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Building India’s Leading Social Commerce Platform

Neha Suyal
February 2, 2023

Learn from our community entrepreneurs! In this interview, Neha Suyal shares the story of building and growing Woovly, located in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

  • Hi! Tell us about your business and what problem are you solving?

    ‍I am Neha Suyal, and I am changing the way small towns and cities of India discover fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products.

    Woovly, based in Bangalore, India, is my first entrepreneurial venture. It is India’s leading social commerce platform for fashion, beauty, personal care, and lifestyle products that help customers to shop via AI-driven brand-tagged user-generated content.

    As a qualified Computer Science engineer, I have extensive experience building open-source technologies. I left a well-paying job with HP India in 2015 to join the Stanford Ignite program on Entrepreneurship and Leadership, where I met J. Venkat, my co-founder.

    After completing the program, I went on to work with Quess Corp., Venkat’s earlier venture, to understand the business and improve its business metrics.

    After working on various Telecom and managed services projects for two years at Quess, I decided to take the plunge as an entrepreneur in 2017 and finally founded Woovly, an adventure experience platform with Venkat in 2019. In 2020, during the pandemic, Woovly pivoted to social commerce for lifestyle products.

  • What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

    I studied Computer Science Engineering at a Regional Engineering College in Uttarakhand and built my career and expertise at HP, working on open-source technologies. I never had to look far for an idol. 35 years ago, my mother founded the only school in my hometown and continues to run it today. I draw inspiration from my mother’s undying spirit to take on challenges and overcome all odds to fulfill her dreams.

    In 2015, I met my co-founder at Stanford, and the idea of Woovly was seeded. We discovered we had a shared interest in studying and predicting consumer buying behavior and our belief that buyers were increasingly tending towards discovering products and brands online rather than offline.

    After the short-term program, I returned to India and worked for two years at Quess Corp. As a part of my responsibilities, I traveled extensively across small towns and cities termed the Tier II and Tier III cities in India and realized that the young population had aspirations to achieve the lifestyle of their peers in Urban India or the Tier I cities. I recognized a latent need for a platform that would allow them to fulfill their ambitions. Later on, when we finally decided to go down the entrepreneurial path, this learning and our faith in online brand discovery led us to social commerce and Woovly.

  • What’s your one biggest challenge you face and how do you overcome it?

    Though our business was in a healthy state and we were growing, when Covid hit, we as founders had to take a call on our future. Though it was an unforeseen challenge, we took it positively. Our approach was to work with our core principles and business premise, yet transform to stay relevant and maintain our growth. This move has held us in good stead as we saw 600% growth in our user base in the next 18 months.

    The other challenge that I personally, as a women entrepreneur, faced was the unconscious bias around. There are skeptics everywhere - including family, friends, and even peers. Especially because I hail from a small town (Tier III in India), when I quit my job to start my own venture, no one agreed with my decision. It was considered too risky as I was expected to go the conventional route of holding on to a typical day job.

    However, with Woovly growing rapidly and setting new benchmarks, I am happy to note that young women find my journey inspirational to start their ventures.

  • To anyone looking to start or grow a business today, what three tips would you give them?

    When we started building our business, we were very clear that we did not want to go the social media advertisements route for promotions. We devised our own growth hack since we wanted to grow organically.

    For the first 1000 users, we directly reached out, spoke to them, and shared the value proposition. We aimed to make them our ambassadors or brand loyalists who could advocate our brand to their communities. They, in turn, reached out to college students who wanted to be influencers and content creators and brought them on board.

    As we began to grow, we also tied up with placements cells of Management Colleges and picked students who wanted to become content creators. Over time, we tied up with 1000 such colleges and 10,000 students. This had a powerful network effect and we were able to make our mark among youngsters organically without spending our resources on costly advertisement campaigns. They became micro and nano influencers with their own groups of followers and we had our community of advocates and loyalists. It was our greatest and most successful marketing strategy.

    To date, 72% of our users have been acquired organically i.e., through word of mouth. 61% of our revenue is from these micro and nano influencers.

  • Where can we go to learn more about your business?

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