Neha Tandon Sharma
- Tell us about Isadora Life.
My story began when I got married. I looked at beautiful sarees that I had bought – still in their bags. One day it hit me: I haven't even worn half of them. The sentiment was the same again with the sarees I brought to my first job at an investment bank. And when I asked around, I realised that no one I know wears as many sarees as they would like!
The saree is dear to my heart - the shape flatters the Indian body, it is incredibly graceful, and it is a joy to accessorize. We just need to adapt it to meet the needs of modern Indian women. This gave birth to Isadora Life.
After lots of experimentation, we designed a ‘wrap-in-a-minute saree’ that can be worn in just 30 seconds! This is now our best-selling product. We also offer a range of readymade salwar suits that are ideal for office-going women who want a simple yet classy look. Our products are made for all sizes – regular to plus sizes!
We aim to be a chic, affordable and easy-to-wear lifestyle brand. We are currently a 30-member all-women team based in Raipur delivering products across India.
- What made you think of becoming an entrepreneur?
An MBA in Finance coupled with a B. Tech from NIT Surathkal is not a typical CV for a founder of an fashionwear start-up. My first job after my MBA was in investment banking, focusing on mergers and acquisitions and fund-raising. I developed a keen interest in the start-up ecosystem over time. I strongly believe that the next phase of India's growth will not be driven by a few giants, but by brilliant minds looking to solve a million niche problems. I also believe that this growth will come from tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
Steve Jobs' quote about Apple working constantly at the intersection of technology and liberal arts resonated deeply with me. As soon as I had the idea of an easy-to-wear saree I got to work designing something that I and my friends would be proud to wear. Three months, reams of material, and a lot of false starts later, we were finally successful. I knew it was time to jump into the market after I wore a product. I believed it to be both unique and market ready.
Today, we have grown to a 30 member all woman team working on every aspect of design and delivery of our signature Wrap-in-a-Minute saree. Our principles of experimentation, documentation and continuous check-listing are challenging for all our creators, none of whom have worked in an organized sector before. We have honed a method to this madness.
- What are your growth and expansion plans?
We have learnt that most Indian women don't really fit the sizes that the fashion industry sells to us. No one is willing to cater to our shorter, broader, curvier shapes.
We already have a line of salwar suits in a much wider range of sizes than available anywhere else. We have also experimented with accessories, and plan to explore make-up and home decor. We are also looking to venture into menswear as well.
- What is the market opportunity you see in India?
The fashion and lifestyle segment has benefited from an almost hockey-stick growth trend, with online sales being the largest contributor. In tier-2 cities, online shopping has grown by 118% and in tier-3 cities, it has grown by 192%.
India's e-commerce market is worth around USD 65bn, with nearly 40% coming from fashion and apparel. Over the next three years, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 25%.
- Are you looking to raise funding for growth?
Despite the challenges these past two years have thrown at us, we've grown immensely. Customers trust us, suppliers are happy to work with us, and our employees are our best brand ambassadors.
Our belief is that an organization should seek funding when most of its problems can be solved without money but with "hustle" and the right attitude.
We believe we have solved most of those problems, but to move to the next phase, funding is required. To make that transition, we will need to invest in people and equipment. We think that taking on an equity partner would be mutually beneficial.