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Riddhi and Siddhi Khara – Co-Founders
Mike: Hi everyone, I’m Mike Sullivan. This is MO.com, and joining me today are Riddhi and Siddhi. They are the co-founders and sisters behind Borrow It Bindaas, which is an online saree rental company.
Girls, thanks for joining me today. Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
Siddhi: Sure, My name is Siddhi Khara, and I actually have a background in international business. I was in international sales for a few years, and I was new. I wanted to kind of follow in the footsteps of my father and to start something of my own. So I always had this entrepreneurial spirit. So after I was in international sales for a few years, I wanted to definitely start something, I think we both wanted to start something where we created synergy between our entrepreneurial spirit and our passion for our Indian culture.
Riddhi: My name is Riddhi, and I have a background in the event planning industry. So I’ve done quite a few weddings where I’ve definitely see the need for this concept.
Mike: For those who may not know, what are sarees?
Siddhi: Sarees are basically an Indian garment that is very versatile and worn all over the country. It’s basically a 6 to 9 yard piece of fabric that can be draped around a woman’s body in many different styles. Each region of India has a different type of style of how you drape it. But in essence, it’s a 6 to 9 yard piece of fabric, and a lot of people treat it like a canvas. You can do many different kinds of design, embroidery, and things like that. It’s the most versatile and popular type of Indian garment, and it’s worn throughout the world.
Riddhi: That’s the beauty of the saree is that it’s so universal and it really fits any body type. It looks amazing on pretty much anybody.
Mike: Tell me how your service works?
Siddhi: Well, Borrow It Bindaas is an online rental service. Basically, we give people the opportunity to borrow or buy high-end Indian sarees and accessories. This way, there is a rising demographic of second generation South Asians in the U.S., who are attending a lot of Indian weddings. The growth rate of the Indian wedding industry, South Asian wedding industry, is growing at a 100% rate a year.
So, we basically kind of cater to that niche market and demographic of people that need those high-end Indian apparel accessories for these occasions and events, that can’t necessary afford to travel to India and go buy it themselves, and/or want to wear the most up to date latest trends that they can’t necessarily find stateside in the stores here even.
Riddhi: We really try to focus on women who are fashion forward but are also budget conscious, the ultimate recessionista where they can have the seamless process of renting a saree from our site or an accessory, and it’s just as easy as wearing it for a few days and just throwing it in a return envelope and not have to worry about anything.
Siddhi: In the saree, there are three main components. It’s the blouse and the petticoat. Those are the two pieces of garment that are worn under the actual saree. So the saree is draped over the blouse and the petticoat.
So the only sizing issue with a saree is the blouse, and that’s measured by the chest size. Customers are easily able to go on the site and pick out their size for the blouse. We take it a step further, that we understand that people do like to try these things on. If they are unsure about their size, we give them the option of borrowing a second backup blouse. That way with the saree, when they receive the saree, they get two blouses, just in case they feel that they’re not too sure about their size.
Riddhi: Just to ensure fit. The second blouse is free of charge, because they don’t have the luxury to try on the piece of clothing.
Mike: Why do you think someone would want to borrow as opposed to buy?
Riddhi: I think that they would probably want to borrow because the price of an average saree is minimum, a nice saree, is $300. With nowadays, the frequency of wearing that saree, you only really wear it once. If you’re wearing a saree, you’re probably wearing it in the same group of people, and with social media and Facebook nowadays, a lot of woman don’t want to wear the same thing and repeat that outfit. People do remember, and I think that that’s where rather than investing $300 in a saree, rent it for $70, use that money for something else, like a great pair of shoes or something.
Siddhi: It really just gives people the opportunity to wear the latest trends in Indian fashions, rather than spending a lot of money on a garment and feeling obligated to kind of wear it again, just because they spent that money and repeat their outfit.
So it’s kind of that age old wardrobe. We cater to the age old wardrobe solution, where we have an extreme closet of Indian apparel and accessories that people can just borrow and wear for the night and then return it without the hassle of storing it somewhere and maintaining it. Because these are very intricate, beautiful garments that you want to store nicely and keep, maintain it. So we take away all that kind of hassle for them.
Mike: Your business has gotten a great deal of attention in the press. Why do you think that is?
Siddhi: I think it’s because people really relate to the practicality of it. We lived through this situation, and so that’s how we even got started in the first place because we went through this situation. We have family full of women, and we ended up spending way too much money on these outfits, and then you don’t want to wear it again. Then we end up swapping and borrowing. So I think a lot of people relate to the concept and just the practicality, because they have been through the issue themselves. I also think with the success of the rental model in general in the U.S. market, whether it’s through Netflix or renting a car, people can use Bag Borrow or Steal or Rent the Runway, that it’s only a matter of time that this kind of rental concept is going to start happening in many other realms. We thought it would be actually a very smart idea to do it in the Indian community, because we saw the need for it ourselves.
Mike: Does an online business like this require a lot of capital to get started?
Riddhi: It did, especially in regards to our inventory. We took the time out to travel to India and scour and all over India and get special pieces from each region, so we have a variety of styles. We also didn’t go overboard. We are a startup, but our most capital was definitely in our inventory, because we really wanted to bring high end pieces and not just pieces that people can just get here or buy online.
Mike: What’s been the biggest hurdle for you so far in running the business?
Siddhi: I would say one of the challenges, the largest challenge we faced is the technical aspect of things. Both of us don’t have technical backgrounds, and initially it was a bit difficult for us to find the right IT kind of a team, that really understood our vision of what we wanted. We met with a wide variety of people, from one-man shows of just programmers to big technology firms, and a lot of people were like, “This site is not going to be possible to get it done in nine months.”
We said, “You know what? We have to find someone that really understands our vision and get’s it done.
Riddhi: In a timely manner.
Siddhi: Exactly. I think what was nice was, throughout the process, when we did find that local tech team, which actually we are happy we found a local tech team, we were able to see what we were doing on the back end come to life on the front end. So we’re becoming more and more tech savvy. It was a hurdle.
Riddhi: It’s fascinating to see things they’re doing on the back end come to life on the front end. We’re lucky that our tech team is local so the turn around time is very quick. I think that’s something that if we have an online glitch or anything like that, that we can try to get it fixed as soon as possible, rather than kind of having a waiting game with your tech team.
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