This startup wants women to wear gold with western wear; raises $5m seed funding

Mumbai-based venture capital firm LightBox Ventures has invested $5 million in Melorra, an app-only startup that aims to be the ‘Zara’ of the jewellery industry.

Indian jewellery designs have stayed close to traditional forms, with only slight modifications over decades. Gold and diamond jewellery is also expensive, and caters to people with high income levels and is considered an investment, and to be worn only on special occasions. Most women store it in lockers, either in the house or in banks.

Bangalore-based Melorra, run by August Jewellery Pvt Ltd., plans to disrupt by churning out new designs every week, which can be worn with latest clothing trends, and not just with traditional sarees or only on certain festivals or celebrations. “Over the years, our clothes turned more casual and westernized but jewellery did not change. Melorra will mix and match jewellery with clothes that women will wear in a season. The design will be in-house, depend on global fashion trends, and will release faster than others,” said Siddharth Talwar, co-founder and partner at Lightbox, in a chat with DealStreetAsia.

The investment counts as one of the largest seed fund rounds in the country. Usually such amounts are raised at the Series A stage.

The average price of jewellery items at Melorra is Rs 16,000, according to Talwar. The company uses 14 carat gold to make its products, instead of the more expensive 18 carat, which is more common in Indian stores. Melorra also has an app on the AppStore, which features models in trendy western apparel wearing a wide range of Melorra jewlellery for various places and moods.

It can emerge as a disruptive competitor if it captures the audience it is targeting. “People will be able to buy the brand more often, and wear it everyday,” said Talwar.

“Traditional players source their designs from the same vendors who supply to everybody,” said founder Saroja Yeramilli, who has previously held leadership positions in Titan, including heading sales and marketing for jewellery brand Tanishq. “Young people moved away from jewellery because 80 per cent of what they wear is western but jewellery is made for Indian wear. Just like women buy apparel and shoes, they should be able to buy jewellery, and not need to go for artificial ones.”

Melorra’s design team is entirely in-house, and based out of Bangalore, the United States and United Kingdom. Yeramilli is currently focussed on targeting consumers in India, the world’s third-largest jewellery market valued at $55 billion, and slated to touch $90 billion by 2018.

The starup has also hired fashion experts and trendspotters, and a tech team that works with computer-aided design (CAD) software. “We are 100 per cent private label, and not an aggregator,” Yeramilli said. She plans to start international shipments in the next two months, and gradually expand the business to other geographies. “We are doing a paradigm shift, and can be a global brand.”

LightBox has previously invested in other vertically integrated brands, such as Faasos in food delivery sector, and furniture rental startup Furlenco.

The online jewellery market has grown rapidly in the last one year, as players try to capture young, upwardly-mobile Indians shopping on their smartphones. Jaipur-based Voylla Retail Pvt Ltd, which owns and operates fashion jewellery and accessories e-tailer,  raised $15 million from private equity firm Peepul Capital in October. In 2014, Rebekkah Kumar, formerly a product manager with Microsoft, founded Gurgaon-based Fourseven, which designs jewellery in-house, using a blend of Western styles and Indian heritage.

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