Swapping - A sustainable alternative to shopping: Nancy Bhasin

Nothing gives her more joy than to build and create. An ex-advertising professional, turned entrepreneur, Nancy is the founder of a clothes swap app called This For That. It was a desire to create something impactful that led Nancy to think of this unusual project. And now, she feels there is a deep sense of purpose that has made her life meaningful. Her sense of focus, she claims, is tough for most people to understand but for her, it’s a way of life.

Her tryst with sustainability

“I have always been a conscious person who avoids wastage wherever I can. But the biggest shift, personally, happened in 2017, when I decided to make some big changes. And I owe a lot of it to This For That,” she shares.

While building a sustainable alternative to shopping was one of the main reasons behind starting This For That, Nancy says she still did not know if it could replace shopping so easily for her and many others. In 2017, she realised that she was shopping a lot less than before and started experimenting with shopping as little as she could.

“As of June 5, 2018, I have totally given up on shopping and have pledged to survive only on what I already own and swap if I need something over and above,” she shares, adding, “What matters the most to me is to be able to create something that will help people make the shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle, with utmost ease.” 

Towards creating a greener and fairer path in fashion industry

“The biggest threat to the sustainable fashion movement is that most people think fashion is not such a big threat in the first place. Therefore, for every brand that makes fashion and every individual who consumes fashion, the realisation itself matters the most,” she says. According to Nancy, there are so many big brands that are still turning a blind eye to the problem and majority consumers of fashion have zero sensitization and realisation. “So education and accountability are super important for consumers and makers, respectively,” she adds.

 

Birth of an idea

An existential crisis, a longish Ted talk and a bit of serendipity, all came together to make This For That happen, says Nancy. “Nearly after a decade in advertising, I was itching to make a significant switch,” she shares. “Up until that point I had only created things that had helped other brands. I wanted to use all my experience and create something that would have a larger impact,” she tells us.

Nancy says she was watching a lot of Ted Talks and listening to podcasts those days and that is when she stumbled upon a Ted Talk by Rachel Botsman on Collaborative consumption. “I was fascinated by the concept and began looking at ways to apply it to the Indian context. It was around the same time that I found myself completely out of options for a family function. I had been working all week and when the occasion arrived, I realised, I had an outfit but no shoes or accessories to go with it,” she shares. Being a conscious shopper, who hates investing in things that she is not going to use more than once or twice in a year, she did what she did the best -- dug into her mother’s and sister in law’s closets.

“But I realised my options were very limited and all of us were going to the same family function. That’s when the idea struck and I thought to myself, what if I had not just two but hundreds of closets to choose from? What if I could swap with like-minded women in my city?” she recalls. And after loads of iterations and deliberations, This For That was born.

She then went on to test waters with a couple of swap meets in Delhi. These meets proved to be a great learning ground for the This For That app and a test market version of the app was launched in 2016 and over 15,000 women signed up for it.

“Observing how customers interact with the app and each other and how they strike deals gave me immense amount of confidence in the power of the idea and how it could become a part of the day to day lives of Indian women. All of these experiences have given shape to the current avatar of This For That,” she shares.

Her favorite interactions with people who have used your application so far

“There are so many heart warming stories but I’ll share my personal story,” says Nancy, who insists she is the biggest swapping enthusiast and swaps endlessly on the app.

“In January 2017, I had to attend a close friend’s wedding. As the day drew closer, I realised I hadn’t shopped at all and needed a bunch of outfits. So I reached out to women I had swapped with before, knowing that our style and aesthetics sort of matched. I messaged them on the app asking for help. To my surprise, my inbox was flooded with suggestions and pictures of things that these beautiful women were willing to upload, especially so I could swap them for the occasion,” she recalls. A true testimony to the power of the community we are building, she says.

So is swapping truly the new shopping? 

“I think we are at a point in time, where our lifestyles and consumption patterns need to change drastically. The climate change report, released recently, gives us 12 years to make huge changes, if we want to survive. So it is no longer a matter of giving a damn, it’s about survival,” she reflects. According to her, food and fashion are the easiest ways to create a huge impact. While you can’t change the basic human desire of owning things, you can surely change the shape of that ownership, she feels.

“A few years ago, Air BnB did this with the hospitality industry and it’s high time someone did the same with fashion,” she argues, adding that swapping is a guilt free, sustainable way of shopping, where you still own fashion, but just don’t spend money and other resources to buy it off the shelf.

 “Swapping brings immense benefits – it is free of cost and does not create any additional carbon footprint,” she elaborates. “It also increases the life span of your clothes as swapping is being seen as a more sensible option to needless shopping for more. A lot many women are already making the switch with This For That. These are ordinary women who find great value in the platform that we’ve built,” she says. A trend that has only strengthened her belief in swapping being the sustainable/good cousin of shopping. Have you tried it yet?

 

On Nancy - On my way into the wild top- Click Here

On Nancy - On my way into the wild trousers- Click Here

Read more about This for That - Click Here