Business Bigwigs had the chance to interview Rathna Sharad, Co-Founder and CEO of runway2street, an international luxury brand marketplace. Check out what she had to say below:
1. Where did you (Rathna) attend college?
I did my Bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering from a town in southern India.
2. Tell us about your previous work experience.
Prior to launching runway2street, I was the Director of Product Management at Microsoft, responsible for overseeing the Advertiser Marketplace for Bing Ads Business Group. I was also part of the technology team that built the ad platform. Earlier in my career, I held IT leadership positions at UPS, Menlo Worldwide Logistics and other transportation companies where I managed enterprise IT solutions for route optimization and international hub integrations.
3. Which company did you learn the most from?
I was lucky in that each of my work experiences were very diverse from one another in terms of experiences as well as roles – which was great because I love the challenges that come with learning a new space/industry or skill.
I started my career as a developer which helped me to gain a deep understanding of technology. Later on I lead technology and IT teams in the transportation and logistics space at UPS. This ignited in me a love for solving business problems using technology, while also giving me a deeper understanding of the transportation and global supply chain industry.
I eventually moved to Seattle to be closer to family and where I had the opportunity to work in advertising at Microsoft – a new space in the online world that was fascinating to me. I was one of the original members of a small startup team within Microsoft that built the platform and technology. Eventually I moved to the business side of Bing Ads and managed the advertiser marketplace – again a vastly different experience that allowed me to think about scale in an entirely new way.
4. What are your favorite clothing/designer brands?
I find that I gravitate towards exciting, unique and up-and-coming brands, and mix them with the more established ones in my closet. We carry so many of my favorites at runway2street like Bernard Delettrez, Jamie Wei Huang and abcense to name a few. In terms of established brands I like Acne, Carven and Stella McCartney.
5. How long has runway2street been around? What have been some of its greatest accomplishments during that time?
We just launched runway2street to US, UK and India markets at the end of January 2014.
In terms of accomplishments thus far –
- We have already partnered with an incredible community of 50+ brands from 20+ countries around the world and are still growing.
- The absolutely wonderful reaction we get from women who appreciate our unique point of view and the direct connection to brands.
- The tremendous technology platform we have built from the ground up to enable global retail and fulfillment for brands.
6. What is runway2street’s mission?
To be the online retail launchpad for emerging brands around the world, and a destination for women to discover new brands.
7. Why did you start runway2street?
The idea for runway2street was born when I traveled the world, falling in love with amazing local designers that produced high-quality fashions not available anywhere else. I’ve always been drawn to unique pieces by emerging brands, so I brought items back with me. However, when I tried to find these designers for friends back home, it was impossible, as they either didn’t exist online or were not accessible to international markets. I then started exploring the idea with brands, and found that they faced greater challenges – in an increasingly competitive global market it was difficult to create awareness and reach the ideal customer with limited resources. So I guess my love for fashion, background in technology and international logistics and desire to solve this problem for brands and consumers, led to the creation of runway2street.
8. Give us a brief overview of the company.
Born out of a passion for quality craftsmanship, a discerning eye for fashion, and a love for finding something unique in a sea of the same, runway2street is more than just an online boutique – it is the gateway to a truly global fashion exchange, and a redefined luxury experience.
As the first global brand marketplace exclusively for niche and independent women’s luxury labels, runway2street tells the stories of brands in an intelligent and meaningful way; and helps women discover incredible designers from around the world.
By providing awareness, reach and an online presence for like-minded curated brands, runway2street aims to connect them to their ideal customer anywhere in the world, with no middlemen and markups. Creating value for consumers and brands alike, while fostering creativity.
9. Has runway2street been featured in any major publications?
To date runway2street has been featured in Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, Geekwire, Women In Web, Pretty Living Magazine, Retail Touch Points, Daily Candy, FashInvest, and a handful of other smaller publications.
10. What differentiates runway2street from other similar organizations?
- We are a sophisticated marketplace that enables brands to connect with customers worldwide. We have integrated proprietary supply chain/logistics and customs handling to make it as easy for consumers to buy from a brand in the remote corners of the world as it is to buy from a domestic brand.
- Unlike other online retailers we focus only on emerging and independent luxury brands, who produce small quantities and are therefore truly unique. You are not likely to find our brands at mass-produced outlets and retailers, and we carefully curate our brands to ensure they are a perfect fit for runway2street.
- We facilitate a direct connection between the customer and brand. There are no middle men and therefore it is direct from the atelier to your closet! This means there are no markups which creates value for both the customer and brand.
- We also focus on the story of our brands unlike other retailers. We carry a large portion of our designer’s collections and convey how products are made, who makes them and what materials were used, so you get a much more personal connection with the brand.
11. What are runway2street goals over the next five or ten years, and how does it plan on achieving those goals? What challenges do you expect to come up against?
Our immediate goals from a consumer perspective is to achieve awareness to become the destination for women to discover new brands.
From a brand perspective, we want to build the tools and scale the platform to enable them to get the most out of awareness and online retail.
We plan on achieving these goals via investments in technology, partnerships and Marketing.
I am sure there’s bound to be challenges across all those fronts and it is really about our team, being nimble and creative to overcome those challenges with limited funds.
12. Do you have any anecdotes, quotes, pictures, upcoming events, etc. that you’d like us to share?
A quote by Confucius “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” seems appropriate as I think of where I am at today.