First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arup Chakraborty: These are trying times for any human being on Planet Earth since we all are grappling with the pandemic. That being said, it also gives us an opportunity to bond with our families since most of us work from home. This pandemic, in my case, fortunately, has given me the time to strengthen my relationship with my family since an entrepreneur spends most of his or her time travelling or taking care of his or her extended family–our employees.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Mirrorsize.
Arup Chakraborty: Mirrorsize is a US-headquartered startup that has set up its research centre and Indian arm in Delhi. There’s a strong reason for this. In the more than two decades that I lived in the US, I developed a taste for Brooks Brothers shirts. Once I placed an order for a shirt, but when it was delivered, it didn’t fit me. I asked for a replacement but was disappointed again. Finally, I decided to drive down to the store in New Jersey to get myself measured by their tailor and get to know the right size. This inspired me to launch Mirrorsize in December 2018 since I was convinced that we had a gap to fill in the retail tech industry. In fact, ill-fitting clothes are a multi-billion-dollar problem. So much so that online returns are as high as 55% globally at times, predominantly due to fitting issues.
I realized that the existing online shopping system either provides size charts to help consumers find the right-sized clothing. Some e-tailers use data-driven personalization platforms that ask users a few questions and run an algorithm that makes size recommendations.
Mirrorsize did not happen overnight. I had discussions with some professors from universities such as Stanford University, IITs, and NITs in India since mid-2016 before I roped in two professors, Subhasis Banerjee and Sudipto Mukherjee from IIT Delhi, as technical advisors to spearhead the product development process. I also had to come back to India.
The fact that I have a finance background and have worked with multiple product startups in the US as their CFO has helped a lot. I have also helped these startups raise funding, launch IPOs, and even get acquired by MNCs. This gives me a sound knowledge of how to run a startup.
How does Mirrorsize innovate?
Arup Chakraborty: Even as the impact of the pandemic tapers, our concerns are unlikely to go away in a hurry. In fact, many of our rational and irrational fears may spawn new business models and innovative forms of delivery as we continue with some sort of self-distancing for at least a few months. Hygiene will assume a lot of importance when purchasing apparel–shirts, tops, jeans, trousers, etc. The reason: Shoppers may not be comfortable trying apparel in stores, and retail stores, too, may discourage trials for the same reason. Hence, brands will have to ensure that they provide a safe shopping environment for shoppers to conveniently shop in their store.
To attract footfalls in their stores and assure shoppers that they are safe, brands will have to ensure that shoppers identify the right apparel in their first attempt. Consequently, online stores may also prohibit returns in a bid to ensure the hygiene of every garment and the safety of their customers. Stores already implement this policy with undergarments or innerwear.
Mirrorsize is a 3D body measurement solution that uses AI, advanced computer vision, deep learning models, and mesh processing to instantly provide precise body measurements. Its patent-pending technology makes it the only company in the world to allow a user to wear skin-tight or regular clothing while using the app by using a combination of image processing and data analytics to display body measurements. Moreover, Mirrorsize is the only app in the world to provide measurements for both tight- and regular-fit clothing. The app, available on iOS and Android devices, now also shows users their 3D avatars. Retailers can subscribe for a free trial directly from the Mirrorsize.com website. We typically approve all free trial requests within 24 hours. Mirrorsize licenses the use of its technology and offers a SaaS-based pricing model, with discounts for multi-year contracts.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Arup Chakraborty: We offer retailers a free trial, and even in this lean period, we have had many inquiries for our app since it can help retailers align costs by automating many processes. We are pleasantly surprised to be signing up many small customers. These customers came from geographies as diverse as Australia, the US, Pakistan, Morocco, and even India. Most of these SMEs have less than 10 employees and do custom tailoring for men, women, or even both. Even before COVID-19 hit us like a bolt from the blue, automation was reshaping the labor market while digital transformation was changing the way we led our lives and did business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Arup Chakraborty: “At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies,” says venture capitalist and former Cisco chief John Chambers. This is so true. We enable businesses to go digital in these tough times. This helps them to stay competitive. The pandemic is teaching us all that we will have to swim harder to make progress.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Mirrorsize in the future?
Arup Chakraborty: Meditation and being always focused on help. It’s also important to take care of your employees in these trying times. They are your true assets and will stick with you when the times are good again. Hence, it’s important to invest in your employees too.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Arup Chakraborty: We look beyond just the fashion industry to sectors like defence, airline, hospitality, and education. In other words, we are looking wherever there is a need for uniforms. We have already sealed deals across these sectors in India, the US, Sweden, the UK, and Italy. We welcome competition since it helps us raise the bar. There are global companies like Tailorguide, Bodi.me, Styku, and Mtailor that have solutions similar to Mirrorsize. However, many are trying to solve this industry-wide issue of the wrong size or bad fitting clothes, but they either charge a lot or need additional hardware or a specific device. Mirrorsize, on the other hand, is device-agnostic, and a company needs no hardware to use the product. Any smartphone and tablet having a front camera of at least two megapixels will work. Mirrorsize works for all kinds of clothing, including loose-fitting pieces like salwar-kameez.
Your final thoughts?
Arup Chakraborty: A turtle cannot make progress unless it sticks its neck out. This implies that businesses won’t make progress unless they go digital. We at Mirrorsize show them how to get the maximum ROI from digital.
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