May 19, 2013
It is not everyday that a former trauma surgeon, a former hedge fund manager, and a former Miss Florida USA – who has a fashion background – come together to launch a startup. And it is really not everyday when the trauma surgeon, hedge fund manager, and Miss Florida USA are one and the same. For Indira CEO and cofounder, Carrie Mantha, it is everyday.
Mantha, along with Ajay Mantha and Shekar Mantha, has launched a beta version of her fashion tech company that creates couture-quality products quickly and efficiently for consumers. Their flagship offering, bridesmaids’ dresses, relies heavily on the mix of fashion, engineering, and business in Mantha’s background. Not to mention Indira’s vertically integrated supply chain and highly engineered responsive manufacturing system. The manufacturing system allows Indira to create customized, high-end products at mass market prices.
Indira users can also compare and discuss their customized selections via an internal social shopping platform. Mantha and Indira aim to engage and cater to customers at every touchpoint. From customization, to technological innovation and internal social capabilities, Indira is in a good position to achieve their lofty aim.
Tech Cocktail asked Carrie Mantha about Indira and her experience as a startup entrepreneur.
Tech Cocktail: How do you keep your team motivated?
Carrie Mantha: It’s pretty exciting to play a big part in someone’s wedding, so we keep our team motivated by focusing on our customers. For example, we don’t use order numbers, we use brides’ names and wedding dates. We even include their engagement pictures on the order sheets when we can get them, and our production employees include a personal note in each package. All the thank-you notes from customers are read out loud, and their wedding pictures posted in our factory and offices, so we’re constantly surrounded by awesome reminders of the celebrations we help create.
Tech Cocktail: What common startup advice do you completely disagree with?
Mantha: We follow a lot of the “lean startup” philosophies, but I don’t think they’re appropriate to every circumstance 100 percent of the time. Sometimes it’s worth the risk to make an investment that will position you to leapfrog your competitors, and some products require the kind of branding that necessitates a pretty awesome “minimum viable product.” For example, we had to create an entirely new manufacturing system to be able to pull off what we’re doing, but that also gives us a pretty cool barrier to entry for competitors.
Tech Cocktail: If you had an extra $1,000 to spend on marketing, what would you do?
Mantha: I’d surprise a couple of our customers with a case of great champagne at their wedding. We love celebrating with them, and they’re really our best marketing!
Tech Cocktail: What trend are you excited about as a user or consumer?
Mantha: I love seeing more online brands emerging. The advantage in cost structure that [operating online] provides allows companies to do some really cool things with product quality and pricing.
Tech Cocktail: If you weren’t doing this startup, what idea would you be working on?
Mantha: My team and I built a hack at Conde Nast’s fashion hackathon that was pretty cool. It visually analyzes user-level data from social media streams to determine each users’ current color preferences. We use it as a tool to improve product placement with our customers, and I think it would be really useful to other e-commerce players as well.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the weirdest way someone has used your product?
Mantha: We actually had a drag queen wear one of our dresses to perform onstage. She looked fabulous, so I take that as proof that our Signature Stretch Corset really is universally flattering!
Tech Cocktail: What’s the most encouraging sign of success you’ve seen so far?
Mantha: Virality in customers – we sold 49 dresses off our first customer acquisition! Two bridesmaids and three guests from that wedding became brides and used us for their own wedding, and several girls ordered one-off dresses for themselves. That’s not only exciting from a marketing perspective, but I think it says a lot about how happy our customers are with the product.
Tech Cocktail: What’s your crazy, long-term, huge vision?
Mantha: We think customers deserve couture-quality fashion that’s customized to their preferences, at a reasonable price. And we’re poised to deliver that, not just to bridesmaids, but to the broader fashion market.
Tech Cocktail: Why should I use your product, in 140 characters or fewer?
Mantha: Your wedding should be personal and so should everything about it. Also, it shouldn’t involve polyester. Ever.
Indira was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail New York mixer.
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