A TRAN­SIT FROM EM­PLOYEE TO SUC­CESS­FUL EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR TO FUR­THER ‘OR­GANIC’ EX­PAN­SIONS

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Achange in prod­uct fo­cus, em­pha­sis on di­rect buy­ers, ben­e­fits of or­ganic, com­pli­ance setup, ad­van­tage of ad­vanced print­ing tech­nol­ogy, sys­tem­atic lay­out of ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion plans for the fu­ture…; these are the fac­tors that have carved the suc­cess path for Ban­ga­lore-based ex­port house – Fash­ion Ma­trix Over­seas. It is a story of an em­ployee who not only be­came a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur, but also con­tin­u­ously drove to­wards or­ganic growth de­spite all the ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal chal­lenges. Ap­parel On­line brings to you ex­clu­sive de­tails from an in­ter­view taken with the man be­hind such in­no­va­tive de­vel­op­ments, Vipin Sethi, Di­rec­tor of the com­pany, who shared his jour­ney, his views and ob­ser­va­tions about his own or­ga­ni­za­tion and the city of his estab­lish­ment.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion which started in 2003 with 6 peo­ple in the base­ment of a house, to­day has to­tal 3 units – 2 in Ban­ga­lore and 1 in Lud­hi­ana. At that time, mens’ shirts were the pri­mary fo­cus for Vipin but he ob­served that this busi­ness was mov­ing to Bangladesh. So, he thought of start­ing some­thing new. Dur­ing this time, as luck would have it, one of his own buy­ers had a re­ally bad ex­pe­ri­ence with a Delhi-based ven­dor do­ing wom­enswear and that buyer de­cided to shift the or­der to Vipin be­cause of his good rep­u­ta­tion and con­fi­dence. As de­scribed in Vipin’s words, “We took up the chal­lenge to start wom­enswear and since then, we have been ac­tively fo­cus­ing on it.”

He also had a con­stant ap­proach and ded­i­ca­tion to­wards look­ing for newer op­tions which again mo­ti­vated him to in­clude Bavar­ian gar­ments within his com­pany’s prod­uct list. This was in­deed a bold move as Bavar­ian gar­ments com­prise a very niche seg­ment spe­cially for a Ban­ga­lore based com­pany. To­day 90 per cent of Fash­ion Ma­trix’s to­tal pro­duc­tion is into Bavar­ian gar­ments al­though it is a com­pli­cated gar­ment with a high-qual­ity level. “Over the years, we have ac­quired the skills to cre­ate an en­tire Bavar­ian range like Bavar­ian tees, blouses, tops, dresses, sweaters. Cus­tomers now look for us, search for us and come to us for this spe­cific prod­uct cat­e­gory,” shared a proud Vipin. This is how the com­pany man­aged to have a tremen­dous growth even dur­ing world­wide re­ces­sion. So, was it easy for him to get or­ders and buy­ers’ ap­proval dur­ing the de­cline of world­wide econ­omy? Re­spectabil­ity, as they say, can change a per­son’s des­tiny and the same hap­pened with Vipin. All his sheer hard work and

ES­SEN­TIALS

“Over the years, we have ac­quired the skills to cre­ate an en­tire Bavar­ian range like Bavar­ian tees, blouses, tops, dresses, sweaters. Cus­tomers now look for us, search for us and come to us for this spe­cific prod­uct cat­e­gory.” – Vipin Sethi

ef­forts to build cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship made his buy­ers se­lect him amongst oth­ers. He added con­fi­dently, “All my buy­ers shifted their or­ders to me at that time as they wanted to work with me de­spite the fact that we did not have a very big fac­tory. This gave me a great sense of con­fi­dence and we per­formed re­ally well in the very first year. Since then, I have never looked back. Even to­day, buy­ers see as to who is the per­son be­hind their or­ders and the com­fort level that they en­joy with that per­son.”

Vipin, like other suc­cess­ful lead­ers, faced many chal­lenges in his vi­sion to move ahead and keep pace with the chang­ing mar­ket. A few Lud­hi­ana based com­pa­nies ap­proached his buy­ers di­rectly of­fer­ing lower prices for the same prod­ucts. His buy­ers pre­ferred to stay un­af­fected and stuck to Vipin. Buy­ers con­tin­ued work with Vipin be­cause of his on-time delivery, best qual­ity and his de­ter­mi­na­tion to be there with his buy­ers even when some­thing went wrong.

Care­ful and strate­gic se­lec­tion of clien­t­age also helped Fash­ion

Ma­trix Over­seas to grow as it did not chase big or­ders for bulk buy­ers and only catered to buy­ers who wanted high value items and qual­ity and were ready to pay the price. Vipin pre­sented a com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis of the same stat­ing, “Delhi-NCR is do­ing high-end ladies gar­ments but ca­ter­ing to or pre­fer­ring bulk buy­ers. They look for vol­ume cus­tomers while we have con­sciously taken the de­ci­sion not to look for such cus­tomers.”

With a cur­rent ca­pac­ity of one lakh pieces per month, the com­pany has a turnover of Rs. 50 crore and would be in­creas­ing its ca­pac­ity next year by an­other 50,000 pieces. The com­pany is 60 per cent into wo­ven and 40 per cent into knits seg­ment while its Lud­hi­ana unit is only for sweaters. Mov­ing fur­ther, it is al­ready hav­ing a strong hold on qual­ity and eco-friendly digital print­ing and it is ex­pand­ing on the same.

Sus­tain­abil­ity is the com­pany’s fore­most tar­get and it is plan­ning to in­vest US $ 5 mil­lion to­wards this pur­pose. An op­ti­mistic Vipin briefed AOI, “The fu­ture is sus­tain­abil­ity. If we don’t move in that direction, I think we will not be able to sur­vive. We are plan­ning to in­vest in sus­tain­able wash­ing which only re­quires a glass of wa­ter to wash a jeans. We will also have a so­lar grid on our roof top so that en­ergy will also be pro­vided from a sus­tain­able source. We are also look­ing for the use of more sus­tain­able fab­rics such as pineap­ple and ba­nana fi­bres which are ex­pen­sive but sus­tain­able. We would be im­port­ing some of these fab­rics be­cause right now, these are not avail­able in In­dia.” Fash­ion Ma­trix has also en­tered into agree­ments with fab­ric sup­pli­ers for get­ting or­ganic fab­ric from them. In Oc­to­ber, it is launch­ing an on­line brand for the en­tire world, which will be com­pletely based on or­ganic and nat­u­ral fab­ric and will help cus­tomers get cus­tom­ized gar­ments ac­cord­ing to his/her need. “With the launch of this on­line brand and sus­tain­able ex­pan­sion, we ex­pect to move to­wards com­pletely sus­tain­able fash­ion which would again give us ad­di­tional turnover,” shares Vipin. Al­ready SA 8000 and WRAP cer­ti­fied, his com­pany is in progress for GOTS cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and Or­ganic Stan­dard, Or­ganic Con­tent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. It has in­vested in new cloud-based ERP and it will help mon­i­tor what is hap­pen­ing at ev­ery level and will pro­vide bet­ter con­trol.

The com­pany has its core mar­ket in Europe and also has an of­fice in the US where it is plan­ning to ex­pand fur­ther. Hav­ing worked with brands and whole­salers (mostly fam­i­ly­owned) par­tic­u­larly in Ger­many and Aus­tria, Vipin feels that it is easy to work with such clients rather than work­ing with cor­po­rate buy­ers as they have mul­ti­ple lev­els for ap­proval and their de­ci­sion-mak­ing is very slow. Vipin claims that as Fash­ion Ma­trix is into niche seg­ment of Bavar­ian gar­ments, it has not seen any slow­down, and in fact is grow­ing at a swift pace.

Talk­ing about the in­ter­nal work­ing sys­tem of his com­pany, Vipin claims that any tai­lor or even helper of his or­ga­ni­za­tion can walk into his room and talk as the or­ga­ni­za­tion has an open door pol­icy. This gives his em­ploy­ees a sense of se­cu­rity, com­fort and even more re­spon­si­bil­ity. Un­like some di­rec­tors, he does not like to mi­cro­man­age and be­lieves in a uni­fied sys­tem of mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol to en­sure proper func­tion­ing of peo­ple and work.

Work­ing in Ban­ga­lore also presents sev­eral chal­lenges for an ex­port house to sur­vive and de­velop. Some of them are: con­tin­u­ous in­ter­fer­ence from the State Gov­ern­ment or le­gal im­pli­ca­tions in­volved while pur­chas­ing land for fac­to­ries, acute power short­age for huge set-ups, un­nec­es­sary re­stric­tions and check­ing by the po­lice de­spite abid­ing to all the rules. More­over, labour short­age within the city and avail­abil­ity of labour in ru­ral ar­eas don’t fit in the re­quire­ments for cre­ation of niche prod­ucts like Bavar­ian gar­ments. De­spite these lurk­ing ob­sta­cles, Fash­ion Ma­trix has emerged as a rare win­ner among the list of niche gar­ment ex­porters in this hub.

ES­SEN­TIALS

Vipin claims that any tai­lor or even helper of his or­ga­ni­za­tion can walk into his room and talk as the or­ga­ni­za­tion has an open door pol­icy. This gives his em­ploy­ees a sense of se­cu­rity, com­fort and even more re­spon­si­bil­ity. Un­like some di­rec­tors, he does not like to mi­cro­man­age and be­lieves in a uni­fied sys­tem of mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol to en­sure proper func­tion­ing of peo­ple and work.

Vipin Sethi, Di­rec­tor and Seema Sethi, Di­rec­tor (Mer­chan­dis­ing), Fash­ion Ma­trix Over­seas

Fash­ion Ma­trix Over­seas is known for Bavar­ian gar­ments

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