The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything around us. While the entire world is reeling under several negative consequences, there have also been a few silver linings. This time has put the spotlight on indigenous brands, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his support for an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and made the clarion call for going ‘vocal for local’ much louder than ever.
There has been a growing trend of homegrown brands over the last few years, and the numbers are only expected to rise in the years to come. Although the Swadeshi movement was an integral part of India’s fight for independence from the British Raj, it has again seen a revival in the form of Make in India.
Some of the biggest homegrown startups today are helmed by women. Let’s take a look:
Shivaarti Bajaj, BoxEngage
The Gurugram-based startup GoParties, co-founded by Shivaarti Bajaj, a specialist in offline events, pivoted to providing virtual entertainment during the lockdown.
The startup was rebranded as BoxEngage in March as entrepreneur Shivaarti Bajaj and her co-founders felt that “things were never going to be the same in the post-COVID-19 era,” and it emerged as one of the best alternatives to TikTok in India.
Just a day after the government announced a ban on 59 Chinese apps, the web-based video content platform saw a 10x growth. The app offers content creators the option to make short-and long-recorded videos, live stream, and celebrities and influencers can also host private sessions to engage with their followers.
The platform has witnessed 70-80 percent organic growth, and plans to scale up even further in the coming future.
Disha Singh, Zouk
A true proponent of ‘vocal for local’, Mumbai-based entrepreneur Disha Singh started a vegan brand for bags, wallets, and accessories, in 2016. It was on a trip to Kutch that Disha realised the value of craftsmanship but knew that it lacked functionality. It is this gap that she wanted to bridge.
Zouk generates employment by working with artisans from Dharavi. The homegrown brand focuses on using Indian handicrafts like Ikat, jute, khadi, and motifs in its products. The raw materials are procured from across the country, and as many as 24 artisans make each piece.
Although she started with an investment of Rs 20 lakh from her savings, Zouk today has earned a revenue of Rs 5 crore, turning the startup profitable in a short time.
Aneesha Jyoti and Vatsala Sharma, Language Curry
Most language teaching apps focus on foreign languages, but both Aneesha Jyoti and Vatsala Sharma wanted to offer learners the option to learn Indian languages. That’s how they co-founded Language Curry in 2017 along with Puneet Singh.
A novel concept, Language Curry offers courses in languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Gujrati, and Kannada. A few more languages like Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, and Malayalam, will be launched soon.
The app has found favour among NRIs, Indians, expats, and tourists who are keen on learning Indian languages.
Language Curry has tasted great success, and has been downloaded 35,000 times by tourists, international students, NRIs, and people from 120 countries.
Nidhi Yadav, AKS
It was in 2006 that Nidhi Yadav, Co-founder and CEO of the contemporary ethnic brand AKS, watched Meryl Streep’s 2006 blockbuster film The Devil Wears Prada, and she knew fashion was her calling. This Indore girl graduated in Computer Science, and worked at Deloitte before launching her brand AKS in May 2014, when she was only 25 and a mother to a six-month-old baby.
She started with a seed capital of Rs 3.5 lakh, and today, the brand has expanded to both online and offline channels. It is available on Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart and AKS' own website, and also has a few offline stores in Nagaland. The homegrown brand also ships products across India, Singapore, and Malaysia.
AKS, meaning ‘reflection’ in Urdu, has always believed in empowering women, which is why it outsources almost 50 percent of its work to women entrepreneurs. Moreover, 60 percent of its suppliers are also women.
Today, the brand boasts an annual revenue of more than Rs 100 crore.
Keerti Singh, Hitwicket
As a teenager, Keerti loved gaming and was an ardent follower of cricket. Even while studying engineering at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), she would play online games, and her passion for the sport continued when she was studying MBA at Indian School oF Business (ISB) as well. For her, gaming served as a great stress buster.
Keerti then got a job at Amazon, and she got all her colleagues hooked to gaming. But she followed her dreams and became the Co-founder and VP-Growth of Hitwicket, an immersive mobile cricket game powered by AI, in 2015.
Today, Hitwicket is one of the top names in gaming. The game has 2.1 million organic downloads in over 100 countries, with users spending more than 32 minutes per day on the game – way more than the global average of 23 minutes.
Their ever-popular game Hitwicket Superstars had a whopping 130,000 downloads within 48 hours of release. About 30 percent of their current users are from Australia, the UK, the US, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
In 2015, Chennai Angels invested an undisclosed amount in the startup.
Sujata and Taniya Biswas, Suta
Suta, which means ‘thread’, is derived from the syllables of sister-duo Sujata and Taniya who started this brand. Their distinctive mul cotton sarees are popular among women from all walks of life – be it celebrities, businesswomen, or sportswomen. Their story is what inspires one the most – it all began when the sisters had a conversation with weavers in West Bengal and saw how a saree is made.
The weavers, artisans, and the craftsmen are at the heart of Suta, and the sisters wanted to help the community that is often exploited at the hands of middlemen. That’s when they started Suta in 2016, and also gave their desire for entrepreneurship a shot.
The homegrown brand that has always been an advocate of ‘Vocal for Local’ celebrated its fourth anniversary on April 1, 2020. Today, Suta works with more than 1,400 weavers and craftsmen from different parts of India. What’s more, 60 percent of the workforce comprises women.
(Edited by Kanishk)