Meet the SHEROES--Vishakha Singh, Founder & CEO, Red Polka
Vishakha Singh, founder and CEO of Red Polka, started her venture with the aim to provide women clientele a ‘window-shopping experience’ when looking for unique and interesting products online.
Red Polka prides itself in offering curated products for the woman buyer. So, how did the idea for this interesting venture come about? Let’s read on…
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was recruited in Delhi for a position in Mumbai with the Times of India group. I started my work life from a working women's hostel in Mumbai and got to work on brands like The Economic Times. My first brush with retail and shopper behavior was while launching the music store Planet M. Later, I moved to CNBC TV 18, worked on building the brand and moved back to the Times group, and was a core member in strategy and launch of Times Now. Those were the days when we had to work hard to get Times Now viewership and to build the brand we got closer to consumer behaviour. I learnt a lot more on shopper behaviour during my stint at Future media, a Kishore Biyani venture. After almost a decade of work life at various corporates, I launched my own venture on Shopper Marketing. Experiences with that firm formed the genesis for Red Polka, which was launched this year.
I have been influenced by a few things in my life so far, which has shaped me as the person I’m today.
I believe that work is worship and supporting women in their work is devotion. Thus, causes related to working women are close to my heart. At Red Polka, I follow this philosophy and 80% of our merchant partners are women who are creating dynamic designer products. Even at the company level, we support mothers through flexi-timing and other initiatives.
Joh Diktha Hai Woh Bikta Hai (What you see is what you get): I believe that brand building should be a part of a company’s growth strategy, and thus, it has to be a well thought-out and a structured approach.
Building bridges: I also serve on International Advertising Association – India Chapter (IAA) board where I’m involved in IAA initiatives directed at knowledge sharing and growth for advertising and marketing professionals. On the personal side, I support child adoption as a cause and NGOs working in the space.
How did the idea of Red Polka come about?
While researching about what to do next, I noticed a sharp change in the way people had started shopping. Many of them had moved to the online shopping space; however, to quench their need for window shopping, they still visited physical stores. With women specifically, this gets more interesting. Not only do we love to window shop, we are always on the lookout for a good design, something unique and one-of-its-kind. With more women joining the workforce, the share of the wallet spent on women's shopping is steadily rising. In the online space, though there are big players in the fashion segment, none of them are addressing this need for window shopping and showcasing unique fashion and lifestyle designs. That’s what stuck out for me. I thought, what if I can give women a marketplace for window shopping by curating fashion and lifestyle products. That’s how Red Polka--The Chosen One was born.
Red Polka stands for ‘The Chosen One’, as we showcase curated products based on great design and interest graphs of our audience. We do this through our weekly fashion themes which are based on interest graphs and shopper behaviour, and it is validated by analytics. This measure has been successful as our weekly fashion themes have got our audience hooked on to Red Polka. Not only is the daily traffic growing, but more than 35% of it is repeat visitors.
What is Red Polka's USP vis-a-vis other e-commerce stores?
Red Polka is quite different from the current e-commerce market place models. We operate in affiliate space, which by definition means enabling e-commerce and commerce. Our USP lies in personalised curation of fashion and lifestyle pieces from upcoming designers, who we call ‘Hidden Gems’. It ranges from handmade cards to apparel to fashionable crop tops to footwear to home decor. We also run a content platform by the name of Polka Coffee, which is all about stories behind the brands we showcase, and tutorials about the theme-based designs on the site to drive engagement with our shoppers.
What is your typical work-day like at Red Polka?
Though I reach office by 8.30 AM, my work starts from home. I believe that a fitter mind resides in a fit body; thus, my workout regime is sacrosanct for me. It starts at 5.30 AM, for an hour, after which I'm busy getting my kids ready for school. Once they leave, I start my work-day and by 8.30 AM, I'm in the office. I also make it a point to catch my kids early in the evening and have dinner with them. Once they are asleep, I often get back to work (from home).
What short-term business plans do you have for Red Polka? Would you launch another associated e-commerce site in the future?
We have recently raised a round of seed funding from a clutch of investors, which will be used to develop Red Polka’s mobile app and a new site which will be launched in the coming months. We are also in a team expansion mode. It is extremely important for us to attract the right talent. The company has recently hired Parnil Mhatre as CTO, whose forte is artificial intelligence. The company will be developing AI-aided algorithms to curate fashion and lifestyle designs for women shoppers. We also have plans to raise another round of funding.
What or from whom do you draw your inspiration?
I get my inspiration and strength from my parents in a big way. I'm awed by the fact that my father, even at age of 70+, works very hard, is free-spirited and drives several initiatives to bring growth in his circle of influence, which is very large. Apart from several other things, I especially get inspired by my mother’s listening skills and her patience levels. I am inspired by several women merchants and designers whose products we showcase; they keep me charged up with their stories and their commitment to their designs and some amazing work.
In the world of business, what key pointers should aspiring women entrepreneurs keep in mind to get ahead?
Women are emotional binders of the society. Therefore, it’s important to prioritise and efficiently manage all parts of their lives, including work. It is important for to learn to say NO sometimes. But just like any other job we commit ourselves to, women entrepreneurs have to work hard, show respect and patience to people working with them. But never compromise on the quality and value systems.
How do you visualise your brand / professional self in the next 5 years?
Five years is a long time in this business. Thus, I will have to take a clichéd line here 'Time will tell'.