This start-up that lets students design and sell T-shirts is now making PPE kits during pandemic 

Chennai-based Crowd Designs crowdsources custom T-shirt designs from students and creates exciting clothing for the college crowd
Students wearing Crowd Designs clothing (Pics: Crowd Designs)
Students wearing Crowd Designs clothing (Pics: Crowd Designs)

During his time in Chicago, when Rabin Suresh Kirubhakaran came across a US-based platform that crowdsources designs for clothing and other merchandise from students and sells it, he decided to replicate the idea in India. When he came back to Chennai and graduated from Great Lakes Institute of Management in 2019, he launched Crowd Designs, a platform where college students can design T-shirts and then put them up for sale.

Essentially created for the students and by the students, Crowd Designs has amassed popularity among college-goers in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu. The start-up has been incubated at Great Lakes' AGB incubator that is supported by Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog. "Within a year we were able to reach several students across the state and could also reach out to some students in Bengaluru," says Rabin, "Campus ambassadors in each college coordinate with us for orders and transactions. Our entire customer base is students and we mostly receive custom orders for T-shirts during events or fests." Students who design the T-shirts get a margin from the profits once a T-shirt is sold. On an average, a student can earn Rs 40 to Rs 50 per T-shirt. 

Rabin Suresh Kirubhakaran

Crowd Designs has a manufacturing unit in Tirupur from where Rabin and five-member team sources T-shirts. The T-shirts get printed in Chennai. But the pandemic has throttled a lot of their revenue. Rabin says, "Most of our interactions with our ambassadors  and other student designers happen face to face. But that has been rendered impossible now since schools and colleges are closed." So Rabin and his team are now working on a portal where student designers can submit their designs for approval. "Once approved, we will create the T-shirts. Once they sell, the revenue will directly be debited into the bank account of the student," explains the 27-year-old.

However, while T-shirts have found no takers during the pandemic, Rabin's start-up has adapted. And how. Crowd Designs has now shifted to manufacturing PPE kits and Rabin claims that they supply almost a few thousand of them to hospitals every day. "We already had a manufacturing unit with adequate machinery and enough fabric and even the experience to make T-shirts. Since this was the need of the hour, we decided to make PPEs. We were among the first few companies in India to begin manufacturing PPEs in March and are now among the top 10 manufacturers of PPE kits in the country," Rabin says. He plans to continue making and selling PPE kits for the next six months, until we are all saved by the vaccine.

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