Manali’s business plan is to not only provide comfortable office wear for women through Indian Concepts, but also promote the rich cultural heritage of Indian hand-woven textiles by offering products with contemporary designs. She says, “Lack of flexibility in my job made me quit it! I needed flexibility as I was a new mom and we had a nuclear family. During my research for a business idea, I remembered how difficult it was during my corporate days to shop for decent kurtas to wear to work.
If one had to wear Indian wear to office it was either some gaudily embroidered kurtas/salwar suits or jazzy printed kurtis. These did not suit the sophisticated corporate environment. I was thus left with no choice but to wear tight fitting western wear that restricted free movement of the body during work. I had also noticed my colleagues facing similar issues while shopping for comfortable office wear. After a research and product development period of about one year we launched Indian Concepts through our online store”. We caught up with her to know a little more about Indian Concepts –
Have you reached break-even? What has been the key to your business’s success?
Indian Concepts has a lean structure with only value added activities like procurement, product development and marketing being done in-house and rest of the activities outsourced to external suppliers/service providers. Thus, most of our activities are outsourced; this helps us to control the fixed costs and renders greater flexibility to our operations while ensuring competitive pricing for our products and better cash flow in this start-up phase.
That is why we broke-even in a short span of 6-8 months. Our product differentiation of offering Corporate Kurtas has clicked with working women in India and has helped to establish our Brand “Indian Concepts” in a short period. Our target segment has appreciated our products due our quality, exclusive designs and reasonable pricing.
What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
Major challenge for us in the early days was to market our product profitably. There was no readymade source available to procure completely stitched Kurtas as per our requirements so we had to get into development and manufacturing right from the initial days of our venture.
Our quantities were so less that cloth suppliers would not reduce price, similarly garment manufacturers would also charge us more for stitching. On the marketing side we could not price our products high since we were unknown brand and malls would demand higher margins for merchandising our label. Hence we started working with small firms who were hungry for work.
When we launched Indian Concepts, we first targeted the well known malls for merchandising our brand. Though most of them liked our designs, they either demanded exorbitant margins which did not make commercial sense for us or asked us to manufacture for them under their brand. Even though contract manufacturing was a lucrative option which could have given us immediate cash inflows we rejected the idea since we were determined to establish our own brand label.
At this stage we feel that our decision was right. This led us to start our webstore www.indianconceptsonline.com When we zeroed in on Kurtas as a product category to venture into, we noticed that the segment was already cluttered with a slew of National and local brands. To create a market for our product in this clutter was a big challenge. To differentiate ourselves we decided to only focus only on the segment of “Corporate Kurtas” and offer products that meet the specific requirements of this niche.
Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
No. We have learnt as we have grown. First we wanted to prove the concept ourselves and then scale up. We spent 1.5-2 yrs establishing ourselves and are completely convinced about our product offering. We now want to scale up hence we are now actively looking for mentorship.
Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
Our online store www.indianconceptsonline.com has been a boon to us. The internet has brought us closer to our customers. The online store format has made our business hassle free to a great extent. It gives us that accessibility and feasibility which probably a physical store would not have.
Our target segment of corporate women has easy access to internet while in office or at home and now through smart phones, tablets .etc, She has no time left for shopping while juggling between professional and personal commitments hence e-commerce is the most ideal platform for us to reach her. The increased level of comfort of this segment with online payments further strengthened our belief
What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
We are in constant touch with our customers through phone, e-mails, social networking sites etc. We use social networking sites to stay in touch with our customers seek their feedback for existing products and also receive inputs for future designs. Our customers contact us to seek guidance on size selection, selecting designs for specific occasions like interviews, meetings .etc and we try to address them to their satisfaction. We also have a replacement policy just incase the customer has some issues with the size, fit etc.
This approach also helps us to get lot of referral customers through existing customers. We also work with boutiques across various cities to make our products available through conventional channel. A piece of advice for those who want to start-up or are at the initial stages of starting-up.
Two important things… 1. Add and create value. One should focus to create value and think about how to serve, rather than receive. 2. You need to be open to learn new things and also accept change easily. One should learn to get rid of “fear of failure”. Website – www.indianconceptsonline.com Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/indianconcepts