Starting with just 60 machines in late 1990s as a start-up to reaching Rs. 134 crore in 2021 is no ordinary feat to achieve. Gurugram-based Elegant Overseas – a high-end knitwear manufacturer – has come a long way in its three decades of journey, all thanks to committed values towards humans, tech-integration in business, focus on environmental aspects and a strong synergy with the brands it has worked (or is working) for. The company now aims to cross Rs. 160 crore of turnover by 2022 end for which it has a well-planned strategy – systemic expansion in garment division. Team Apparel Resources (AR) recently met Vinod Jindal, Director, Elegant Overseas who started this business from scratch in 1993 and he shared quite a few interesting anecdotes about his journey.
Starting a garment business was a game-changing moment for Elegant Overseas
In 1992-93, while doing stainless steel business, we started searching for producing a product that would use Indian raw material and labour, and could be exported. We also wanted to contribute to make our environment a better place for all to live and this is when we forayed into garment manufacturing as it was (and still is) a key contributor in spreading pollution across the world. This was the time when I tried to understand how other factories are producing garments and then I met some people who had connections with the buyers. Many of them had their stitching units but there were hardly any unit with vertical set-up like knitting, dyeing, sewing, finishing – everything at one place.
We struggled in our initial run with just 60 machines, and small value POs that were not good enough for us to sustain in the long-run. Then came orders of GAP that had POs of around 80,000-100,000 pieces but we didn’t have that much capacity to undertake such a large programme. However, we took up the challenge and, with team’s dedication, we completed it. GAP then also gave orders for dyeing and it kept our units busy. Gradually, we added more buyers and a major turnaround was experienced when we joined hands with Superdry in 2011 and we were their first factory in India. The Chief Designer visited our factory and inspected our lines and he liked the way we were handling polyester fabrics. That opened the door for us. Superdry and Elegant developed a great bond then and we have grown together in this journey of one decade. They started with 3,000 pieces a month which then went over to 400,000 pieces a month.
Pioneering in sustainability initiatives needs capability and strong intent, and Elegant exemplifies it
Sustainability is the need of the hour today. We have installed nano-technology and jet spray technology in our washing units. Prior to this implementation, our water consumption was 420,00,000 litres per year which has drastically come down to 60,00,000 litres per year that translates into saving of 360,00,000 litres of water per year. Just to share, with this much water saving, one can wash approximately 25 million additional pieces of garments a year!
Elegant Overseas, back in 1990s, started with places like Sohna where water is considered to be very suitable for dyeing operation. Today, it has dye unit’s water storage capacity of almost 200,000 feet altogether, to which around 58,000 feet will be added by October this year.
We have recently gone one step ahead and installed 150 kW solar power generating system bringing the capacity to 500 kW which compensates the plant’s 50 per cent electrical consumption requirement. We are aiming to run our plant with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2023.
We are a firm believer in not disturbing the groundwater, hence we have our connection with the STPs operated by the Government that collect water from rural area and treat it. Our industrial water comes from these STPs and our reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant water inputs are directly connected with Government-treated water line. We also have three water harvesting projects where we save around 300,000 litres of water per day during monsoon.
Further, on shopfloors and in offices, all the lighting systems are replaced with LEDs that save 25 per cent energy. All the installed fans are from proven technology that have longer life – 6-8 years as compared to 1-2 years in local brands.
For us, sustainability is not just a formality but it’s equally important for us to look after our social responsibilities. We support women empowerment and we have invested in various women-empowerment programmes in the last few years. We are also spreading awareness amongst the male supervisors regarding the type of language that should be used while talking to women workers and everybody in the company is well-informed that they need to treat women workers with utmost respect. We also have sexual harassment prevention policy, social welfare schemes, gender equality programmes, stress management and financial help scheme in place.
When it comes to ‘cost of sustainability’, I would say it’s a long-term investment. The ROI starts from 3-5 years and you need to be capable enough to measure your investments, plus a strong intent should be there. We have invested over Rs. 36 crore in advancements, sustainability and re-engineering of our plant. I want to make this factory the best state-of-the-art sustainable factory of India.
Elegant is enhancing its sewing floor capacity by 13,000 square feet by October this year which will help it accommodate another 2 million pieces of garments per year. The company majorly does men’s garments but it is now foraying into women’s garments too which will be worked upon by the next Autumn/Winter.
High-end technologies help Elegant keep processes simplified and reduce costs of operations
Our current manufacturing capacity exceeds 7 million garments a year that combines basic and non-basic knitwear. The unit has a vertically integrated facility of circular knitting, flat knitting, embroidery, cotton dyeing and processing. The company aims to reach 9 million pieces per year garment production capacity by 2024. We are also planning to increase investment in automation, lean manufacturing-based sewing modules, sophisticated IE units, and forming robust and agile manufacturing platforms which will add workforce by around 500 to the already employed 1,400 skilled people.
At present, on shopfloor, automatic elastic ring making machines combine multiple direct and indirect operations and that increases efficiencies massively. We also use automatic heat press machines, automatic bar tack machines, automatic blind hemming seam opener, automatic waistband eyelet holing and sewing machines, automatic bottom hemming machines for open and circular hemming and 3D virtual sampling to stay ahead on technology front. We are now trying to figure out if ‘Automatic Garment Folding Machines’ are feasible for us as we do only knitwear.
Recognitions from Superdry justify Elegant’s hard work all through the years
Elegant Overseas is the first and largest vertically-integrated organic garment supplier to Superdry in India. The revolution began after Superdry recognised the company as ‘the most improved supplier’ in 2017 and ‘the best overall performer’ in 2018. Elegant Overseas has recently got ‘the best global vendor’ award from the brand which came from the excellence of these five parameters – on-time delivery, quality, sustainability, agility and compliance. The company received the same award four years back as well. It is the top ranked factory for Superdry out of 17 units the brand works with in the Asia region with an overall score in OTIF (ON TIME IN FULL) of 98.3 per cent which is the highest in India. Below mentioned are some of our recognitions from Superdry:
- The most improved supplier of 2017 from Superdry
- The best overall performer of 2018 from Superdry
- Runner-up for most agile and best delivered quality of 2020 from Superdry
- Best manufacturer in best delivered quality in 2021 from Superdry
- Best vendor for overall performance in 2022 from Superdry
- Achievement of exceptional grade of BLUE category manufacturing to Superdry supply chain