A startup company created by a University of Toronto Scarborough alumnus is working to create a global platform to help small businesses and upcoming fashion designers.
Dikshant Batra (BBA, 2016) began his company KorsAll two years ago at The Hub, U of T Scarborough’s entrepreneurial incubator.
“The faculty really helped wherever they could, and in so many ways, especially to encourage us to reach the next level,” says Batra. “The Hub, with U of T Entrepreneurship, is establishing a very entrepreneurial culture, which may be what distinguishes it from other business schools in Canada.”
While at The Hub, KorsAll received $7,000 from Ontario Centres of Excellence and $10,000 from U of T’s Provost Fund. The company has now received more than $1.4 million in investment capital.
“Dikshant is one of the most innovative, capable, and passionate entrepreneurs I have had the pleasure to work with,” says Gray Graffam, director of The Hub. “It’s always a pleasure to work with very bright minds doing very clever ideas, and Dikshant’s KorsAll is all of that, and more.”
Batra says his idea "evolved over time, as part of an inspirational journey." He says the concept for KorsAll came from his upbringing in Delhi, India, where he was surrounded by entrepreneurs and small businesses, and an international trip.
“I met immensely talented people whose stories needed to reach the world,” says Batra.
Batra worried how these businesses would survive in the digital age. He says a common problem faced by small businesses is the commodity trap - a situation where products and services are motivated by competitive prices rather than quality.
He found that while the number of traditional brick-and-mortar stores were rising in North America, their overall revenues were falling. He then noticed that eCommerce revenues were sharply rising.
Batra also found that even small businesses that were online still faced many challenges in their day-to-day operation.
“Many fashion merchants are constrained by the complexity and expense of establishing and maintaining an effective eCommerce presence,” Batra says. “Online consumers expect an experience on par with the most innovative or dominant online retailers, such as Amazon, Etsy and Ebay.”
Batra created KorsAll to address each of these barriers.
He says korsall.com, the online sales portion of the site, not only helps merchants process, ship and sell their products, but shares the stories behind how and why those products came to exist. It’s all part of what Batra calls "a novel approach within the “ethical fashion industry.”
“People don’t buy products anymore, they buy the essence of them, especially in the Millennial mindset,” says Batra. “We want to be a marketplace that sells the experience and the stories behind the products.”
Merchants will be able to create unique online stores with information on each product. The site aims to capture the experience of traditional shopping - walking into a small, brick-and-mortar store, being greeted by an owner or employee, and learning details about how each product is unique. Merchants are put through a vetting process to ensure all steps of their production are held to ethical and quality standards.
The next dimension of the platform is KorsAll In-Site, a set of tools and technologies to help a business begin, learn and grow in the digital era, and enter the global market. Batra spent two years studying what challenges small businesses face and what they would need to grow and survive online.
“We didn’t want to be another mini-Amazon,” says Batra. “We looked at how and what these businesses need and how they operate on a day-to-day basis in their ecosystem.”
KorsAll In-Site gives merchants opportunities for discounted production and distribution, and tools to help them in customer service and marketing. Merchants can access manufacturing partners that fit their ethical values and production needs, discounted shipping through partnerships negotiated by KorsAll, and various advanced technology tools.
Batra says he aims to help as many small businesses in the fashion industry as possible.
“KorsAll is well perched at present to make its initial vision a reality,” says Batra. "By all indications, it is set to do just that."