A one-of-it’s-kind social networking app for women, Chics Connect carves a new niche in the mobile connectivity industry. Organizing events and making women meet – at personal as well as professional front, this start up fuels women empowerment and women self-sufficiency like no other! Here are excerpts from an interview with the founder of this venture, Hurratul Maleka Taj.
1. Tell us about yourself, your background and the inception story of Chics Connect.
After completing my graduation from NMIMS, I came back to my hometown Udaipur and chose to be associated with the fashion industry instead of engineering and MBA, something that was totally against what my dad had wanted me to do. Fashion has never been an option but a passion for me and I made the choice of following my heart and pursuing fashion despite all hurdles. I started a firm called ‘Territory Of Fashion’ along with my personal blog www.hurratulmaleka.com .
During my struggling days, I learnt an important lesson that it is not the ideas but the people associated with those ideas that make all the difference. The more people we meet, on both personal & professional level, the more opportunities show up. I badly missed the presence of the right people in my life, even though they were all out there. I was confined to the four walls of the same room, the same me & the same people with no perspective updates. While looking for opportunities online, I came across men who helped me tremendously and men who proved to be total jackasses. People seem to be quite okay with this trend but it irked me as it tends to be one of the major reasons why parents in small towns hesitate in letting their girls move out to grow and live their dreams. I started wondering how wonderful it would be if there were a platform where all women could connect with each other and make things happen together on their own, professionally as well as personally.
Women often understand fellow women better than the men. This thought got stuck in my mind & I started giving it serious consideration. After persistent thoughts, I decided to do something about it. This is when my business partner at TOF, Vinav suggested, “To bring about the change you have to BE the change.” This one statement kicked my brain and I decided to organize women meet-ups to get the taste of it initially. I logged on to my Facebook account the same day and updated a status saying “Let us all girls from fashion domain, staying in Udaipur meet at the restaurant this Sunday and have some good time together.” To my surprise, twelve girls turned up ending up having an amazing time together. All of them were not from the fashion industry, but they all shared the same hurdle of not being able to connect with the right people. They felt isolated and stuck in their own boundaries. They wanted to meet new people and hence, here they were here meeting each other. This first meet-up fuelled my ambition even further. I got some perspective. I was well-motivated to organize the second meet-up and this time 18 girls showed up. This meet-up was a huge success. We talked about our work & personal lives and out of these talks & discussions, came out many crazy life stories and resources. Many girls who attended the meet-up collaborated professionally and now are working together happily. After the successful second meet-up, I organized the third one which also ended up yielding good results. Each time, an increased no. of people and ideas came to the forefront and Chics Connect soon started becoming the talk of the town. Today everybody knows about Chics Connect & a closed Facebook group has been made especially for the girls who connect/connected via Chics Connect so as to provide all related updates.
On 1st May I hosted Chics Connect Meet-up 4 and it made me feel crazily awesome when Garima, now a Chics Connect Member came down all the way from Dariba, a small town 100 KM away from Udaipur just to get an experience of this meet-up. In Garima’s words,- “Office and the usual life got so boring that I couldn’t stop myself from attending this meet-up even after knowing that it would require me to travel 2 and a half hours in a local bus in this scorching heat.” Her energy moved me and I felt elated. My definition of happiness got a new meaning after listening to her and experiencing her energy and positivity. She said, “Hurratul, I can’t thank you enough for doing this. I sometimes feel super isolated and left out and today I felt great meeting you all. Keep up the good work. Please keep on organizing such meet-ups. I will keep on coming even if that makes me travel all the way from Dariba”. This meant a lot. The meet-up was even better than the previous one. Sharing the pictures here!
We are working very hard on developing this app as this is a dream project which is going to enable girls in coming out of their comfort zones and getting new opportunities to grow personally & professionally by starting & building valuable connections. I today have friends from all walks of life whom I would never have thought of meeting otherwise in my life, all because we met, because Chics Connect happened. A bridge was built between the girls & the possibilities.
My vision is to empower girls by connecting them into a network where they can help each other in every possible way. My life mission is to help girls pursue their dreams.
Who Am I ?
Engineer and MBA by degree, I am a 24 year old girl who loves fashion and believes that every girl should pursue her dreams. I am a fashion consultant and lifestyle blogger and you can see my blog : www.hurratulmaleka.com I am also the founder of Territory Of Fashion, a fashion consultancy company.
2. What are your views on upcoming trends in Fashion space and how different is the Indian market from the rest?
Fashion has totally become experimental and I would say that this is the best time as we all are actually living our definition of fashion, at least those who do not blindly follow the trends. There is so much variety and mix and match that anything carried with confidence makes you look beautiful and sexy. It is such a lovely time where even the past trends are getting repeated with twists and thus there are lot of options and choices. The Indian market is a little different from other markets in the world because firstly every single city has its own culture and thus fashion gets impacted by the choices people make. A lot of variety can be seen just with one saaree, just in the way it is draped from North to South. Also for the premium segment brands, there is still only a very small segment which can afford it and thus, fast fashion remains very much in trend. Brands catering to masses will work more than the brands catering to classes. Also, online boom for fashion has been tremendous and will increase with progressive technology. One striking feature has been the coming back of offline shopping, especially with clothing, as the perfect fit and the shopping experience, the trials and the rejections are now being missed. When we talk of online fashion stores, the market is very competitive. There are numerous big fashion e-commerce stores and so many styling companies. Having said that competition also brings in great scope of taking things to another level. I am very happy that Indian Market is going so competitive.
3. What is Chics Connect all about? Tell us in detail about your services offered and the target segment?
Imagine yourself travelling to another city for work and after work entering a restaurant for dinner all alone. You wish you had company but because you know nobody in the city, here you are all alone on the table. Oh but wait, you have a mobile app called ChicsConnect. You pick up your phone, log in to the app and find out that there are five other girls in and around the same location that you are in. You could meet them & this boring evening can be turned into a fun evening simply by messaging them through the app. So you go ahead and take the chance and let’s say three of them end up being available for a meet-up and you all meet.
Now imagine these scenarios:
You are in your own city and you want to keep a small meet-up for all your friends and to add on to the fun, you wish some more fun people to join in. You log in to the Chics Connect mobile app and create an event saying that you are organizing a casual event to hang-out at XYZ place. Now you want to keep it a little crazy & give it the name “Let’s Know New People MEET”. There are girls in and around your location who saw it and they liked the idea & decided to join in. They send you messages saying that they are available & are joining in and Ka-boom! You all meet.
You want to start your own Yoga sessions in morning and want to have some girls to join in. You create an event on the Chics Connect mobile App saying you’re organizing a Yoga session at XYZ place. All girls in and around the location will be able to see the event and can join in after sending you a message on the app.
You are in a club and you want more people to join in. You create a meet-up event on the Chics Connect App. You are into branding and to your surprise a CEO of some MNOPQ company is in the club as well. She sees the meet-up availability and joins in. You end up having a fun evening and to your surprise share a lot in common with each other on a professional level. A connection you never thought you could ever come across otherwise ends up happening!
You want to organize a meet-up event on a personal exhibition of your own paintings. You create an event on the mobile app and end up getting a good response from the girls around the location who are interested in joining in. Connections are made again!
You are on a bus stop, standing all alone and you find some weird guys around. You start feeling fishy & unsafe. You click on the Panic Button and all the girls in that location get notified about your exact location. Some of them even turn up to reach you with help!
The possibilities of making simple connections ending up in life-time friendships to valuable professional connections ending up in collaborations using Chics Connect are immense. Chics Connect aims to break the patterns & help create a better world by letting women folk connect with each other like never before. Horizons of their mental & emotional perspectives grow wider & comfort zones shrink with every new connection. It is similar to connecting the dots & accessing the larger picture – You let loose and let life surprise you with all the pros of connecting with fellow women. Every connection is a revolution in making. We wish to empower girls to spread their wings & fly out of the cage of their pre-defined limits and meet new companions, building inspiring and lasting relationships.
Target group – each and every woman, whether she is an entrepreneur, in job or she is a house wife. We aim at connecting the super talented lot with the ones who are aspiring and want to break free. Also these meets are for women to speak their heart, connect and build some healthy relationships.
4. How has been your beginner’s journey? What were the challenges you faced in setting up and scaling up your enterprise? Any hurdle that you’ve faced or you’re still facing?
My beginner’s journey has been very interesting and (I must say) a roller coaster ride for sure. When I started Territory Of Fashion and we once faced a very bad time when a vendor ditched us and we had to face great losses. We changed the model of Territory Of Fashion from a fashion e-commerce to premium customized wears and fashion consultancy. We also closed down the TOF online fashion magazine and I started my own fashion and lifestyle blog which is www.hurratulmaleka.com . In these one and a half years I understood one thing that there were such talented women all out there but I wasn’t able to reach out to them. Also while I met some amazing men, I also met some who were totally a nonsense. I always felt that there weren’t enough talented girls whom I was meeting and hence I thought of starting such concept where girls can connect, not just for professional networking but for any purpose. Thus CHICS CONNECT came into existence. Today we are 1500+ members
5. What is the competition in the market for Chics Connect? What is it that sets you apart from your competitors?
There is no competition in the market. We are first Girls Networking Application ever. There is a group called GIRL CREW in USA but they are a group on facebook only. We are coming with a mobile app. This would set us apart from any other girl/women communities and groups that exist. The app would help girls discover other girls, connect, make new friends and collaborate like never before.
6. What is the business/revenue model of Chics Connect? Can you briefly summarize the growth achieved from day1 till now?
The business model for Chics Connect is that we are keeping the membership absolutely free. We will bring in Gold, Platinum and Diamond Membership which will be chargeable but the common membership will always be free. The app will be freely accessible to all the members. We plan to earn only and only through brand promotions, product launch in the meetups, events and collaborations.
We are growing at a rate of 300%. When we started 2 and a half months back we were 18 people, now we are 1500+ members. I expect by December we will touch 10,000.
We have already had 14 meetups across India including cities like Udaipur, Mumbai and Delhi and next one i in Bangalore on 3rd July. We have partner brands like INIFD, JAMM’s, SNS, Storified.me , Kiran Manral, 10 on 10 Clothing and PAUSE Wines with us, who have had sponsored our events. The growth has been tremendous and we will soon be doing quite a big event.
7. Can you tell us about your team?
Hurratul Maleka Taj – Founder
Vinav Bhanawat – Technology Consultant
Rahul Narvekar – Mentor and Advisor
Saurabh Uboweja – Branding Mentor
We have hired Chics Connect Community Managers across cities like Jaipur, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Pune
There is a team of 11 people working on the technology side which includes application development and testing.
8. Tell us about the funding of your venture.
We went for crowdfunding on KETTO, where we raised 1,14,426 INR. Rest the application development and other events’ costs are being born by me. Also Vinav Bhanawat is helping us a lot by doing the IT work in the lowest possible cost. He has been a big support. All my meetups are mostly “pay for yourself” kind, so people who come pay for their meals. The events have pre-registrations and that too has received great response so far.
9. What has been your inspiration for starting up Chics Connect?
The passion of bringing girls together to form a strong and trusted community where no girl shall feel alone, no matter wherever she is.
10. What will Chics Connect look likein 5 years from now? All perspectives – people, business, revenues, team, size or anything you foresee for the venture.
I see it as a very big and strong community of girls who are interconnected seamlessly, collaborating in a very effective and easy manner and are always connected no matter wherever they are. It will be global for sure. I am aiming at 3 billion women users worldwide.
We congratulate the Chics Connect team for such an innovative step towards women empowerment and connectivity. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors!