford luxury and on the other hand, over 50 million women and designers are sitting on idle fashion inventory. We consider ourselves fashion matchmakers! Date My Closet aims to fulfill fashion aspirations for women and also allows fashion to pay you back.
4. Did you ever consider starting the company in the US?
We did think about launching Date My Closet in the US. In fact, for the first three months we were convinced that US was a great market, and so, did a pilot here. Soon after the pilot, as we ran some feasibility studies, we realised a few things. First, two-way logistics in the US were extremely costly, which made our offering financially unattractive to the user. Second, from a strategic standpoint, even though there wasn’t a direct competitor in the peer-to-peer rental space, there were many strong & established players in the pre-owned and designer fashion rental space. We realised that if we were to expand operations and move into different spaces in pre-owned fashion, it would be very difficult. So we started exploring other options. Lastly, my co-founder & I are both Indian nationals – we found it extremely difficult to navigate the immigration process and found scattered and limited advice from the lawyers that were accessible to us.
5. Did you see being an international in this country as a barrier to starting a company here?
Yes, a little bit. The process becomes much easier if you have a US national as a co-founder. We spent a considerable amount of time figuring out, how immigration will work for us, if DMC was in the US. To be honest, I’m still not convinced that I have enough knowledge on this topic! But recently a new Visa rule for International Entrepreneurs has been passed with the aim of relaxing immigration restrictions for those interested in starting their companies here.
6. What have been some major wins for you so far?
Hiring our first employee. Some pre-orders before launch.
7. What are some immediate goals for Date My Closet?
We went live on 9th January, 2017. Our goal now simply to.. grow!
8. Would you say Wharton is a start-up friendly school? What resources at Wharton helped you in launching Date My Closet?
Yes, it is. The most helpful resource – your classmates! I engaged in many brainstorming sessions before deciding to work on DMC. These were formally and informally organised. Your fellow classmates are helpful, smart and supportive people – make use of the network!
9. Any advice for first year international students who are looking to launch their own businesses this year?
Take advantage of the two most risk free years of your life – don’t hesitate, go explore and try something different.