Founder Friday Feature: Tania Kottoor, Co-Founder & CEO, WEST X EAST

What inspired you to start your company?

WEST X EAST is an end-to-end solution for custom-fit and on demand cultural attire using AI and robotics for more efficient, faster and eco-friendly production. The mission is to preserve and elevate cultural heritage.

As a first generation Indian-American, I wanted to find a way to blend the dual identity as an American but honor my cultural heritage through fashion. WEST X EAST is tapping into the economic power ($100K average annual income) of a fast-growing diaspora. WEST X EAST is a company where you start envisioning your outfit online and receive expertise from a remote design team to bring your vision to life!

Who are your cofounders, and what makes you a great team?

My Co-Founder and I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. We met at Indian Classical Dance practice (Bharatanatyam). We’ve known each other since childhood and shared a deep appreciation for South Asian culture.

Apart from bonding over a shared mission to preserve cultural heritage through clothing, we quickly discovered that we had complementary superpowers and were each other’s yin to their yang. I’m a strategic thinker and has a knack of finding good talent with a proven track record of helping build a designer label that’s now carried at Bergdorf Goodman. Liya is a seasoned design and production expert, having completed lengthy tenures at Gucci and Chanel, which led to the start of a successful personal shopping business in South Asia.

More importantly, our lived experience as first generation-Indian Americans makes us incredibly attuned to the needs of the market and allows us to build cutting-edge process and production capabilities to deliver a seamless customer experience.

How is WEST X EAST making a difference?

The core principle our business was founded on was providing a service for South Asians like us, a product of two cultures: American and South Asian. We strive to preserve the traditions passed down to us by our immigrant parents, much of which lies within clothing. The biggest struggle for the diaspora is being able to source such garments when the time comes. It can be a heart-breaking moment, when many first generation, second generation, and third generation of South Asians find themselves unable to fulfill these traditions simply because of no access or connection.

The $32B South Asian market is our entryway before we expand and tap into customizing other traditional garments for East Asian, African and Middle Eastern customers which will surpass a $100B market size. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Navigating the startup world as a WOC is not easy. I had to work EXTRA hard to get the opportunities that were given to me. It made me very determined and resilient.

What is your biggest win? 

Immersing myself in the startup ecosystem. I have participated in multiple fellowships, accelerators and pitch competitions. I did that all by myself.

Who is your role model?

Cate Luzio, Founder and CEO of Luminary: the self-funded and inclusive co-working space. I get to see Cate’s work ethic everyday and it is so damn inspiring. She has an aura that makes people want to be around her and learn from her.

What do you wish you had known before starting your company?

The key to success is (genuine) relationships + introductions.

What is your CEO superpower?

I am relentless and ambitious. 

Learn more and connect:

G&W Team

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