Funny sayings such as “Introverts unite, individually” emblazoned on t-shirts or coffee mugs are increasingly finding takers among young people these days. A generation that is selfie-obsessed wants to express itself — whether through words or pictures.
But taking it to a nearby printer and asking him to print out a funny saying or design on a tee for ₹250 is a thing of the past! With a generation that believes in DIY (Do It Yourself), designing a t-shirt is now taking the online route. Jack of All Threads (JoAT), a Bengaluru-based startup helps people design and manufacture the garment themselves — combining old manufacturing processes with today’s technology to enable individual entrepreneurship.
Be your own entrepreneur
An individual, called a Raiser, can design a t-shirt using the online design tool, then set his/her own selling price. This is how it works: based on the design and product type, you can immediately see the base cost for the t-shirt.
You can then set your own selling price, and add campaign details, such as title, description, link and end date. This campaign page, looks like the product page of an e-commerce website, from where people can buy using the usual card or COD options.
Jack of All Threads handles the production, distribution, payment collection and customer support while it transfers the profits to the Raiser.
JoAT was launched nearly three years ago by Yash Vardhan Kanoi, Apoorvaa Agarwal and Pratibha Nair, when they were in college. Kanoi is from the National University of Singapore (NUS), with a background in business, operations and technology management, and entrepreneurial experience in Israel, the Philippines, Singapore and India. Agarwal is a multiple scholarship recipient with a foundation in operations. Nair has apparel-specific experience with stints in companies, in India and abroad.
What inspired them to start this business? “We wanted to do more than just classes. We started out as a t-shirt printing service for college students and knew, in our first few weeks, that we wanted to do more. We developed ways to involve buyers through unique concepts. The idea of the crowdfunding platform came soon after, as the necessary next step, nearly three years ago,” says Kanoi.
Many months and much experience later, in 2014, the company launched its platform that allowed any individual with internet access to experience creative entrepreneurship.
Starting off, the startup encountered plenty of challenges. To begin with, JoAT had to work towards gaining initial traction, a challenge common to almost all startups anywhere in the world. Ironically, some months later the biggest challenge faced was keeping up with huge growth in traction and growing adequately as a company, according to Kanoi.
JoAT has been able to reach over 2,500 campaigns a month, allowing raisers to sell as few as one piece per campaign for it to be successful. “We have well over 500 new active raisers every month and have been successful in getting over 10,000 buyers every month,” he says. Some NGOs like Akshaya Patra and CRY, as well as students running NGOs such as People for Paws, have scaled up their presence through JoaT campaigns.
So far, the founders have made the initial investments in the company. “We’ve raised angel funding from investors and are seeing a fair degree of interest from investors locally and abroad,” points out Kanoi.
Since the investments came in, Jack of All Threads grew its monthly run-rate about 20 times over the last six months. “We plan to reach a target of 5,000 active raisers and 100,000 buyers a month by the end of the year FY 2016,” says Kanoi.
While the idea in itself may be novel to an Indian audience, as a business it is not very unique as there are hundreds of websites in the US which help people custom-design tees. With websites such as cafepress.com , designashirt.com or zazzle.com , the space is crowded. Further, in India, there are websites like 99tshirts.com and 99prints.in (based out of Tirupur) among others that offer similar services.
However, industry watchers believe that if the company can achieve scale and if people buy into the idea, then it has the potential to be the next big thing in the Indian startup space.