Published: 15th April 2020
What COVID-19 did to my start-up: Here's how Hashboosh is dealing with the pandemic — new revenue models, more online presence
In this series during the lockdown, we look at how the life and times of Hashboosh, a crowd-designed fashion store, has been impacted by the extended closure in business caused by COVID-19 pandemic
As the number of positive Coronavirus cases in the country has crossed the 10,000 mark, several start-up founders, venture capitalists and lobby groups in India last week had requested the government to grant them a 'robust relief package' to help counter severe losses that would be incurred by their businesses by the end of the complete shutdown. In a letter to the Prime Minister, start-ups requested the Centre to bankroll 50 per cent of their workforce’s salaries for at least a period of six months, provide interest-free loans from banks, and also waive rent for three months and offer tax benefits among a few other things.
Hashboosh in Kochi, a start-up that terms itself as India's first crowd-designed fashion store, has also been facing severe disruption in terms of sales and the working of their daily operations. At Hashboosh, one has to submit their designs to one of their design challenges, spread the word so that one earns a lot of votes and pre-orders. And finally, if one hits the predetermined target set by the challenge, their designs are sold in Hashboosh's store. Given the current situation, the team is gearing up with new models and focusing more on online sales to keep its business floating. We spoke to Hashboosh's founder Javed Anaz, who tells us about their contingency plans, how they are ensuring productivity and a lot more. Excerpts from the conversation:
1. How is the lockdown affecting your start-up?
As far as the daily operations are concerned, it has come to a complete standstill. The market is shut and sales are zero as well. In terms of sales, we depend quite heavily on traditional stores to sell our products and with the lockdown, these stores have shut shop, which means not only is our sales literally zero but we also have quite a bit of receivable as well. The cash flow has shut itself down. This, though, has given us an opportunity to focus more on other areas like brand building, end-customer acquisition, social media marketing, new features, new revenue models and online sales. To our surprise, our online sales have taken off pretty well and even though our customers understand that we cannot deliver the products now, they are ready to pay upfront and wait for the lockdown to end. This is really heartening and promising for the tough days ahead even after the lockdown is lifted.
2. Is your team working from home? How are you coordinating with them?
Yes, we are all working from home. Most of us are from an IT background and have done this quite a bit. And apart from the folks who are part of the production and core operations, most of the others are travelling and on the move. So, this was not really a challenge for us.
3. How are you ensuring employee productivity?
Apart from the staff directly involved in the production, the rest of the gang does not have the space to relax as we have taken up quite a few tasks that were languishing in the background. This was primarily because everyone was so involved in the daily operations that many important tasks were put on the back burner. Now, we are taking these up and trying to come all guns blazing when the market reopens.
4. Do you think there's an advantage associated with this lockdown?
As I said, the major advantage is that we are focusing on a lot of things that we wanted to build but could not due to our involvement in the daily routine. For example, we are in the final stages of releasing new features on the platform that helps designers who already have labels connect with resellers. We are also building and developing a series of courses that allows people who are passionate about design learn about it and actually get to launch their labels by the end of the course. A lot of effort is being directed into brand building and online marketing and building content to engage our end-customers and designers on the online platform. So frankly, we are even busier than ever. The major disadvantage is the loss of momentum in market expansion and the potential contraction of the market in the coming months. We have been growing at more than 40 per cent year on year and it is going to take some time before the sales get back to pre-lockdown days. The associated issues with cash flows will force us to be extra diligent in managing resources and keeping the morale high during these tough times.
5. What is the first thing you as a start-up will do after the lockdown is lifted?
We have a slew of new features that we are very excited to roll out right after the lockdown and we are all really excited about it. The current sales and production network need to be revived and revitalised and that is going to be a tough job. But we will get there, eventually.