Vishakha Bhaskkar and Asana Riamei started their inclusive women’s clothing brand Angrakhaa about five years ago. Their pitch on Shark Tank India helped them bag funding of Rs 40 lakh from Amit Jain, Co-founder of CarDekho.
For someone who has struggled with body image issues since she was a young girl, the success of her inclusive clothing brand, Angrakhaa, has been a validation of sorts. “I have dealt with comments about my body my whole life, and this is something that starts from your own home. Some nasty relative passing a stray remark in front of 50 other people leaves a mark, regardless of what age you are. Even if you are an adult, it’s humiliating,” says Vishakha Bhaskkar, Co-founder of Angrakhaa.
Started by Vishakha and Asana Riamei in 2018, Angrakhaa offers stylish, inclusive clothing, with sizes ranging from XXS to 5XL and over 400 designs.
Vishakha was always interested in fashion and would often experiment a lot with clothing and styles that set her apart. But then, as the young entrepreneur points out, there would be that one person who would give a back-handed compliment like “you dress up so well for your weight”.
But she didn’t let such comments deter her and went about “being fashionable”. This translated into a blog while she was studying economics (honours) at Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi.“Midway into the course, I figured that I probably chose the wrong one. But, during my second year, I started writing a lot of fashion blog posts on plus size fashion and got connected to a lot of women around the world,” Vishakha tells her story.
Surprisingly, she did not sit for placement in college and started looking for off-campus jobs. Vishakha started writing fashion content for a startup in Gurugam and then moved to another job, before she began working with a senior fashion designer in the industry. Though Vishakha declines to reveal the name of the designer, she says her life’s turning point happened there, when she met Asana, who had been working there for 10 years.
Before she quit, Vishakha promised Asana that she would call her the moment she decided to set up her own venture. In between, Vishakha moved to Mumbai to work with designer Nitya Arora Walia and learned the managerial side of business. A year later, she quit and started Angrakhaa in Delhi. In a few months, Asana joined her. Together, they started small, with around 15 designs in their first collection, all designed by them. The tailoring was outsourced to a small unit in Khanpur, Delhi.
Angrakhaa, the brand
Vishakha says she chose the name ‘Angrakhaa’ to define the silhouette that they were fond of. The brand offers both Indian and Western outfits. Most of the outfits are cinched at the waist, giving great form and flattering every body type.
Angrakhaa focuses on cotton and rayon, and the designs are planned keeping in mind comfort and convenience. The brand offers outfits in three categories—Summer, Occasion Wear, and Indian. Collections are launched throughout the year. The summer outfits are mostly priced below Rs 3,500, while the occasion wear pieces, in luxurious fabrics and embellishments, are pricier.
By the time she had started Angrakhaa, Vishakha was quite well-known as a fashion blogger. She had been featured by several publications including Buzzfeed India, Times of India, and Yahoo. So, it was easy for her to promote her brand through social media. The brand picked up organically, faster than the founders imagined.
Those were the days before reels and videos became popular on Instagram, and Angrakhaa gained popularity just through the photos posted on social media.
Impact of the pandemic
However, the brand took a hit during the pandemic, when the founders couldn’t fulfil the orders they received. Fortunately, the outsourcing model ensured the brand didn’t bleed money, as the founders didn’t have salaries to pay. “We tried to help out whoever was working with us at that time. Our customers reassured us by allowing us enough time to send their orders,” says Vishakha.
The faith in themselves and the brand and the love of the people around them helped them pull through, she says. The entrepreneurs used this time, during the pandemic, to sign up for different courses, including one with Meta that taught them how to use digital marketing to run the brand.
Post Shark Tank
After the Shark Tank India episode was aired on television, the brand has received an overwhelming response from customers. “The sales shot up immediately by 3x—and the numbers we were doing in summer, we are now doing in our slack period, which is usually winter,” explains Vishakha.
“Our Instagram followers have increased from 63,000 to around 80,000. At one time, there were around 8,000 people on our website,” she says. And to think they almost didn’t apply to pitch at the show!
Vishakha says,“Though quite a few of our friends suggested we apply, we were sceptical as we didn’t want to reveal our numbers to the world, yet,” says Vishakha. “But it would also be a great opportunity for our brand to receive this kind of exposure on national television, so we went for it.”
Both Vishaka and Asana are happy to have on board Amit Jain as an investor and hope his expertise would help them scale the brand with a greater digital marketing push. In future, the entrepreneurs want to expand the Indian segment, which is becoming popular, and explore the bridal market, with a focus on bridesmaid outfits and designs for mehendi, haldi, sangeet and more intimate occasions. They are also looking to launch footwear and bags.