In January 2019, when 30-year-old entrepreneur Ankita Bansal was approached by a friend for a role in an upcoming Netflix docu-series, she jumped at the offer.
“I love trying new things and I went into this with no expectations whatsoever,” she tells YS Weekender.
Ankit and her younger sister Gayatri Bansal run THERE!, a women’s fashion brand based in Delhi. It combines statement-making silhouettes along with wearable fits to make limited edition pieces, of all things denim.
After the initial auditions, Ankita went back to her usual routine, the show forgotten. Months later, in May when Netflix confirmed her role in the show, she was surprised. “I had forgotten about the project and was supposed to begin shooting my sequence in July,” recalls Ankita.
A year later, Indian Matchmaking released on Netflix, went viral, making headlines everywhere. Ankita, particularly, was an instant hit for being bold, career-oriented, and unapologetically herself.
Eventually, Sima Taparia (or Sima Aunty) could not find her a match. However, the Netflix show proved to be a boon for her business.
While the entrepreneur remains unaffected by the increasing number of followers on her Instagram profile, Ankita says, “Nothing could have been better for our brand in 2020 than the fame we got from the show.”
Initially, THERE!’s month-on-month sales volume was growing at a steady 200 percent. After the show’s release, this grew to a whopping 700 percent month-on-month for three months.
Back in 2017, Gayatri, a BCom graduate, was looking for opportunities to work in fashion after her graduation. She hoped she could eventually start her own fashion label. Ankita, on the other hand, after having worked with marketing agencies for close to eight years, was looking to explore something new and quit her job.
“We were at the right place and at the right time. THERE! came to us very organically,” Ankita says.
By the end of 2017, the duo started working on the brand and in February 2018, they launched the website.
But why denim?
“Both of us love wearing denim. The fabric is versatile and you do not have to worry about coordinating denim with anything. Additionally, it is comfortable for all age groups and genders,” says Gayatri.
THERE! has so far launched five collections, which have up to 15 styles each. The brand focuses on creating pieces that can be styled into either a party-wear outfit, Sunday-brunch wear, and even work-wear.
Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the fashion label produces in small batches. This policy is introduced to “Cut down the consumption of fashion the way it is consumed today,” Ankita says. The brand offers customisation on sizes to reduce returns and exchanges, and ultimately, reduce wastage of resources.
The clothes are priced between Rs 2,500 and Rs 11,000, keeping in mind the craftsmanship, efforts, and designs that goes behind every product.
“The designs reflect who Ankita and I are as people. We try to incorporate things that we look for when we go shopping,” Gayatri adds.
Since both the sisters come from a non-tech background, they used Shopify to set up the website.
Earlier, THERE! used regular advertisements to target Indian customers and drive sales through the website.
However, the fame brought by Indian Matchmaking boosted the brand’s organic sales from international customers. “We did not even have payment options for our international customers; Shopify helped us with that as well,” Ankita says.
In fact, in December 2020, THERE! barely had to run any ads but managed to attain a lump-sum sale.
“The Netflix experience has taught me an important lesson — when you do not have expectations in life, the results you get are abundant,” Ankita says.
While the month-on-month increase in sales jumped to 700 percent immediately after the show, it now stands between 400 to 500 percent.
To further expand the offerings, the co-founders are planning to get into conversations with potential investors.
Professionally, Indian Matchmaking proved to be a boon for Ankita’s business. However, personally, it changed the way she functioned as a person.
“The persona that you create on social media is very different from the person that you are in real-life,” she says.
Ankita is grateful for the love she has received over the last couple of months. The entrepreneur believes, “Sometimes, the audience would want you to behave a certain way but you cannot deliver it as you have certain limitations as a human being. Eventually, it (the fame) is both a bane and a boon.”
On being asked about her ‘ideal match’, Ankita says, “The perfect match in any given scenario should be someone you are willing to work things out with, irrespective of the challenges that come your way.”
Post pandemic trends
The brand’s latest collection HAUWA is dedicated to all the women who shopped with the brand during the pandemic, and helped it sustain itself.
Initially starting with the basic blues to study the market better, THERE!’s collection has evolved over the years. “With the new collection, we have got more experimental with the colour, embroidery, and silhouette,” Gayatri says, “The styles are more versatile and comfortable.”
With people stepping out less often, Ankita feels 2021 fashion trends will focus more on comfort. Loose-fit dresses will be preferred over body-hugging styles. “The 60s and 70s style will make a comeback, but in a more evolved way. History in fashion will repeat itself,” she adds.
According to the founders, pieces that accentuate one’s curves but are flowy — including bell bottoms, joggers, and crop tops, will set trends.
Mission collective success
The pandemic hit every business, across industries. Ankita says that it gave the brand enough time to introspect what it wants to be. “We had made five-year business plans. But I am not going to get into that because those plans have halted. We do not know where the world is headed to,” she says.
As of now, THERE! is looking at collaborating with people and brands across India, and beyond. It has already collaborated with a London-based radio host to take the brand overseas. Coming March, THERE! will collaborate with a Hyderabad-based brand. The label is in talks with a men’s wear brand as well.
“As a young brand, we realise how challenging it can be to get international customers. Since we have been lucky enough to showcase our brand on an OTT platform like Netflix, and get a doorway into the global market, we want to extend the opportunity to our fellow entrepreneurs as well,” Ankita says.
The primary objective behind these collaborations is to help young Indians increase their visibility.
“We do not want to keep the success just to ourselves. Collaborations will make us stronger, as an economy as well,” says Gayatri.