Antidote Apparels- Innovating and Adapting to the Pandemic!

2 July 2020 - Rachana Khatri

By Rachana Khatri

Antidote Apparels is one of THE amazing startups who graduated from Nepal Communitere’s year long I-Cube Business Incubation program– cohort 2 in early 2020. Within a year of operation,the company successfully received 6 lakhs of debt financing from a pool of seed investors as result of their passion, hard work and commitment to building a successful social enterprise. Antidote Apparels provides an environmentally sustainable, affordable and smart way to dress for varied occasions by offering authentic designer clothing on rent at a fraction of the price. Sourcing the best collection of dresses and outfits from individual dress owners, designers, and boutiques, Antidote rents out apparels to customers through its showroom and online platform. However, the domino effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy has had severe impact on SMEs and young startups throughout the world. It is high time for them to come up with innovative ideas, take strategic decisions and build creative solutions to pivot themselves to tackle the crisis and build opportunities in this new, yet challenging business environment. 

I sat down with founder, Manish Jung Thapa, CEO of Antidote Apparels on how their team is seeking growth and survival amidst the crisis with innovative tactics and what’s new in their closet for conscious fashion enthusiasts. 

How has COVID-19 affected Antidote??

 Like other SMEs, we are also affected in the sales as there are no such events where individuals can wear occasional dresses like lehengas, sarees and kurtis. Industries related to Fashion have their entire business model revolving around the need for people to look great when they go out. Due to the pandemic and need to mitigate the risk of it’s spread, lockdown and strict compliance set forth by the government to avoid social gatherings and occasions is necessary. This however has impacted the same consumer behavior that our business revolves around. The pandemic has encouraged both businesses and customers worldwide to push more and more towards digital platforms.

How is Antidote coping up with the challenges brought by the crisis?

We’ve been keeping ourselves busy by revisiting our core model and business processes. We have managed to forge new partnerships with 10+ local apparels and accessories retailers for our new vertical, Antidote.go, which is a pre-used apparel and accessories marketplace. 

Similarly, we are partnering with makeup artists, photographers, stylists and models to co-create online courses under our soon-to-launch brand “Antidote Masterclass”. We are also conducting preliminary analysis for our web app development. Instead of just lamenting, I think we can make this ‘tough time’ the best time for entrepreneurs to reflect, analyze and explore more possibilities and plan for the present as well as future. This economic shutdown has actually been a ‘WAKE UP’ call for me and my entire team. Finding our “niche” market and slowly growing out of it was the mantra our team believed in. But now it is all about survival in a crisis, which requires us to  evolve dynamically. Honestly, we are also counting on our key stakeholders – our team, vendors, partners and customers whom we are interdependent upon in the value chain. Startups require support from their peers and partners, stakeholders, families and players in the entire value chain. This is the true test of the ecosystem we and every other industry in Nepal have built for ourselves. Camaraderie, collaboration and solidarity is what I believe will get us through these trying times. 

Is Antidote rethinking its business model or structure? What’s new for your customers?

Yes, we have been rethinking our core model as per the changing business environment. The milestones we had set 5 months ago are mostly redundant now. We revisited  our planning board and mapped out new strategies with complimenting milestones incorporated as per need. We aim to diversify our business to casual apparel, street wear, accessories and fashion education technology. Antidote.go and Antidote Masterclass (soon to launch) have come into fruition from the assessment of the situation we found ourselves in. We now plan to allocate resources in these sectors while trying to revitalize the rental model. Both offerings revolve around fashion, apparel and accessories but in a different way. Innovation in the process is more important than just the product which is something we learned in the I-Cube Program. With Antidote.go, we envision reaching a younger crowd who are already accustomed to thrifting and with Antidote Masterclass, we aim to reach women in their early and mid twenties who want to begin their career as fashion photographers, stylists, models and make up artists. We hope to bring premium occasion wear to every woman across all geographies, age, shapes, sizes and preferences in the most convenient, sustainable and affordable way.

Manish on the ‘Way forward for Antidote’

We are still putting in a lot of work, research and planning to launch our new verticals that we have started. We feel motivated when we see that we have 450+ rentals and saved more than 6700 Kgs of carbon emissions in only a year of operation! As the “new norm” prevails all around us, the consumption pattern of customers will definitely see a huge shift. Consumers have already started to become frugal with their purchases and now everyone is more aware about the choices they make as a consumer. I believe that our price point and new offerings align with our core value of ‘sustainable fashion’ and will resonate well with the population at large. This certainly is a difficult time which has tested us to the core but at the same time we can see loads of opportunities lying in front of us. We are grateful towards our invaluable investors and Nepal Communitere for strongly supporting our model and the future it holds!”

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