Written by : Deepika Khare [IIM-B ; PGPEMer]
Fifty thousand spent on shopping at Uniqlo Harbour City, Hong Kong. Twenty-five thousand in one hour at Bali. Thirty-eight thousand in two hours at Ikea Causeway Bay, Hong-Kong, Without worrying about the excess baggage or the credit card bill, the shopping goes on and on and on.
But don’t worry, this is not a maniac going about shopping. Most of this shopping is done for friends and family, just to see their reactions when they see what is shopped for them. I love gifting my family and friends, with or without any occasion. And foreign trips definitely mean coming back with gifts for everyone. It gives me immense pleasure to shop for them. The entire process of buying things is thoroughly enjoyed by me; thinking what will suit them or what will be liked by them, browsing different categories, their preferences etc. Not only do I like shopping abroad for people but I do it for my colleagues and college friends as well, especially from flea markets. My academic background as a NIFTian helps people believe in me as their shopper.
I somehow believe in the British Journalist, Katherine Whitehorn’s statement; “Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it” 😬 Especially when you do not have a job in hand 🙈.
This statement intrigued me so much that I got a wild business idea to become a personal shopper. In a city like Bangalore, the city of traffic, where most working people can only find time on a Sunday to go shopping amidst the long parking queues in the malls and outside trial rooms, this seemed as a good idea. I decided to test this idea as a project with NSRCEL, Bangalore and voila the word was spread among our batchmates. The next part was to think of a name and we did some crowd sourcing to come up with a simple name with no hidden meanings, I SHOP 4 U.
Soon I started getting flooded with orders; “please buy me 4-5 work casual tops”, “I can’t go out to buy a gift for my hubby with the baby today, I urgently need a customized mug with my baby’s photo on it”, “I am travelling to Switzerland but I’ve always worn Indian clothes, how do I shop for some decent western winter clothing?”. I also had a query for “can you please buy me booze for a party at my place, I will be late in reaching home from work so if you can help me?” This query, though funny, made me realise I need to define the categories that I Shop 4 U will be catering to; Apparel, Home, Accessories and Personal Care. The visiting cards were distributed generously, Facebook page created and shared and WhatsApp messages were shared in various communities.
The order processing went fine up to 10-15 orders, after which I realized that service charges against these orders weren’t justifying the amount of time and energy being spent per order. Even though I was enjoying all the shopping but it wasn’t a financially viable model. This led to some rethinking of the business model in the direction of a bulk order instead of an order size of 4-5 units. This came to my mind when I had received one or two orders for some home revamping. This, I thought, would justify the service charges for the services rendered and would also provide the required amount of expertise and focus per order. Similarly, we would be more than willing to take up other bulk orders like wedding trousseau shopping for a bride/groom, wardrobe changeover etc.
There’s a lot more, but in a nutshell, I felt it’s a constant learning process and no business model can be fixed as the final model for the business and something or the other keeps getting added or removed to change it from time to time. As an entrepreneur my job is to just be at it and keep trying. As they say, we will surely learn from our mistakes and keep correcting them on the way.
Photo Courtesy : Deepika Khare