“When I was doing drag and I couldn’t find heels in my size, I told my mom why don’t you start designing men’s heels,” Ashish Chopra, co-founder of BeUnic, recalls how his approach to selling footwear changed. to transform the brand into an e-commerce marketplace.
Founded in 2019, BeUnic is co-owned by Ashish, 27, a queer man and human resources professional with Google, who supports his mother and brother in running the business on weekends. But BeUnic is not just another eCommerce marketplace. The platform brings queer entrepreneurs together in one space, something that makes it unique and inclusive by nature.
“For a year we only made shoes and honestly we only sold five pairs in a year,” says Chopra. indianexpress.com about a call. But Chopra saw an opportunity to start an e-commerce platform when he discovered that many LGBTQ entrepreneurs, who didn’t have a website, were taking orders through Instagram or using their personal circle to sell products. “Every product on our website is made by LGBTQ entrepreneurs,” he said, adding that listing their products on “our platform gives them visibility and they can serve customers not only in India but across the world.”
Chopra says her rainbow collection, consisting of shoes, T-shirts and rings, is popular with LGBTQ consumers. Approximately 400 products are currently listed on the platform.
Chopra’s BeUnic is working with around 25 queer entrepreneurs who have listed their products on the e-commerce platform. The platform does not charge its sellers a commission or a percentage on the product sold. What Chopra earns is 20 percent of the sales value of each product. BeUnic delivers the products all over India and more than 10 countries around the world.
Chopra says that he started BeUnic at a time when many local queer entrepreneurs were on the verge of closing their businesses due to the pandemic. “It was a win-win situation…these people deserve more and clearly we need help. You publish your products on our website and this increases our product catalog and more people visit our platform”, he explains.
Inclusion is a big part of the market, but Chopra doesn’t want to limit BeUnic to LGBTQ+ customers. “It’s a t-shirt, it’s not a gay t-shirt. It’s just that the shirt is made by a queer businessman. I really want to tell people that everyone can buy these products,” he said.
“Our market is not just for the LGBTQ community, it is for everyone and anyone who wants to support the queer community,” added Chopra.
Since BeUnic is a platform powered by the queer community, Chopra makes sure that anyone associated with him is from the community. For example, the models wearing the outfits on the platform are from the LGBTQ community and the same goes for the photographer and social media team.
Although BeUnic is still an upstart, Chopra wants to run the platform his own way. He recently hired the first two full-time employees, including a drag queen and another shoe designer. The plan is to sell drag queen heels, breast bras and wigs on the platform in the future.
He has participated in Mr Gay India 2018 and was the first runner-up. Ashish is not only a model but also a drag queen. The artist, who goes by the name Cumsin Haseena (a drag queen is a man who dresses as a woman to perform), has been acting for the past four or five years.