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From godsend opportunities to app maker to learning the rope: Covid created many business opportunities

Pratim Ranjan Bose Guwahati | Updated on May 06, 2020 Published on May 07, 2020

Mirrorsize Inc, a US registered start-up with development centre in India, had barely six clients till February this year. They started selling artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled device agnostic body measurements and apparel size solutions, in September 2019.

Since the lockdown, they have acquired 20 new clients, mostly from abroad. Leave alone benching or salary cuts, the company is increasing its manpower by 25 per cent — from 19 to 24 — to keep pace with the rising demand.

Two are already hired and three are set to join after the lockdown. All are alumni of IITs, IIMs and other reputed institutions with decent professional experience.

“We are expecting over 300 per cent growth,” said Arup Chakraborty, founder and CEO of Mirrorsize. For the last two years he had been knocking doors of both brick and mortar and online apparel retailers to try his product. And now, they came running to him to survive in post-Covid onslaught.

The pandemic has definitely created many opportunities alongside its destruction spree. For Chakraborty, it was a fairytale story of being at the right place at the right time. For others, like Bengaluru-based Corpqlo Clothing Pvr Ltd, it was a shock and awe experience.

From clothing to PPE

Set up by Siju Varghese, former CEO of Gokaldas Images Pvt Ltd, in 2018, Corpqlo focussed on corporate uniform segment. Airlines such as Air Asia were their major customers. Varghese developed an asset light model, where they contracted manufacturing capacities on take or pay clause.

However, the nation-wide lockdown grounded the aviation sector which subsequently disrupted operations at Corpqlo.

The company switched focus to making PPE (personal protection equipment) in order to survive and within weeks, they became one-stop shop for face masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing sprayer, non-contact thermometer, gloves, body suits, face shield and sanitization chamber. And, the range is expanding.

While body suits and masks are manufactured by their vendors in the textile sector, Varghese tied up with a pharma company to make their own brand of sanitizer. Face-shields are made by a company in North India, which was so far operating only in the export market. KN-95 masks are, of course, imported.

Collective effort

Varghese makes it clear that it was a “joint effort” of so many vendors. “Covid-19 struck many of us in different fields. We used our resources, to create a complete array of products,” he said.

The strategy worked. Corpqlo got back the same airlines to sell ponchos for the crew. All businesses will henceforth need varieties of PPE. He has different variants of sprays to suit needs (and pocket) of large corporate offices to small retail outlets.

A normal sanitization chamber takes 20 seconds to clean each person. This may be good for offices but, for factories he has UV chambers which work faster. Hospitals are ready customers. But even schools and colleges need to take precautions. Corpqlo is ready to tap the opportunity.

“Going forward we will create a similar model in PPE as in our textile business, where we do everything — right from selecting fibre to branding — except owning manufacturing facilities,” said Varghese.

Accept the change

What is opportunity for Mirrorsize or Corpqlo is a necessity for Bengaluru-based ₹52 crore tailormade suit-maker PN Rao that has six outlets in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.

Apart from regular measures like temperature scanning or availability of hand sanitisers, the premium brand has gone out of its way to make customers comfortable about safety issues. All surfaces in the outlet will be sanitized every two hours.

Gloves and masks will be available. Tailors will wear face-shields and gloves to take measurement of customers. Customers coming for trail will be offered freshly steamed garments to ensure it is germ free.

To ease customers’ fear of catching the virus, PN Rao PN Rao approached Mirorsize to purchase their AI solution. The customer will be asked to give front and side view to the camera — either from the comfort of their home or at the outlet — AI will do the rest.

“We were toying with the idea of using digital tools. Covid-19 made us accept the change,” said Naveen Varghese, partner. Is it a change of customer behaviour forever? He doesn’t know. But, some changes may be here to stay. As the company’s Bengaluru outlet reopened yesterday, there came a customer spending bountiful on range of suits and trousers.

“Going by the volume of purchase we thought he had a wedding at home. It turned out that he needed a wardrobe overhaul for adding full two inches on the waistline during the lockdown,” said Pishe.

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Published on May 07, 2020
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