Interview with Mr Mukesh Bansal, CEO, Myntra
13 August 2009, IndiaRetailNews.com

The era of mass customization is here, says Mr Mukesh Bansal, CEO of Myntra, a Bangalore-based company that specializes in personalized products and gifts. In an interview with IndiaRetailNews.com, he talks about his business and why the retail channel is paramount to his company's future.

IRN: Can you tell us a little bit about Myntra?

Mukesh: Myntra is into personalized products and gifts. We use a personalization platform that can customize products based on name, photographs and a library of over 25,000 designs and templates. We have over 50 products including t-shirts, mugs and greeting cards. One of our most popular products is the official cricket team jersey. You can put your name and number on it. The look and feel of the jersey is exactly the same as the official Indian team jerseys. We also work actively with the designer community - graduates from NID, NIFT and so on and give them royalty for their designs on our products. We conduct design contests to identify and reward talent and have created a community of around 4000 designers.

 

IRN: Can you tell us a little bit about your business model?

Mukesh: The business is an almost zero-inventory model with a focus on supply chain automation and fulfillment. We have partnerships with several suppliers, who fall into 2 categories - raw material suppliers who supply us the plain t-shirts for example and personalization technology suppliers. We have our own personalization technology as well. Initially, we had to import machinery that was not available in India. Now, the personalization technology is not expensive as it used to be before, so the customer only ends up paying a 10 -20% premium for personalization. No minimum quantity is required either, so you can get your personalized item at a low cost.

 

IRN: What sales channels do you use? Who are your customers?

Mukesh: We have 3 sales channels - online, companies / colleges and retail. The retail channel is a relatively new one, but important for our future. We have set up kiosks in 5 different locations in Bangalore and plan to expand that to 25 different locations in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi by the end of this year. We are also partnering with a couple of big retailers and several independent gift shops.

Currently, our biggest customer base is the business segment, followed by online and then retail. There are 2 reasons for customers to personalize products - self-expression, which is the desire to be unique and express it and gifting, where the customer wishes that the gift be personal. NRIs who gift to their loved ones in India, form a big segment of our customers.

 

IRN: What are some of the interesting trends you have discovered about the Indian shopper? Any surprises?

Mukesh: E-commerce hasn't really taken off in the last 3 to 4 years in India as was expected. A primary reason for this is the notion of convenience. When I was in the US, I bought everything from tickets to electronics online, as it was "convenient". In India, the local trader or seller often provides more convenience. Labour is cheap and people are used to the convenience of interacting with a person for their needs at a low cost.

In terms of products, although everyone knows that cricket sells in India, we were surprised that even at a high price point of Rs 3000 (necessitated by the partnership with Reebok), IPL personalized jerseys sold pretty well. Also, our customers have found interesting uses for our products. Birthday or wedding return gifts, for example, are popular where the host would give every invitee a mug or some memorablia with the photo of the bride and groom on it, for example.

 

IRN: Tell us a little bit about the early days of Myntra. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Mukesh: I worked at 4 different startups in the Bay Area for around 8 years. Two of them failed and two succeeded. By 2006, I was ready to start my own business and got excited by the idea of personalized products. There was no organized player in India doing this. In a way, we are coming full circle, as products were hand-made and personalized originally. The industrial revolution changed that and we entered the era of mass-produced goods. Now, we are entering the era of mass-customization. In May 2007, we launched our online business. In the middle of 2008, we received some angel investment that helped us scale, followed by $5 million in VC funding in August of 2008. We are using this money to further scale and go to more cities.

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be to realize that entrepreneurship is also a career, with atleast a 10 to 15 year horizon. The failure rate is high, so you need to be able to adapt and be prepared for the long haul. The most important thing is to have a core team that believes in the vision. Otherwise, the journey becomes lonely and painful. The chemistry between the team members should work. There were 5 members in our initial team and they are still there. Our total employee strength is 70 now. Also, clarity about the business model is important. Some entrepreneurs get excited about the technology, but it is important to ensure that the business model works, else the funding will not come and it becomes difficult to grow.

 

IRN: What are your future plans with Myntra?

Sundeep: We are planning aggressive growth and wish to reach three times our sales by the end of the year. We touched $1 million in revenues around 6 months ago and are growing quickly.