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Raghu Sethuraman: bringing his passion to Fashion and Technology with Shobitam

Mr. Raghu Sethuraman is the Chairman and CEO of Shobitam Inc, which is one of the fastest growing D2C ethnic fashion brands. Having completed his MSc and MMS (Pilani, ‘97), he pursued his MS from the University of Buffalo and is an alumnus of Harvard Business School. He has held senior positions in companies including Amazon, Cisco and Microsoft. He has also worked on various startups previously, including Shutterfly and Wonder Workshop.

Can you tell us more about your journey from Tech to Fashion?

I did my undergrad at BITS Pilani and the most critical thing I learned at BITS was my ability to collaborate, communicate and work, cross functionally while living the mantra of “work hard, but play harder”. Then I did a zero-to-one phase with Amazon in Seattle for the first six years, which gave me the opportunity and experience to run a startup at a seed stage in Silicon Valley in 2006 that we took public with an IPO in NASDAQ. Many people get an opportunity to do a startup, but it's wonderful to take the opportunity to the next level and go public. I give a lot of kudos to my early companies like Amazon and Shutterfly, and my learning experience in Pilani, which fostered that culture of entrepreneurship, taking measured risks and brought me into the fashion sector. I'm now partnering with my co-founders, Aparna and Ambika, who have a deep passion for fashion and a lovely creative bent for designs. And I bring in the business sense with high-tech, strategy and global operating experience. And so we complement each other very well, where we hope to disrupt the fashion space globally leveraging technology and take Shobitam to the next level as we scale it to new heights. Our goal is to build a world class brand from India, for the world!

What inspired you to establish Shobitam, pursue entrepreneurship and what unique aspects does your ethnic fashion brand bring to the market?

Entrepreneurship is both a mindset and a journey. You need to have a tremendous growth mindset. You’re always going to be learning, but it's going to be equally challenging, and you’ve got to be ready for it with a deep sense of purpose and passion. The passion for fashion that we all have is a core element of why we started Shobitam. If you look at the space we're playing in, handlooms, arts and crafts, it’s the second largest employer in India. But it's one of the most archaic and old-school places, so the opportunity for us to disrupt the industry and leverage technology, which is our core strength, is really what’s driving us. We're trying to leverage our experience in entrepreneurship and global supply chain to build a global e-commerce platform for fashion.

As an entrepreneur, what advice would you give aspiring BITS Pilani undergraduates considering starting their own ventures? What key lessons have you learned on your journey that you'd like to share with them?

The number one takeaway is to be ready to take measured or calculated risks in all phases of your career. Always do your homework; identify a problem and a need in the market. Learn from and build experience with big brands but don’t be afraid to take the bet with smaller companies. Big dreams are made by making efforts in the first place. This is why I am glad to see that BITS Pilani is now a fostering ground for entrepreneurship. With ecosystems like PIEDS in place, BITSian’s are in a really great spot. I am super excited to see the progress happening across all the campuses. In addition, that's one of the reasons why I want to continue to give back. We have set up the Shobitam Center for Women Entrepreneurship specifically to help women entrepreneurs across all campuses because there is a huge opportunity to bridge the gap, especially for all the women entrepreneurs out there.