Until a few years ago, the ambition of starting your own label would have been the subject of ridicule unless you are a model or a Bollywood celebrity. Enter social media and the era of influencers. With follower counts that go up to a million, these social media stars play a pivotal role in shaping the fashion sensibilities of their audiences.
It was this stature on social media that gave Pune-based Shaurya Sanadhya the confidence to start her eponymous label and subsequently an all-natural organic skincare brand as well. The 28-year-old influencer-cum-entrepreneur has more than 4,00,000 followers on Instagram and one lakh plus subscribers on her YouTube channel.
Donning multiple hats
Before Shaurya crossed the milestone of entrepreneurship, she tried her hand at myriad things. As a young college student, she dabbled with modeling and also walked the ramp for ace designer Rohit Bal and Swapnil Shinde.
“I was pursuing B.Com at Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune. In 2010, during my third year, I also acted in the serial Dhundh Legi Manzil Humein which was aired on Star One. I was financially self-sufficient and I liked acting; but I realized I couldn’t pursue it in the long run. I had to be on set for long hours and the character’s life had become my life,” she recalls.
Eventually, she quit the show and despite getting offers to play lead roles in TV shows on leading entertainment channels such as Colors, she did not take up acting as a career. The same year, Shaurya participated in the Femina Miss India contest and also cleared the west zone finale.
She says, “I had been interested in fashion since childhood. But the idea of making a career in fashion wasn’t particularly appealing to my family.”
Daughter of a retired air force officer, Shaurya undertook the AFCAT (Air Force Common Admission Test) at her father’s behest. She narrates, “I cleared the exam and all the interviews, and was also deemed fit as per the medical standards. My father was over the moon; but I could not envisage myself moving every two years. The fact that I had not been inducted for flying (only those candidates who have studied science are eligible) also acted as a deterrent even though I had already gotten my offer letter.”
Although Shaurya decided against joining the Air Force, she heeded her father’s advise of completing her education. She studied M.Sc in economics at the Symbiosis School of Economics in Pune and worked as a data analyst as ZS Associates, a corporate firm, for a year. “But I got bored and wanted to do something that tapped into my creative potential,” she recollects.
“While I was working, I started closely following popular content creators on YouTube who were into fashion and beauty. That paved the way for my own channel on YouTube and I started making videos of styling, skincare, fashion, and beauty. I used to post videos on my YouTube channel on a weekly basis and Instagram updates were a daily affair.”
Foray into entrepreneurship
Despite having nailed the social media game, it took a while for her to muster the confidence to start her own clothing label. She says, “The bug to start my own label had bitten me during graduation. When I propositioned this to my father, he said, ‘Why would people buy clothes from your brand and not from some other brand? How will they relate to you?’ His words resonated with me.”
Considering the huge investment required and the fact that no one from her family ran a business, Shaurya waited to start her own label only after establishing herself as an influencer with a solid influx of followers.
Label Shaurya Sanadhya came into existence in 2018 after Shaurya and her best friend-turned-husband Amit Tulshyan brainstormed over the brand’s target audience. Shaurya elaborates, “Amit and I sat together and thoroughly studied my social media audiences. We tried to gauge their spending capacity – for instance, we analysed how they engaged with my posts for various segments such as luxury brands, drugstore cosmetics, budget-friendly brands, and my styling videos for Indian and western attires.”
After successfully finding the formulae for identifying her target audience, Shaurya designed ten outfits to launch her label. “I used my savings to procure the material. We hired one tailor and we did not even have the budget to do a proper photo shoot. I rented a studio, my parents helped me with styling, Amit clicked the pictures, and I edited them. Soon after, our website went live; but the traffic was so unexpectedly high that the website crashed.”
Label Shaurya Sanadhya has managed to clock a monthly growth rate of 10-15% per month with its bespoke collection of Indian and western wear outfits. “We have grown into a team of 27 members,” Shaurya adds enthusiastically.
Shaurya’s success with her first venture paved the way for Aryam Bodycare, an organic personal care brand that she established with her husband in 2019.
Talking about the inception of venturing into the personal care space, Shaurya says, “As an influencer, I would get a lot of queries about common skin and hair care problems. I realized there were no budget-friendly organic brands that could solve these issues. My husband and I decided to tap into my father-in-law’s extensive knowledge of Ayurvedic products to start an affordable line of organic wellness products. The products are manufactured at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh using medicinal plants and herbs.”
Currently, Aryam Bodycare products can only be purchased through the brands’ website. “We plan to launch more products after the lockdown,” Shaurya signs off.
(Edited by Athira Nair)