India Today - - STATES - —Prachi Bhuchar


In 1958, Amer­i­can John Bis­sell trav­elled to In­dia to ad­vise the All In­dia Hand­i­crafts Board and Cot­tage In­dus­tries on cre­at­ing a mar­ket for hand­loom fab­rics. He never left. Two years later, he set up Fabindia (im­ply­ing the fab­ric of In­dia), an In­dia-in­spired brand that drew on the strengths of ru­ral weavers to bring an eth­i­cal, eth­nic ex­pe­ri­ence to con­sumers look­ing to wear home­grown fab­rics and weaves.

The com­pany set up its first re­tail store in Delhi in 1976, at the time only sell­ing tex­tile-based ap­parel. Be­fore long, the com­pany had added a non-tex­tile range (in 2000), or­ganic foods in 2004, per­sonal care prod­ucts in 2006 and eth­nic jew­ellery in 2008. Adding heft to its or­ganic food range, Fabindia in 2013 bought a 40 per cent stake in Lucknow-based Or­ganic In­dia, a re­tailer of or­ganic foods and sup­ple­ments. Since then, Fabindia has in­creased its share­hold­ing in Or­ganic In­dia to 53 per cent.

The com­pany is now run by his son Wil­liam Bis­sell, 51, who has been in­volved in the busi­ness since 1988. In the early days, he set up the Bhadra­jun Ar­ti­sans Trust (BAT), an ar­ti­sans’ co­op­er­a­tive that worked with weavers in Ra­jasthan and which to­day sup­plies to the par­ent com­pany. The com­pany to­day works with over 55,000 ar­ti­sans across the coun­try to cre­ate world-class prod­ucts and also cre­ate an ar­ti­san­share­holder sys­tem that em­pow­ers crafts­men by giv­ing them

eq­uity through stake. Un­der Wil­liam, Fabindia flour­ished into the brand it is to­day. He re­grouped the com­pany’s re­sources and changed fo­cus, choos­ing to look home­ward, at In­dia, rather than the ex­port mar­ket. In 2015-2016 alone, Fabindia had sales of over Rs 1,000 crore. Un­der his lead­er­ship, Fabindia grew from a com­pany with just two re­tail stores in Delhi to one with 226 stores in 87 In­dian cities and 10 abroad—in Rome, Dubai, Malaysia, Mau­ri­tius, Sin­ga­pore, Nepal and Dal­las in the US.


The com­pany’s tagline ‘Cel­e­brate In­dia’ is cen­tral to the core of Fabindia; over the past five-and-a-half decades, it has spear­headed craft as a con­tem­po­rary sen­si­bil­ity, mak­ing it rel­e­vant to the way peo­ple use a very tra­di­tional id­iom in their ev­ery­day lives. Ac­cord­ing to Viney Singh, di­rec­tor & CEO, Fabindia, “The chal­lenge lies in re­main­ing ex­cit­ing in terms of design and prod­ucts for our cus­tomers. At Fabindia, we have kept tra­di­tional skills and crafts rel­e­vant and con­tem­po­rary for over 55 years.” Fu­ture plans for Fabindia in­clude lever­ag­ing the Or­ganic In­dia sec­tion. Qual­ity con­trol of ex­ist­ing prod­ucts is also a big chal­lenge and one that the com­pany hopes to fo­cus on in or­der to min­imise colour bleeds and shrink­age. In or­der to of­fer its cus­tomers some­thing be­yond the or­di­nary store ex­pe­ri­ence, early this year, Fabindia launched its first con­cept store or ex­pe­ri­ence centre in Vas­ant Kunj, Delhi. The 10,000 square feet unit is the first of 60 stores ex­pected to be opened over the next few years.

THE GANG The FabIndia fam­ily on its 25th an­niver­sary, in 1985

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