Urban Girl: A Startup Dream Chased to “Success”

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Urban Girl: A Startup Dream Chased to “Success”

 

Over the years, e-commerce has taken the world by storm, disrupting the normal market trend for developed and developing economies alike. Economically powerful countries that have greater internet diffusion and e-commerce based applications have successfully incorporated e-commerce into their regular business environment while developing economies are adopting the culture quicker than thought. Nepal, as one of the developing nations, has also been keeping its pace.

In 2012, e-commerce was a lucrative business sphere only a few had tapped into. With an idea to fill this void, Nikita Acharya and Kiran Timsina started Urban Girl as an online shopping platform aiming to reach out to the fashion-conscious women in Nepal. After four successful years of operation, Urban Girl today is one of the few success stories of Nepali e-commerce scene that majorly supplies branded fashion wears, cosmetics, and accessories among other things. Recently, they have also ventured into bakery and confectionery with Urban Girl cakes.  

 

Starting out

Nikita Acharya was an avid user of online games and e-commerce sites for a long time. During her college days, she noticed that while she was looking to buy stuff online, she mainly had to resort to Amazon and E-bay, since the Nepali market rarely offered what she wanted. This clear gap in the market led Acharya into thinking of starting something of her own- an e-commerce site. With a simple idea and a willingness to nurture that idea, Acharya talked to Timsina, and together they kicked off their project in December 2012.

Together, they pulled money from their savings and started Urban Girls with an initial investment of Rs. 20,000 (Rs 10,000 each) through a Facebook page.

 

Initial Days

Looking at their resounding success today, it is easy to forget the initial days of struggle when their business model wasn’t very clear. “Our initial idea was to start an e-commerce platform that empowered local vendors and promoted local products. We approached a few local vendors promising better sales, but they were very skeptical. Only a few vendors knew that businesses could be taken online, but even their persisting skepticism led them to believe that there wasn’t any potential in doing so. Maybe they thought it wasn’t real”, says Acharya.

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Rebuffed by the local products and vendors they initially targeted, Urban Girl set its sight on imported goods. But the challenge for a bootstrapped startup with limited resource was finding a workable niche to focus on. There were only so many things they could do with NRs. 20,000.

However, this didn’t stop Acharya and Timsina from pursuing their dream. Acharya’s experience in growing up in urban Kathmandu as a girl directed her towards Urban Girl’s first niche. She noticed that there was general excitement surrounding jewelry and accessories among girls her age. Hence, Urban Girl decided to make young girls looking for jewelry and accessories their target customers.

 

Success Follows Success

Urban Girl made a good name for itself as the targeted market niche showed a promise. The two co-founders put a lot of effort into promoting products online on Facebook. They took orders from possible customers online and spared no effort in delivering them on time. But the ambitious founders at Urban Girl were not fully content with the business and its impact. In search of a bigger marketplace, they researched and came to the realisation of a working woman’s need for plated jewelry.

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After successfully establishing themselves in the jewelry market, Urban Girl branched out into other accessories and fashion wears with an e-commerce site. Their success story and word of mouth led local vendors, who had initially rebuffed Urban Girl’s proposal, to contact them and place their products online. Soon, urbangirl.me established itself as Nepal’s biggest online shopping destination for fashion, jewelry, gifts, beauty products, and accessories. Urban Girl then shifted from an office space of 300 sq. ft. to an office space of 2100 sq. ft. in Mid-Baneshwor, a prime market location in Kathmandu.

 

Customer understanding and further growth

The business was growing smoothly, Urban Girl now had more customers and employees than ever, but they wanted to expand their business even further. The co-founders began studying the general shopping trends of the Nepalese. They could see that both international customers and local ones were shopping online to buy gifts for their near and dear ones during special occasions. However, time and again, the most popular gift seemed to be cakes and confectionery.

This is where Urban Girl got another idea for a spin-off, Urban Girl Cakes. The founders gave it a go in 2015, and today, Urban Girl cakes is also following in the footsteps of other Urban Girl products.
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Future plans and propositions

The company co-founded by two young people with a small capital is now one of the largest online shopping destinations in Nepal. Today, Urban Girl employs more than 30 people (mostly working-class women) and tends to 70-80 orders everyday. The founders are now looking into expansion in Nepal’s top-tier cities like Pokhara and Biratnagar. In the end however, Urban Girl aims to stand out from Nepal’s mushrooming e-retailers by serving a wider customer base and empowering women and girls in the process.


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Guest Saturday, 18 November 2017