Kashyap Dalal and Navneet Rai started Inkfruit in 2007. The two batchmates from IIT, Bombay, had spent several months thinking about ideas and possible business opportunities. “Then we realised that India didn’t have enough creative merchandise brands. The options available in the market were all the same and quite boring,” says Dalal. The duo wanted to start something different and thus came about Inkfruit.
The venture started off with a desire to have a dynamic collection of designs for merchandise, but mainly T-shirts. As the two worked on the concept, they realised that the conventional model of a company’s in-house designers making the products was bound to fail at some point.
“Design teams start getting repetitive and boring after a while. That’s when we came up with the idea of letting people decide what we make and sell. We built the concept of having a place where any designer can upload his or her creation and people would decide which ones are the best, and therefore should be made available. Today, we are proud to say that we are the first design democracy in the country,” says Dalal.
Inkfruit acts as a platform between users, who get to participate with the makers, exchange their ideas and in the end, make designs that have never been seen before. Every person who submits a design invites his or her friends to vote for their entry. People who are active on the site, become friends and keep helping each other improve their material.
Even non–designers share their favourite patterns and suggest cool T-shirts and mugs.The very principal of giving people the opportunity to see in print, what they have decided and designed, leads to a strong bonding between the online community. And, it is this very idea of using a democratic process that has made the difference and made Inkfruit unique from any other player in the market.
The brand is quite a success in its area of expertise. “We gauge our success through some very objective numbers —the number of users on the website, the total number of units purchased from Inkfruit’s collection. At the same time, we also look at our personal satisfaction measures, like the number of fan mails or messages we receive at our feedback ids and on our Facebook page,” says Dalal.
Currently, the website has over one million users and they sell about 12,000 to 15,000 T-shirts every month. Their future goals include positioning the brand as ‘the place’ for attracting design talent from across the world and helping create some “completely awesome merchandise — stuff that even leading brands with professional design teams can’t match,”says Dalal.