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Rang Rage: Hand-Painted Lifestyle*

CASE STUDY, ENTREPRENEURSHIP & STARTUPS
ET Cases - FLAME, 16 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Neeti Jain, Co-founder, Rang Rage Ganesh N Prabhu, Professor, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

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Rang Rage: Hand-Painted Lifestyle

 

“Hand-painting has global appeal; this creates a very exciting opportunity for Rang Rage to become an international lifestyle and fashion brand.”

– Neeti Jain and Gagan Jain, Co-Founders of Rang Rage


Business Idea

“We struck the hand painted merchandize idea purely by chance. My husband Gagan and I lived in Muscat – we had a comfortable lifestyle with cushy jobs. In my free time I used to paint but I got bored painting on canvas and hanging the paintings in the house, so I decided to paint on apparel. I painted a character on a pair of denim trousers for Gagan (Exhibit I). He wore that denim when he visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There was a huge crowd of tourists but every head turned to look at his denim trousers. Gagan wondered if there was some unique pull in painted denim that the most fashionable people in the fashion capital of the world could not miss it!”, said Neeti Jain (Neeti), Co-founder and Creative Director of Sharvian Art & Fashion Private Limited (Rang Rage).

“When I came back to Muscat, we decided to take this idea a step further. We bought plain T-shirts and identified a few designs to be painted. Neeti’s hometown is Jaipur and she knew a few painters there, so we exported the T-shirts to Jaipur for painting. After a month we received our first consignment of painted T-shirts. The response to hand painted T-shirts was very encouraging; we sold all of them within three months,” said Gagan Jain (Gagan), Co-founder of Rang Rage.

“We were amazed at the discovery of such a cool and simple business idea. Send stuff to India, get it painted and sell it in the Gulf, nothing could be better! But a good idea may not be always easy to implement. When we approached the artists again with a second lot three months later, most of them had left painting. They said, “An artist has no value in India. We can’t run our home through this profession.” This statement affected us strongly and it really compelled us to pack our bags and shift back to India. Though there was no business plan in place, we decided to put our savings in our dream for the next two years at least. Thus Rang Rage was
born,” said Neeti..................

Startup Team

Gagan has a post-graduate diploma in Marketing Management and has over ten years of experience across multiple sectors in both international and domestic markets. His last assignment was with the Landmark Group in Oman as the Business Head of Splash - leading a team of 130 retail staff doing a business of $20 million with large format retail stores. He has worked earlier with the Times Group and Globus and played an important role in setting up operations for Moneysaver (now Snapdeal)..............

Startup Preparation

Gagan and Neeti moved back to India in September 2012 to Gagan’s hometown, Indore. “We shifted to Indore with my family and I joined a local startup to keep some funds coming in. We were not sure from where to begin so I advance booked a stall in an exhibition in Dilli Haat (a popular cultural and traditional products marketplace) in Delhi to see if we could repeat what had worked in Oman. Once we booked the stall we started searching for artists. Neeti was new to Indore, so she went to Jaipur, her hometown, to search for painters. She searched for hobby classes, painters working from home, contacted a fine arts college and pitched the concept to students..........

Quality Issues

The first challenge for Rang Rage was finding a few painters who could create and consistently deliver high quality painting on fabrics and lifestyle products to meet the immediate sales requirements. Painters were initially identified through referrals. Every painter who agreed took about a month to work on samples and then was ready to work on the actual lifestyle product or any product as required. The painter was then given the work order that s/he could work with from home.........

Logo

The second challenge was developing a logo for Rang Rage. Gagan said, “Since we were doing everything for the first time, we were conservative in our approach. So we got our initial logo (Exhibit II-a) designed by our cousin who had a creative bent of mind.” Neeti added, “As we had to create our own brand on the internet, Gagan identified vendors who could produce small quantities of various gift items with the Rang Rage logo – however this pushed up our costs as our first logo had too many colors. When we decided to print stationary items with that logo, we realized that it was very expensive because we had used multiple colors..............

Website

The third challenge was in developing the website. To make the website sufficiently attractive to potential customers, Rang Rage needed to have enough hand-painted products and product categories. With the production base of three freelance painters in Indore and four freelance painters in Jaipur, they started developing a larger product range for their website..........

Finding an Offline Client

The fourth challenge was to find an offline buyer to generate sufficient demand and regular work for the painters so that the painters stayed with Rang Rage. If they continued to give work to painters without any orders, they could soon run out of funds. Gagan said, “Our first offline client was Ishana, an outlet at Delhi Airport. He was already doing hand-painted t-shirts, and was looking for a vendor who could offer it in more quantity at a better rate. We happened to be at the right place at the right time!”..............

Social Media

The fifth challenge was building a social media presence to build the brand and generate traffic for the website. Neeti said, “When we started off we did not know how to go about it. We initially made our Facebook page and created posts ourselves and ran it for three months. But we were not happy with the result as our page looked really bad so then we decided to hire an agency. We approached Odigma – a Bangalore based agency that was really good in this field.........

Buying Raw Materials

The sixth challenge was buying the right quality raw material at the right price. Neeti explained, “We did not have enough funds to hire a professional buyer so for us achieving the right product quality became a hit and trial. We had no technical knowledge of buying, so we chose the best brands in each product category and asked our vendors to replicate them.............

Recruting Painters

The seventh challenge was in recruiting and retaining enough quality painters. Rang Rage primarily recruited painters through referrals. Neeti said, “We realized that there is a huge latent workforce of housewives that is untapped. Ladies in India have a natural flair for painting but they do not get a platform to express their artistic talent...........

Designing Products

The eighth challenge was designing high fashion products that were enhanced by hand-painting and presented a premium look that could command a premium price. Gagan elaborated, “We always wanted to build a designer brand............

Packaging Products

The ninth challenge was in developing cost effective packaging that enhanced the brand image as well as protected the product during shipping. Neeti explained, “We want to position ourselves as a premium brand and for that packaging is a crucial component. But given the wide range of our products, it became a major challenge for us. Products required different sizes and types of shipping boxes as well as different materials for internal protection during shipping...........

Pricing

The tenth challenge was in pricing the products. Neeti explained, “Since we were trying to build a new business based on hand-painting there was no benchmark for us on how such products are priced. We were also unsure on how much to pay our painters. Initially we paid INR400 to painters to paint a simple T-shirt and that too seemed less because we thought a painter is putting in so much effort..........

Customer Experience

Positive customer experience is critical when selling art products at premium prices that provide a good wage to artists for their fine work. Neeti explained, “We dream of building Rang Rage as a brand that is known to present art in the most fashionable and contemporary way on utility products. As the number of customers and our learning increased, we realized that we need to give our customers a far better experience. Customer experience has two components..............

Making a Difference

Rang Rage has made a significant difference to the lives of the artists that they work with. For the founders, this aspect is what makes the whole effort worthwhile. Neeti elaborates, “Our artists come from all walks of life and all of them bring in a lot of learning for us.............

Moving Ahead

In June 2014 Gagan left his job at the local start-up to focus full time on Rang Rage. By that time they had developed enough hand-painted products, sold them in sufficient numbers in the market and received good feedback, so they were confident that the business will grow. Neeti explained, “It was important now to gain speed so we shifted from working from home to an office in Indore and also hired two painters.............

Assignment Questions

I. Identify and assess each major product-market decision taken at Rang Rage and suggest the possible and better alternatives to those decisions, if any.
II. ..............

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Trousers Painted by Neeti Jain and Worn by Gagan Jain at Eiffel Tower, Paris

Exhibit II: Rang Rage Logos Over Time

Exhibit III: Rang Rage Products

Exhibit IV: Rang Rage Website Banners

Exhibit V: ‘Your Artist’ Note Attached to Each Product

Exhibit VI: Rang Rage's Sales Performance 2014-15

Exhibit VII: Projection of Painter Requirements

Teaching Note Preview

Rang Rage: Hand-Painted Lifestyle

 

Synopsis

The case provides an in-depth view of a family startup that creates value by linking artists in small towns who need an outlet for their artwork with customers who want art-based products and are willing to pay. The gap that the firm fills is the difficulty both sides have in locating each other – artists in small towns find it difficult to locate customers willing to pay well for art products and such customers find it difficult to locate good artists and their fine art-based products. The startup firm actively recruits artists through low cost campaigns and seeks to train them to produce art products with consistency and high artistic quality. It has developed effective ways to identify good and reliable artists and to enable them to improve the quality of their products. It assigns artists to projects based on their skill and pays them a good amount to make this a viable activity for these skilled artists, many of whom work from home. It then charges a high price to buyers who have higher willingness to pay so that an adequate amount can be paid to artists.

The main challenges are (a) to find enough customers willing to pay premium for art based products, (b) to identify products and product categories which will appeal to customers willing to pay premium for art products, (c) to manage costs of recruiting artists and costs of merchandizing the art products so that the business is viable while paying adequate amounts to artists to retain them in an activity whose demand is seen as declining.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding/Before the Classroom Discussion

• Teece David J., “Business Models, Business Strategy and Innovation”, Long Range Planning, Vol 43, pages 172-194, 2010

More recently there is pricing pressure on the company from online marketplaces in India that expect steep discounting – a move that goes against the Co-founders’ view that artists should be paid well to encourage them to continue as artists. The case describes the various methods used by the Co-founders to encourage and recognize artists within the company as well as with the buyers of their art products. It also describes the startup challenges in detail and covers all the bootstrapping methods used at the startup stage with mixed success as the two Co-founders decided to not use commercial borrowing to start their business.............

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Abstract

This case study showcases the interesting entrepreneurial journey of Gagan Jain and Neeti Jain in setting up Rang Rage, a startup focused on art-based products. The case provides an in-depth view of a family startup that creates value by linking artists in small towns who need an outlet for their artwork with customers who want art-based products and are willing to pay. The gap that the firm fills is the difficulty both sides have in locating each other – artists in small towns find it difficult to locate customers willing to pay well for art products and such customers find it difficult to locate good artists and their fine art-based products. Some of the main challenges of the startup are (a) to find enough customers willing to pay premium for art-based products, (b) to identify products and product categories which will appeal to customers willing to pay premium for art-based products, (c) to manage costs of recruiting artists and costs of merchandizing the art-based products so that the business is viable while paying adequate amounts to artists to retain them in an activity whose demand is seen as declining.


Pedagogical Objectives

The case illustrates a bootstrap startup process and illustrates the difficulties of running a business with primarily a social objective while selling products to potentially supportive yet highly discerning customers. The typical tradeoffs between doing business and meeting a social cause are illustrated in the case, giving students an opportunity to debate on the choices made by the company and examine their consequences. Since this is an early stage case, a number of potential new product and new market opportunities can be identified by students and their feasibility and viability can be examined. Business model, innovation and business strategy linkages can be explained with the help of this case. The case also illustrates many dilemmas and tradeoffs identified in product development. It is also a useful assignment case.


Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in:

  • BBA and MBA courses in entrepreneurship and product innovation
  • Strategy sessions on inclusive business models, sessions on business ethics and in valuation related sessions


* FLAME INTERNATIONAL CASE CONFERENCE 2016

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