“When I was doing drag and I could not find heels of my size, I told my mother why don’t you start designing heels for men,” Ashish Chopra, co-founder of BeUnic, recalls how he changed his focus from selling footwear to transforming the brand to an e-commerce marketplace.
Founded in 2019, BeUnic is co-owned by 27-year-old Ashish, a queer man and an HR professional with Google, who lends support to his mother and brother in running the business on the weekends. But BeUnic is not just another e-commerce marketplace. The platform is bringing queer entrepreneurs in one space, something that makes it unique and inclusive in nature.
“For a year we were only doing footwear and honestly, we sold only five pairs in a year,” Chopra tells indianexpress.com over a call. But Chopra saw the opportunity to start an e-commerce platform when he found that a lot of LGBTQ entrepreneurs, who did not have a website, either took orders through Instagram or used their personal circle to sell the 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 just in India but across all the world’.
Chopra says their rainbow collection, which consists of shoes, t-shirts and rings, are popular among 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 per cent of the sale value on every product. BeUnic delivers the products across India and over 10 countries across the world.
Chopra says he started BeUnic at a time when a lot of local queer entrepreneurs were on the verge of shutting down their businesses due to the pandemic. “It was a mutually benefitting situation…these people deserve more and we clearly need help. You list your products on our website and this increases our product catalogue and more people visit our platform,” he explains.
Inclusivity is a big part of the marketplace, but Chopra does not want to limit BeUnic to LGBTQ+ customers. “It’s a shirt, it’s not a Gay shirt. It’s just that the shirt is made by a queer entrepreneur. I really want to tell people that everyone can buy these products,” he said.
“Our market is not just for the LGBTQ community, it’s everyone and anyone who wants to support the queer community,” Chopra added.
Since BeUnic is a queer-community driven platform, Chopra makes sure that whosoever is associated with him is from the community. For instance, models rocking the outfits on the platform are from the LGBTQ community and the same goes for the photographer and the social media team.
Although BeUnic is still an upstart, Chopra wants to run the platform his way. He recently hired the first two full-time employees, including a drag queen and another footwear designer. The plan is to sell drag queen heels, chest binders 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 performer, who goes by the stage name Cumsin Haseena (a drag queen is a man who dresses up as a woman in order to perform), has been performing for the past four-five years.