Why I care about the right bra size.
And why you should too.
Now it is not everyday that you can come up with a headline like that and get away. But I will valiantly try to do what no man has done before.
Wishberry, the Kickstarter of India, in what may be the first in the world (or at least India), has opened pre-orders for a brand of bras, lusciously named 'Buttercups'.
Arpita Ganesh, the woman behind the project, is an energetic and gregarious woman whom I first met in 2010 in the IIM-A CIIE Power of Ideas Program, where I was also a participant. She had already been retailing ‘the bras that fit' in Hyderabad, but since then, has been untiringly attempting to make the world a better place for every woman in the country and the world with her products. She says "every bra fitting is like a high for me. It’s like the high which a chef gets on being complimented on an extraordinary dish!" Such is her passion.
If you are wondering, like I did, if she chose the right cause to be so passionate about, I bet you are a man too because women apparently just get it. But you are excused. Men aren’t supposed to know about the problems of ill-fitting bras anymore than women are supposed to know why the non-fitting boxer shorts are so gloriously comfortable for men. Unless somebody educated both, of course. So here is the education for men.
Triumph International, a german lingerie company, recently conducted a survey of 10,000 women which revealed that almost two-thirds of women across the world are wearing the wrong size bra. The results published in a recent article in the Daily Mail also claim that 73 per cent of women in the poll – almost three-quarters of them – admitted that improperly-fitting lingerie could ruin their entire working day.
Now what about that you may ask. Discomfort of ill-fitting underclothes is not all that alien to men either – anyone who chose style over function and bought a VIP Designer brief or the recent Denin by Zoiro will vouch for that (you’re damn right it is a confession).
But the issue is the problem is not that easily solved for women as it is for men. For starters, it is not often that a woman finds herself resembling the girl on the packaging. So it may not fit as expected. The buying experience is pretty much downhill from here if you factor in other variables like price, style, and the environment in which women have to shop, like malls in full public glare.
Still, I needed to be sure the research findings are not hyperboles that lingerie companies perpetuate in their favor. I read the comments that followed the article. Most commentors agree it is a problem. One especially summed it up crisply.
My last piece in cross-checking the research was asking the women at home. They concurred too.
So there is clearly an inefficiency. Now consider that the Indian lingerie market is reportedly Rs 3000 crores – as quoted by Business World in its interview of Richa Kar of Zivame, the multi-brand online lingerie store – and that India has a women population of 300-350 million over 18 years (considering those who are eligible to vote), it gives you an idea of the scale of the opportunity.
Smart entrepreneurs look to solve inefficiencies at scale, and VCs love them for that. Yet for four years, Arpita’s work has been unfunded, while she slaved away to add the other pieces of the puzzle – designers, suppliers et al. You wonder if the fact that most VCs are men has anything to do with it.
In any case, I met Arpita again a couple of months ago. She told me she was lining everything up for one last shot. What about the money? I asked. She said she is going the crowd-funding route. It is a ballsy move so I asked her if she considered the downside of it. Should the attempt fail, potential investors could consider it as negative market feedback for the product even if the failure was in reaching the target audience and not of the product per se.
She said there’s no choice but to go all in. So this is it then, I asked. She nodded.
If I am as tensed about the outcome of this project as a cricket fan at an India-Pakistan world cup final, it is not because I am obsessed with whether the women in the world are wearing the right bra, but because it is an entrepreneur’s obsession. That is what my allegiance is to - to the obsession, tenacity, and courage to stay the course despite all odds until you’ve given it all you got.
That is why I care about the right bra size. You can too, not because of the product (although you will love yourself / be loved for that) but because a fantastic success story would have happened because of you – An Indian woman with no formal business training or financial resources, overcomes all odds and builds a business solely on customers’ confidence and self-belief. Isn’t that a worthy narrative to contribute to?
India needs stories like these to succeed. Stories of products, of crowd-funding, of businesses and more importantly success stories of ordinary people, nay women, whose primary capital is self-belief. These are the fanatics or a new religion called ‘Entrepreneurship’. May there be more of them.