Founder Focus: Eshita Kabra-Davies of By Rotation
Eshita Kabra-Davies is the Founder of By Rotation, the UK’s first and only fashion rental app which is purely peer-to-peer. Inspired by a love for fashion that doesn’t weigh on the conscience and with an approach grounded in practicality over indulgence, Eshita founded By Rotation as a side hustle in April 2019 before quitting her job in investment management in order to focus her time on bringing about change in the fashion industry.
What was your eureka moment?
I was planning my honeymoon to my motherland Rajasthan, India and turned to Instagram for inspiration – cities to go to, hotels to stay at, landmarks to visit, restaurants to eat at and… what to wear! That’s when I started thinking about fashion rental and the lack of options in the UK, a very first-world problem, and how pragmatic it would be to just borrow from someone else.
When I arrived in Rajasthan I was upset by the level of textile waste I saw everywhere. That’s when I felt compelled to change and bring about change and decided to launch By Rotation, the UK’s first (peer-to-peer) fashion rental app.
What is your elevator pitch?
By Rotation is the UK’s first peer-to-peer fashion rental app, enabling a diverse community of style-conscious individuals to rent and lend luxury fashion at a fraction of retail price. Rotate your wardrobe at your fingertips: do good for the planet, your wardrobe and wallet at the same time.
How did you test your idea?
During the last leg of the honeymoon, I invited my friends and the very few people I knew working in fashion/sustainability-related areas to come over to my apartment for a get-together at which I announced the concept and intention of By Rotation. After this initial positive feedback, I created a beta platform over the weekend and started using Instagram to draw people in. Within a month, it had more than 10 transactions (3 from people I did not know) and was picked up by a journalist at Refinery29, followed by a mention in the Guardian. The customer acquisition continued organically, the rental volumes began to increase and the press kept coming. Eventually, I left my full-time job and career in investment management the day our app launched – this was 6 months after we were founded.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business on their own?
I’m fairly early in my entrepreneurship journey (I don’t know if my web designer days count, but that was when I was 11!) but these are the tips I stand by:
- Do not become an entrepreneur for the sake of the label i.e. “Entrepreneur/Founder/CEO” or some lifestyle you’ve seen on social media
- Reflect deeply and be honest to yourself about what your personal strengths and weakness are, and whether it makes sense for you to run this particular business opportunity
- With the tip above, you can then think strategically about what ingredients are missing to make the idea a tangible success – i.e. aligning yourself with the people who have the skills you lack
- Prepare to be obsessed with your work, but make sure you do not alienate people around you by doing so – bring them in
What’s your plan B?
I’m a pragmatic person so I do consider all my options and my career as an investment manager has trained me well when it comes to hedging one’s (calculated) bets. I do however believe that the great thing about By Rotation is that we are first and foremost a technology company. This is the area in which we have invested the most of our time, effort and money with our app being completely proprietary and even our machine learning and AI styling tools developed in-house. If By Rotation does not go as planned in the fashion space, there are a multitude of things we can do with the technology we have built. There are limitless opportunities here.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
As briefly aforementioned, our proprietary technology is what we excel in – we have been able to seamlessly marry up two unlikely industries that don’t speak the same language very often – fashion and technology. As an adept web-designer myself, I understand the demands of both web and app-based interfaces, whether it’s pure aesthetic demands for our target audience or relating to the back-end code to engage the audience better. We tweak and implement new features every week, and the development is constant. I truly believe this is what is and what will set us apart.
What is coming up for By Rotation?
We’ve been growing rapidly since our launch in October 2019 and the response has been overwhelming! While our customer acquisition campaigns will continue, we will also be spending time meeting and listening to our community which is scattered across the UK so we can continue to improve the app with new features. Machine learning is big for us as our team has extensive experience in this, and we’re excited about making the customer journey on the app more engaging via its implementation. As an extremely diverse team with a global mindset, we intend to internationally expand in the near future.
What is the book you would recommend that everyone reads and why?
“The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this book on a memorable trip to the Aeolian Islands in Sicily (my favourite destination) while I was in the midst of my career as a successful investment analyst at a very prominent asset management firm. It sparked in me a quest to consider if my job defined me, and if so, was this my life story? I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and I knew it was my calling, I just had to be reminded what I wanted in life and this book was perfect for that. I’m not really into non-fiction, but I did love the Freakonomics books!
How do you find balance in your daily life?
Puppy cuddles (my son, Saffron the Cavapoo), barre (I love the Xtend Barre studio) and hanging out with my husband and friends (even if I’m obsessing over By Rotation when with them). Lastly, family time – either FaceTime call or when they visit me from Singapore/New York!