Karen Desai (29), Rajul Parekh (29), and Kinney Sheth (29), cofounders of LUKH
As three childhood friends from Chicago who are first-generation Indian-Americans, Karen Desai, Rajul Parekh, and Kinney Sheth told Business Insider that their South Asian roots are essential to their identities. However, Desai told Business Insider that they know firsthand how frustrating shopping for Indian fashion in the US can be.
“The clothes you find in stores are outdated, and ecommerce brands are exorbitantly priced and rarely represent our dual identities,” Desai said. “Moreover, with a diverse mix of family and friends around us, we want everyone to feel included in our rich heritage. There are 30 million South Asians that live outside of India that similarly feel these frustrations and desires.”
That’s why Desai, Parekh, and Sheth created LUKH, an online rental service for South Asian fashion, in September 2019.
“Think Rent the Runway for Indian clothes — an online rental service giving everyone an equal opportunity to participate in Indian culture through fashion,” Desai, who’s also the company’s CMO, said.
With large gatherings no longer taking place, Sheth, who’s also chief product officer, said business has been slower but mostly coming from micro-weddings. But according to Parekh, the company’s CEO, they still managed to turn a $10,000 profit since their launch and drove 21,000 unique site visits as people re-plan and reschedule their events. They’ve also pivoted and doubled down on unique digital collaborations, including virtual styling sessions.
Since June, they’ve launched postponed wedding care packages, featuring products from various South Asian artists — and sequined South Asian face masks, with 100% proceeds donated to United We Mask in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America — to meet their customers’ more timely needs.
“Although, like many entrepreneurs, they have been facing adversity due to the impact of COVID-19, they have persisted and turned what could have been a challenging launch into a moment of true empathy,” said Pooja Agarawal, COO of the coding bootcamp Flatiron School and former COO of Birchbox, who’s a mentor and advisor to the three founders.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the three cofounders were recent finalists in the University of Chicago’s New Venture Challenge and raised $20,000 in capital from Dorm Room Fund.