ON FLEA.K: A HOP, SKIP, AND A STEAL

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Young entrepreneurs Bhavya Babu Mathew and Leah Rachel Abraham fill us in on what Kerala’s first flea market, On Flea.K, has in store for you this September

Text: Aiswarya John    Photos: Leah Rachel Abraham and Bhavya Babu Mathew, WTZUPCITY.COM

There’s nothing quite like coming home with an incredibly unusual, rare, one-of-a-kind find from a neighbourhood garage sale, and bought for a steal. I can safely state that I would have a skip in my step if I got a hold of the perfect calfskin East West leather jacket (remember Sophia Marlowe from Girlboss?) at the bargain price of Rs 600, and a pair of Frye boots to match!

If words such as ‘bargain’, ‘bric-a-brac’, or ‘collectible’ send your hearts racing, Kochiites have yet another reason to pop open the sherry as ‘On Flea.K’ is making its way back in our calenders on September 9, at TocH Public School.

The brainchild of best friend duo Bhavya Babu Mathew and Leah Rachel Abraham, Kochi’s first flea market is garnering a lot of attention, and sounds like the perfect binge for a soul that is desperately in need of a change in the city’s shopping scene. Leah Rachel Abraham and Bhavya Babu Mathew tell us all about it.

What inspired the concept of ‘OnFlea.K’?

(Bhavya) I was on holiday with my friends in Delhi, and we had decided to pay a visit to Dilli Haat. It was a permanent structure, housing various stalls based on a particular state’s culture. They even showcased dance performances, and at the time, all the stalls were Rajasthan-centric. I was immediately inspired and wanted to bring this experience to Kerala. After much deliberation, it was agreed upon that acquiring a permanent structure would be an expensive affair, as we would have to purchase the land, and that’s when the idea of ‘OnFlea.K’ hit me. There are a number of flea markets in and around India – Bengaluru has Soul Sunday, and Mumbai has its own little flea market. So we decided that it’s time Kochi had one as well.

Who came up with the name ‘OnFlea.K’?

(Leah) After a couple of brainstorming sessions, I put across the name. Colloquially, ‘on fleek’ means ‘to the point’, and that’s what we wanted ‘OnFlea.K’ to stand for as well. However, quite a few people think the ‘K’ in ‘OnFlea.K’ stands for Kochi, which is really not the case.

How were you and Leah introduced to one another?

We are childhood best friends! We’ve known each other since Kindergarten, and our sisters are best friends to this date.

Tell us about your experience of kick-starting the venture.

The concept was brand-new to Kerala, and convincing the vendors and explaining the idea behind ‘OnFlea.K’was probably the trickiest part of all. The first time was a bit of a task, but now it has picked up momentum as people are now aware of the concept. We conducted our research, and formed a good enough database. We had a client list of 200, and thought that acquiring 40 of them from the lot would be good enough. However, convincing them was harder than we expected, as they were skeptical about the idea being new, and whether it would be a successful affair. But now, it has picked up and is doing quite well.

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What are the major highlights at this year’s event?

This year marks the entry of brands from Bengaluru and Delhi. Amongst the 100 stalls, Harley Davidson is to take up a space at the event, and sponsor gifts for the games to be held. A myriad of items will be on display, from clothes from brands like Clothes Without Borders, to food magnets as small as a coin! We even have stalls from Mumbai, boasting of alluring jewellery and charming décor. The idea of a band playing is still in discussion, as we have an all-girl band called Void. Focusing on women empowerment is what we aim to do, keeping in mind that it is well within the theme. Last year, we had a female lead singer to close the show. This year, we will also be looking at ‘book swapping’, where one can bring in a book and exchange it for another. Nail art, face painting, and other activities for children add to the festivities. Decathlon is planning to set up a trampoline to attract toddlers and keep them engaged.

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How does Kerala fair as a market for such events?

We have been receiving positive feedback, with people calling us from Thrissur, Calicut, and Kottayam. We would love to expand to other cities, and are working on it slowly. However, we do not wish to go out of Kerala, as we think these cities have great potential. Social media has proved to be our best advertiser, with people coming in from out of town, after learning about the event on different digital platforms.

Which of the stalls are you most excited about?

The book stalls, nail art, and face painting. This year, we have a stall for men’s casualwear, and are eager to see the response from their side.

Tell us more about the Book Swapping stall.

We will be stacking a couple of books together, and people can come in with any number of books from their bookshelves, and exchange them for the same number, found at the stall. No magazines will be accepted at the stall.

I hear the refreshment stalls are going to be great this year.

Last year, we had around ten food stalls. This year, we are bringing in 16 stalls, solely dedicated to food and refreshment. We’ll have everything, from burgers and nachos, to rolls, hot dogs and milkshakes. We also have a couple of bakers on board, serving everything from heavenly cupcakes and chocolates, to delectable French pastries.

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Do you agree ‘OnFlea.K’ could be a benchmark for budding businesses and young entrepreneurs?

Absolutely. We came up with the idea of ‘OnFlea.K’ with the intention of wanting to do something for women entrepreneurs. We especially wanted to help those from home, who started out from scratch, and are looking for a platform to showcase their talent. And this is precisely why we don’t focus on high-end brands. There have been a number of people who didn’t have a store of their own, and ‘OnFlea.K’ turned out to be the first platform for them to display their creativity. The success from their showcasing at ‘OnFlea.K’ translated into them finally owning their own stores, and for that, they are eternally grateful to have been part of the venture.

How does ‘OnFlea.K’ make it a point to prove its stance with women empowerment?

We invite women who are home-based vendors, or have an online store. They come here to test the market, and after assessing the pros and cons, they decide whether to give it a shot. There are also chances of people coming in to invest in businesses they deem worthy. There are also brands that come for publicity, and probably have a store that people aren’t aware of. So this has proved to be a great centre-stage for making your brand visible to the people.

What does the future hold for ‘OnFlea.K’?

To be honest, we never thought the concept would click in Kerala. For the first event, we were expecting a walk-in of 200 people, but were pleasantly surprised to see the event hosting close to 4000 visitors. So this year, we have upped the number of stalls from 40 to 100, and are expecting around 8000 to 10,000 people walking in. We have also been advertising outside the city, with the intention of hosting the event two to three times a year, and are planning to bring a change in venue each time.

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