Big Idea

Taking a moon shot

Plus-size apparel is here to stay, and Bengaluru-based The Pink Moon has bootstrapped its way into the market

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, every problem you encounter is a potential business opportunity. Divya Goenka saw a big one, quite literally. After stints at Bigbasket and Cure.Fit’s EatFit, the Columbia University-grad wanted to start her own venture. But what would she sell, and to whom? That’s when she came across this surprising statistic.Despite the fact that the average Indian female height stands at five feet, Goenka says 60% of Indian women buy ‘large-and-above’ sized clothes. She founder her ‘what’ and narrowed it down further to: Plus-size western wear.

Thus, The Pink Moon (TPM) was launched on Myntra in 2018. The name came to her naturally, as the brand catered exclusively to women, so pink sounded like a no-brainer. The moon, on the other hand, is fascinating and curvy in all the right ways. Besides, at Cure.Fit, Goenka fell in love with the fitness brand’s ‘moonshot’ thinking.

She invested around Rs.3 million, and now runs a 20-machine production facility out of Bengaluru. “That’s where we do all our experiments and testing. We maintain a 15-day inventory (about 1,800 pieces. Goenka started out catering to sizes L-3XL)," she says. With most orders coming in the 3XL category, she introduced 4XL to the range, which saw strong sales too. With most brands already selling L and XL, Goenka decided to focus on the XXL-6XL space, which she estimates to be worth around $2 billion.

Having seen Amazon pick up pace in the US during her undergrad years, Goenka knew her distribution channel had to be e-commerce. Her parents hail from Shillong and Kanpur, both Tier-II cities where the latest fashion trends reach, only thanks to the Amazons and Myntras. “Except for Unilever and P&G, no one can solve the distribution problem in India, but e-commerce brands such as Bigbasket cracked it,” she says. TPM retails exclusively online, but she’s clear about one thing: She won’t burn money to attract traffic to her website. “We built ourselves for platforms like Myntra and LimeRoad,” says Goenka. TPM is currently a small team of 14 people, which includes two designers. Speaking about funding, Goenka says it’s not a strict need at the moment, but a couple of conversations have taken place.

At present, she does 100 orders a day with a product selling at an average of Rs.1,200. She claims that TPM was profitable within three quarters of launch. Their present catalogue comprises about 200 products but Goenka plans to boost the number of SKUs to about 500 by the end of the financial year. The idea is to push small batches of multiple styles quickly and not increase inventory. By then, she also aims to push orders to 500 per day.

There’s scope too. On social media, Goenka’s customers demand everything from skirts, shorts, and leather jackets, to tiger prints. Further, a report by McKinsey pegged India’s apparel market in 2020 at around $53.7 billion. Goenka predicts that $6 billion for plus-size clothing would be an understatement, and that the served market is a drop in the sea. However, there are challenges.

One, online purchases are dependent largely on how the display photo of a particular style comes out. “Selling price is decided based on how good the photos turn out. No one reads the description. They look at the photo and decide the purchase. You can’t get a skinny model,” says Goenka. The second is managing inventory. Late in 2019, TPM had launched a jacket which the team predicted would last them till the end of January 2020. However, the 200 units were sold out within two weeks. The lead time for the next batch came to another three weeks, so January’s sales were lost. “We’re catering to only 50% of demand that TPM could potentially serve,” says Goenka. To tackle that problem, Goenka says “We won’t increase our inventory, but we have identified more partners who will supply in small quantities identified.” She’d rather undersell than slash prices to push out excess inventory. “Producing excess inventory burns money and the excess then needs to be sold cheap,” she explains. It’s a fine balancing act, but again, entrepreneurship is about building a business and not getting 100% of your decisions right, she quips.