Quick commerce and instant gratification have become all the rage, and the Antwerp, Belgium-based startup AiSPi sustainably built a fashion boutique discovery platform on a trunk show model. The company claims a whopping 95 percent of his customers are based in India.
Entrepreneur Aisha notes that many European designer brands remain hidden from the global fashion scene. The e-commerce platform sources products from unique and lesser-known boutiques and designers across Europe, lists them on the fashion website and makes them available at trade shows.
also serves as a “Michelin guide” to shopping to tell people what’s beyond Europe’s main shopping streets, currently listing around 20-25 stores each in 18 cities.
While Aisha began to believe that anyone traveling in Europe could be the target audience, she is happy that the focus on the Indian market has grown organically.
“The biggest value we bring is to my audience back home in India. I saw they were the most engaged, the most excited, and that was really nice. And since then we’ve pivoted to stay focused in the Indian market,” she said. His history.
Indian consumer’s appetite for fashion has grown tremendously during the pandemic, with the online fashion industry sees overall growth of 51%according to fashion e-commerce report published last year.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in finance and management from the Wharton School, Aisha worked at Ernst & Young in New York and Belgium, where she now lives with her husband.
On a quest to combine his two passions–fashion and travelAisha spent her weekends browsing unique finds in different boutiques in 14 European cities for two months.
“I would team up with videographers and photographers and visit these shops to talk to people to understand their concept and learn more,” she says, recalling the early days of AiSPi’s construction in 2017.
Aisha noted that designer brands in India are either split between clothing brands like FabIndia and brands like Sabyasachi or Abu Jani. While the starting price of these latest brands is around Rs 1-2 lakh, AiSPi’s average product price of around Rs 40,000 seems affordable for luxury brands.
It claims to bridge the price gap between FabIndia and Sabyasachi, with prices ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 80,000 – Rs 1 lakh.
After a year of identifying and curating products and processes, the website was launched in 2018. Aisha managed to juggle the business until she quit her full-time job in November of l ‘last year.
Started so far, Aisha made the first large initial investment of around €15,000 after establishing market demand and using it to build the website and branding.
How it works?
The platform operates strictly on a trunk show model and only sells at multi-format experiential trunk shows held in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Antwerp, as well as virtually during the pandemic.
Aisha explains, “If you visit our website today, we won’t sell to you. We’ll take your information, note your request, and when we launch our next show, we’ll make sure you’re invited or send you a virtual invite link if you can’t physically make it.
In just 40-45 days of sales in the past three years, AiSPi has achieved an impressive turnover. Although conducting regular business online like any other e-commerce platform is likely to generate more sales, Aisha says the current model allows AiSPi to add greater value to customers by catering to a specific and “does not feel obligated to sell for fun”.
Over the years, the Trunk Show model has helped build trust and create a sense of exclusivity. The startup now has a network of over 10,000 customers who interact with the brand, actively communicate and attend its events.
In the future, it aims to expand and go beyond Europe to identify boutiques and possibly also focus on menswear.
Although the startup has no direct competitors, marketplaces like Ajio Luxe offer luxury products in similar price ranges and beyond.
Donning the entrepreneur hat meant that Aisha took care of everything – from product steam ironing, to SEO and marketing, to website maintenance, PR, accounting and every step of the way.
At first, most boutiques didn’t support and value her platform despite unlocking new customers for them, she says.
“I am the one who came with a photographer and a videographer. All I ask is if we can take pictures and videos of their products, free publicity, and they would say I’m disturbing their customers. And it pinches you because you talk about their brand so passionately on the platform,” she says, adding that shops are listed for free to ensure independent product curation.
While the e-commerce business has generated a lot of excitement and demand for these stores, the biggest challenge facing AiSPi today is hiring talent and a good team to grow further.
After going from a job advising startups to running a startup herself, Aisha sums up her journey best by saying that just like motherhood, entrepreneurship doesn’t come with a guide and that do whatever it takes with passion.