Discovering niche designers in Chennai is just an app away

Hot 100: Race To Grace winner Shop Skipper helps shoppers connect with local designers and little-known boutiques in Chennai. By Shweta Gandhi

Started in January 2016 by Prerna Jain and Kamakshi Maheshwari, Shop Skipper is an app that aims to pull together the potential of the unorganised fashion market in Chennai all on one platform.

Connecting the dots
Prerna completed her Masters in Fashion Management from London College of Fashion, while Kamakshi graduated from London Business School with a specialisation in Finance. Soon after they were introduced through a mutual friend, the duo decided to set up Shop Skipper to fill a growing need in Chennai. “We felt the issue here was that everyone knew what they wanted, but they didn’t know where to get it,” says Prerna. “If you’re looking for a hot pink skater dress, you’d probably go to the mall (Palladium, Chennai), and search all 70 stores till you found the right one,” she says. “Our entire idea was to eliminate the time factor completely and reduce the average shopping time.” They also showcase talented designers, startups and boutiques that do not have much of a presence and are striving to generate revenue. “We introduce customers to new designs and fashion, while also giving a platform to cutting edge designers,” she says.

How it works
The app registers brands, renowned Indian designers and quaint boutiques according to accessories, party wear, wardrobe essentials, gowns, shoes, jewellery, bags, casual wear, ethnic wear, college staple and even sale items. All you have to do is log in on the app using Facebook, type what you’re looking for, and you’ll be given the place to find it. The app even allows you to interact with stores and designers through its public enquiry forum to check if they stock a certain product or to find out when their next collection will come out. Some of the known brands and designers registered are Good Earth, Ritu Kumar and Aditya Birla Group. Some local boutiques listed include The Silk Route, Maalgaadi, Calonge, Asat and The Blush Box. However, the app doesn’t let you shop and this has been done on purpose. “We’re going against the dotcom wave. We want to ensure the unorganised market gets a platform by creating awareness and ensuring footfalls,” explains Prerna.

Unique selling point
One of the app’s key features is Shop Skipper’s Edit. “It’s where the best fashion bloggers in town talk about the latest fashion trends and style,” says Prerna. “They reach out to small boutiques and cover them while also interacting with home-based designers in the city.”
Another special feature is its wishlist that lets you take a picture of a dress or a pair of shoes you fancy and save it. The app then informs you if something similar becomes available. “Shop Skipper is the best way to discover places to shop and find low-key designers selling unique collections,” says Prerna. “Our entire purpose is to make life easier for shoppers—we are solving a core fashion problem by exhibiting a product that is unheard of.”

Revenue model
Shop Skipper is a bootstrapped company with five team members. So far, the app has been downloaded more than 500 times. While the app itself is free to download, there are some elements that are available on a premium subscription basis. “Some sections are paid for like Shop Skipper’s Edit. There will also be some sponsored sections by brands,” says Prerna. However, it’s free for designers to list their work, and some sections are free for customers to browse through. Shop Skipper currently earns revenue only through their subscribers. Prerna says the biggest challenge she and Kamakshi faced was manually searching niche brands and designers to list. “We’ve actually gone to designers’ apartments to locate them and invite them to showcase their work on our app,” she says. “It’s been difficult given our limited manpower, but we’ve met some really passionate people who have unique designs.”

Going forward
Prerna and Kamakshi are looking to enhance their product while also expanding their reach. “We are looking to expand to Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Delhi. Ultimately, we hope to make it completely global. We’re also working on transforming the app and making it more dynamic by including everything that’s trending on a city basis.” Prerna says they are fortunate as they don’t have immediate competition. “There are apps close to what we are doing but nobody is entering the unorganised market like us. Plus, we only cover the best of fashion in Chennai, not everything under the sun,” she says. 

Categories:   People, New Kids on the Block


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