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FREAKY FRIDAY – From Paintcollar to Souled Store: These startups have taken merchandising, art licensing to different level

From customization to merchandising, E-commerce in India has changed the way, something that was unthinkable years ago.

Fashion is the highest margin category in e-commerce, with most online marketplaces reporting that first-time customers often prefer to make fashion or mobile phone purchases. In fact, this category has given rise to a bunch of startups in the last few years.

Love Khaleesi from the Games of Thrones? Or still stuck in Harry Potter or FRIENDS? Want to showcase it on your quirky t-shirts or recently bought iPhone? Don’t worry! These startups have a solution, and have stood out, made a mark, and continue their winning streak.

Here we go:

The Souled Store:

Would you believe if I tell you that three youngsters from Mumbai turn their love for Star Wars into an online marketplace for pop culture merchandise – The Souled Store.

One of the famous online destination, where you can get customized items

Unlike other physical stores, the Souled Store give official merchandise at great prices, with a personal touch.

The Souled Store claims to be India’s largest online brand for big budget movies (Marvel, Batman, Superman, The Justice League, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Raees, etc.), cartoons (Cartoon Network, Scooby Doo, Flintstones etc.), TV Shows (Friends, The Big Bang Theory, South Park etc.), and sports (WWE, IPL teams like Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab, kabaddi franchises) and much more.

Founded by Vedang Patel, Rohin Samtaney and Aditya Sharma (all 28-years old) in June 2013, the online space has 5,00,000 customers with more than 1,000 orders per day.

The Store’s target audience is in the age group of 16-30 years, a bulk of which belongs to the middle-class segment.

Currently, The Souled Store’s official merchandise is all co-branded. TSS is also doing collaboration with artists from various fields such as music and stand-up comedy.

Merchandising inspired by cinema, TV, and popular characters had begun in the 1980s, with Disney’s products for children.

From a team of three and a small cupboard of T-shirts, the company now has a team of 75, including 18 designers (majority are NID and NIFT graduates). The Souled Store offers more than 20 designs for each category.

“We do not just do the regular logos and copy-paste merchandise. Once we acquire a licence for official merchandise, we are presented with a set of original and ready designs. However, we redo the designs and make them wittier and quirkier,” Patel was quoted as saying from The Hindu.

The online store even collaborated with 20-30 YouTube channels, including All India Bakchod, for promotion of products via tweets and videos. Partnerships with IPL teams such as Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings 11 Punjab, WWE and others help garner TV ads.

With an investment of Rs 1 Crore, the co-founders plan to open offline stores in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in 2018 as branding exercise.


From a fest at IIT Bombay to ‘Baahubali’ merchandise, Paintcollar was founded in September 2014 by four 23-year old boys namely ‑ Shantanu Mahajan, Deepak Yadav, Akash Arun and Amogh Vaishampayan. It is a marketplace for merchandise, made and sold by partner artists.

As it is impossible for an independent artist to sell your artworks in the market, Amogh, who hails from a family of artists, felt their startup should focus on artists. The team recognised that they could help independent artists and creators.

(Image Courtesy: YourStory)

The firm has a creation engine that allows the partner artists to upload their designs on a given product template, say T-shirt or phone case. On uploading the design, the artists sets his or her profit margin on the product. This product margin is coupled with the base price, set by Paintcollar to release the final pricing of the product. This base pricing levied by Paintcollar includes the cost of manufacturing, packaging, and delivering the product.

Similar to FreeCutlr’s, Paintcollar works on a ‘just-in-time’ model, which allows them to incur no cost on inventory management. With 3,000 artists onboard, the firm ships 50‑60 products every day.

Besides, the company also has offline business, which takes B2B bulk orders for merchandise manufacturing to various corporate clients including Times Music and institutions such as IIT and IIM-Ahmedabad.

The firm stepped into the merchandising world with the movie Shivaay starring Ajay Devgan. After it got a huge response, they soon bagged a merchandising contract for Baahubali from Black White Orange Brands (BWO).


Founded by Innu Nevatia and her husband Sujay Suresh, Zwende is a one-stop destination for the customers who were frustrated by the lack of options in design. Zwende is an online mass customization platform that allows users to customize branded products with traditional designs, all falling within the boundaries of a very stringent design ethos.

Frustrated with the ‘aur dikhao’ attitude, the entrepreneurs themselves have created a software that evolves and learns according to the customers preferences while also showcasing the best possible combinations for that particular product.

(Image Courtesy: YourStory)

Once the customer orders the product, the designs and colours are hand painted by master craftsmen from each of the art forms, and delivered within three weeks.

“Zwende is inspired by a Spanish word duende, which roughly translates to that magical feeling when you see something you like, or a heightened state of emotion, expression or authenticity. So we added a zing to make it Zwende!” Sujay was quoted as saying from the Indian Express.

According to its official website, Zwende endeavor to bring together leading designers from all over the world to help build an incredible ensemble of innovative designs.

Currently, inspired from Indian folk art such as Madhubani and Tholu Bommolata, these versatile creations can be effortlessly adapted across lifestyle products.


Founded by Shikhar Vaidya, Smriti Dubey, and Pratyush Singh in 2015, The platform began by curating graphic art and design on clothing and lifestyle products for men and women.

From an ecommerce platform for curated apparel and lifestyle products, SINS have pivoted to Redesyn a community-driven model and claims to offer design by the people, for the people.

(Image Courtesy: YourStory)

Redesyn works as a tech solutions provider to designers, brands, and influencers. It aims to nurture the community and make it a bigger part of the merchandise experience.

The team says that after the pivot they have been able to power merchandise solutions for over 1,000 designers and acquisition cost has lowered by 15 percent.

As per the founders, this is primarily due to the engagement that designers and artists generate on Instagram and Facebook, by communicating directly with their fanbase, bringing down the cost of acquiring a customer. Users acquired directly by designers stay longer and increase their basket size by over 45 percent in future purchases.

Redesyn also claims to have over 150 active designers, who get a total of over 1,100 orders a month.



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