A disruptive U of T Scarborough startup has recently gained traction in Toronto, already attracting over $1.4 million in investment within just weeks of its initial launch.
KorsAll, a multi-dimensional e-commerce platform operating in the ethical fashion industry, launched from U of T Scarborough’s entrepreneurial incubator, The Hub, this past June. It has since rocketed into position as one of Toronto’s most innovative companies of 2017, and one to keep an eye on.
Dikshant Batra (BBA, 2016) began KorsAll, two years ago, having won the U of T Scarborough Startup Competition that year, earning him a place at The Hub, access to its mentors and coaches, plus $7,000 in much needed initial startup seed capital from Ontario Centres of Excellence and the University. In subsequent months, Dikshant was also able to attract $10,000 in additional funds from the Provost’s Office at the University. At every step of the way, his idea of forming a disruptive startup in ethical fashion met tremendous positive review.
Dikshant credits this in great part to the help he received along the way, especially from the faculty of the University and The Hub – a combination that he sees offering tremendous advantage over other business schools in Canada. Moreover, he credits how the University’s overall ecosystem, known as U of T Entrepreneurship is prepared to help promising disruptive startups.
But to tell the full story of KorsAll requires one to go back several years. Batra recognizes that the inspiration for his company stems from his upbringing in Delhi, India. Growing up in Delhi, he was surrounded by many entrepreneurs and small businesses – each with a unique story to tell. This experience is what gave Batra the foundational inspiration for his business venture, tying stories and entrepreneurial inspirations to individual products. Then in his early twenties, Batra set out on a month-long quest across nine countries on several continents, in essence to validate his idea that stories and products together form a most fascinating backdrop for ethical fashion, sufficient to captivate a global audience. He met tremendously talented people, “whose stories needed to reach the world” says Batra. It was then that he came upon the idea of how to help such small businesses thrive in the digital era, and the concept of KorsAll was born. Carrying his idea back to U of T, the desire to build KorsAll took hold. Batra tells of one professor who brought focus to one of its core concepts, helping him recognize that it each of story was grounded in a wealth of data analytics. Korsall truly was born.
So, with his experience and training firmly in mind, Batra began the arduous process of obtaining vital data through extensive, exhaustive research. He found that traditional retail sales in the apparel, clothing, and fashion in general are materially impacted by a growing industry trend that is shifting consumers’from brick-and-mortar transactions to on-line E-commerce trade. This dynamic is further intensified by a counterproductive increase in boutique brick-and-mortar establishments, or supply, in an ever-decreasing market share, or demand. This supply/demand gap is being filled by E-commerce sales in response to changing consumer expectations. Batra’s research pointed him to a Global 1000 report with a “Spotlight: The Future of Global Fashion E-commerce” which concluded, “It’s a category particularly ripe for innovation and growth on-line – from $105 billion in revenue in 2015 to $168 billion in expected revenues by 2021”.
Confident he had obtained supporting data on the market, heeding his U of T professor’s advice Batra proceeded to analyze the data to derive a solution. Although a McKinsey Company report proffered pronouncements such as “digitize or die” many designers, boutiques and growing brands in the fashion industry are not getting their share of the E-commerce surge in sales. For Batra it became apparent that setting up and executing E-commerce is expensive and complex, requires significant capital expenditure, technical knowledge and training to install and maintain, and typically takes a long time to design and deploy. Furthermore, after initial set up, ongoing marketing, return policies, procedures and logistics can be onerous. The result can be a system that lacks full integration with E’commerce market dynamics and may only be as good as its weakest component. This is especially challenging for small to medium sized business as on-line consumers expect an experience on par with that provided by the most innovative or dominant on-line retailors such as Amazon, Etsy and Ebay.
In response with initial grants of $17,000, the inspiration from his upbringing, international travel and the call to action with business skills from his schooling at U of T, Batra created KorsAll Corp. which is comprised of 2 separate but integrated components:
Korsall.com is a multi-dimensional E-commerce technology platform specifically designed for merchants such as designers, boutiques, and brands in the apparel, fashion, jewelry, and accessories industry to create or expand their business through E-commerce and global trade. Such merchants can use Korsall.com to create a unique virtual store, and fulfill orders. This virtual shop acts as a completely new sales channel (market penetration with existing product mix) to either complement existing offline and online presence or to help aspiring merchants to kick-start businesses. Such merchants will have immediate access to web, tablet, and mobile storefronts accessible around the world with no upfront costs or set up fee. We provide a platform for merchants around the world to showcase their wares, create virtual experiences, transact, and grow their business globally.
KorsAll In-Site is a set of solutions built around the merchant ecosystem with the objective of easing challenges for aspiring and existing merchants in the industry. KorsAll In-Site resides on the KorsAll.com platform and encompasses logistics, customer service, marketing and promotions, and analytical support mechanisms that enable merchants to manage and grow their businesses with streamlined operations and distribution. KorsAll In-Site solutions will enable merchants to benefit on all fronts in their ecosystem with a single view of their business, and customers. It will enable them to showcase their products, manage inventory, process, ship, receive orders and payments, engage in social media and build customer relationships, expand their market and customer audience, and leverage analytics and reporting and maximize their marketing expenditures.
Batra says KorsAll not only helps merchants sell their products, but shares the stories behind how and why those products came to exist.
“A growing number of people don’t just buy a product anymore – why, where and how its made, is often a driving component of the purchase decision – especially in the Millennial mindset,” says Batra “where acquiring a product is more experiential than perfunctory. We want to be a marketplace that sells the experience and the stories behind the products.”
Merchants are able to tailor their stores and provide information on each product. Batra says this aspect of the site aims to capture the experience of traditional shopping – walking into a traditional brick-and-mortar store, being greeted by an owner or employee, and hearing detailed information and stories about why each product is unique.
“We didn’t want to be another mini-Amazon,” says Batra. “We looked at how and what these businesses need and how they operate on a day-to-day basis in their ecosystem.”
“The idea was very rooted towards these merchants and helping them grow on a holistic standpoint,” he says.
“I was brought up in a culture that taught me to help as many people as I can over the course of my life,” says Batra. “We really want to make a big difference. It was important to me that our business model enable merchants to join KorsAll and create a unique virtual store, and fulfill orders on a global basis with no upfront cost or set up fee charged by KorsAll.”
“Its debatable whether I am the architect of the KorsAll.com platform or if it’s just being responsive to E-commerce dynamics that designs the platform but either way there is a lot of research and very complex and painstaking technology supporting KorsAll,” said Batra. “The first $1.2 million we raised covered over 12,000 hours of highly skilled software engineers writing very sophisticated code to create the technical core of the platform. We are now just finishing the “Merchant” end of the technology and based on my research in the industry its second to none. We are now floating a Friends & Family round to fund the final touches on the Customer side of the technology and expect to have a soft launch of KorsAll.com in the fall.” So, let the fun begin” exclaims Batra.