Buttercups.in: Overcoming the lingerie taboo

Arpita Ganesh - Founder & CEO , Buttercups.in.

Arpita Ganesh believes that what you wear on the inside is as important as what you wear on the outside. She believes that the right lingerie can bring out your inner Naomi Campbell or Cindy Crawford or just make you feel a lot better about your appearance. So, she decided it was time to give India Buttercups.in., a high-end lingerie boutique.

Arpita is a 35 years old hotel management graduate. She loves playing with her daughter, dogs, loves playing the piano and dancing the Salsa. Arpita Ganesh is a striking combination of women with a mind of her own, a touch of irreverence and a sense of humour. After all it takes courage on a dallop of cheekiness to launch a lingerie business in India call Buttercups.

Ganesh decided the time was right to make lingerie shopping less of a nudge notch experience and so she launched Buttercups in 2008 in association with the French brand Chantelle. But her lingerie dreams went bust no pun intended and in 2011 she shut shop. Burdened by high rentals and overheads, Arpita decided to start afresh with the launch of Buttercups. A one stop virtual shop for high end lingerie.

Switching from offline to online:

How could we take this experience online was something we grappled with for a long while because there is absolutely no human connection online. We realised there is a possibility if we gave women a simple task to do like measure herself and just enter those measurements. We could do a matrix that could pull up her size and that was a very interesting concept that for us became okay can we do it? Should we do it?

That is how the idea of the site began and we were comfortable enough to find developers who made that matrix for us.

The matrix takes a little thinking in terms from a fitter point of view because Indian sizes slightly vary from everybody else’s sizes, in terms of Indian women sizes vary. I have my basic figuring of what fits and what doesn't fit in and that's how the matrix was formed. Once we got that right then we had no issues in going online.

The initial response has been heartening with sales of Rs 60,000 in the first month itself. Stocking lingerie, accessories and swimwear price between Rs 1000 to Rs 5000, Arpita have hopes her virtual shop will attract customers who may have otherwise been queasy to walk into a high end lingerie boutique.

Change in mindsets, the biggest challenge and continuing battle:

Lingerie is a taboo word in this country. Two, women heading lingerie is a taboo as is. So, there have been challenges. Challenges being that when you go out there and say that 'I want to do this', there are people who say, 'you know what, just a whim that you want to indulge.'

They do not think that you think of it as a business. They do not think that you have genuine understanding of this market. They just believe you are a pretty face wanting to do something fun. That's not what it is and it has been tough to fight that as a challenge, in terms of people we have met, in terms of orders that we have got I in and in terms of the brands that we have tied up with.

Money is critical for Arpita's expansion plans. The team of 5 at Buttercups is hoping to raise funds to launch its own brand in the next six months. Arpita is in talks with Hong Kong and Russia based manufacturer of lingerie brands to start her own line. Arpita is looking to experiment with an offline-online model and will launch fitting rooms, so customers have the satisfaction of choosing the right fit before placing their orders online. But for now it is baby steps and largely word of mouth advertising.

Plan to reach out to customers:

We don't want to advertise a site with somebody else's brand on it. I'd much rather spend that advertising money advertising my own brand. My own brand is in the pipelines. I am hoping in the next six months, considering we do get the investment we are looking for then we will be able to put our brand out there. We want to have a very unique concept that has never been tried in India before of what is known as fitting rooms.