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You don’t think twice about buying the latest GoPro action camera online. But when it comes to clothes, you never know if a dress that looks ravishing on a model online would fit you half as well. There’s no way to see how clothes fit, look and move on you without actually trying them on.

Some of the biggest companies and smartest tech startups around the world have been trying to solve the problem for years. Take Amazon: In 2017, it acquired BodyLabs, a New York startup that used computer vision to build 3D body models. Last heard, Amazon was offering $25 gift cards for volunteers who’d let themselves be 3D-scanned at a location in New York—head-to-toe in their everyday attire as well as in form-fitting clothes.

This was a study to “learn about diversity among body shapes," the company said, and therein lies the crux of the problem: there are thousands of different body types, and within those, the permutations and combinations are endless. In 2014, eBay acquired computer graphics company PhiSix to try and crack this. Flipkart acquired San Francisco-based Fitiquette in 2013. Boston’s True Fit, with $100 million in funding, started out with the same goal but has since pivoted to offering personalization tech for recommendations.

CREATING AVATARS

In the fitting room with all of them is three-year-old Indian startup TryNdBuy. Its founder and CEO Nitin Vats wanted to capture all the nuances of fitting. The startup’s patented tech solves this problem more realistically than the biggies, says Vats, giving Mint a demo.

TryNdBuy would let you upload a photograph along with measurements like height, weight, and chest size to create a 3D avatar. Then you can pick a dress you like and try out permutations and combinations to get the desired fit. This 3D body model works with the startup’s tech for virtual 3D clothes.

“We can create 3D models of clothes from catalogue images," Vats says. “Other software requires a special photoshoot of each dress or SKU and before making the 3D models. That process can’t take the load of major fashion portals that upload a million new clothes on average every month."

This is yet to go live with e-commerce sites but TryNdBuy has closed a deal with Myntra. “The money has come in. We will launch a part of the tech in a month, and the full feature in three months," Vats says.

The dependency on e-commerce platforms or brands to get in front of users is a challenge for TryNdBuy. One way out is to go into markets outside India where adoption might be faster. The backing it has received from Chinaccelerator is key here.

The cross-border accelerator-cum-investor based in Shanghai helps startups enter markets across Asia. “We are in talks with top fashion ecommerce portals in China, South Korea, and Singapore. We were hoping to go live soon, but the coronavirus outbreak has put the brakes on business in China for now," says Zeliha Aygunes, TryNdBuy’s business development head in China. “The question we are asked often is: can your tech solve the fitting problem for Asian body types other than Indian? The answer is: yes, of course," she says. TryNdBuy fits over 2000 body types, Vats adds. The company has raised around $3 million in funding so far and is in talks to close a $5 million round.

Vats worked in the cryptography division of Microsoft Research Labs where his job was to hack into Microsoft’s security systems. He quit his Microsoft job to test his mettle in developing deep tech. In the course of building TryNdBuy, he has applied for 70 patents, eight of which have been granted in the US. These relate to auto-generation of a person’s 3D model, making 3D models of clothes from catalogue images, and an AI-based fashion advisor.

CUSTOMER FIRST

Chinaccelerator MD William Bao Bean explains why he took a chance on the Indian entrepreneur. “Every virtual fitting room I’ve ever seen makes the consumer look bad. Amazon and Microsoft make the person look like a plastic dummy. The consumer is not going to buy something if she looks bad in it," he says.

He says TryNDBuy’s computer vision solution does a better job of making a 3D virtual avatar that won’t make a consumer cringe while getting a sense of how she will look in a dress. Chinaccelerator is helping the startup with the tough act of business development outside India. “It’s a B2B (business-to-business) sale, step by step. There’s interest from brands in China and then we just have to navigate Alibaba, which is never an easy thing," he says.

Malavika Velayanikal is a Consulting Editor with Mint. She tweets @vmalu

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