Indian textile industry is one of the oldest in the country going back to many centuries and contributes 7 per cent of industrial output in terms of value, 2 per cent to India’s GDP and to 15 per cent of country’s export earnings. This industry in India is one of the largest in the world with a huge reserve of massive raw materials and textiles manufacturing base and around 27 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings are on account of export of textiles and clothing alone. According to IBEF, India’s overall textile export during FY 2017-18 stood at US $ 39.2 billion in FY ’18 and is expected to increase to US $ 82.00 billion by 2021 from US $ 31.65 billion in FY ’19 (up to Jan.19). The Indian fashion trajectory has undergone major transformation as it has evolved from the darzi era to stitched garments, later surrounded by the influx of e-commerce and then moving into the age of customisation; and through all these phases, fabric has remained constant which has given rise to an all new segment – the online textile category– in India.
Fabriclore is one such start-up bridging the gap between supply chain, that is, artisans and the customers through online medium. “We started in March 2016 in an attempt to revive consumption of both traditional and modern fabrics available across India by offering a range of Indian handloom and contemporary fabrics with numerous design crossovers in an online platform. The idea behind Fabriclore came from broadly three things: in-depth understanding of the textile industry, analysing various players in the supply chain and considering different phases of the fashion trajectory. As we researched in terms of what kinds of fabrics and crafts are available in India, we were more certain about the possibility of such a venture,” asserts Anupam Arya, Director, Fabriclore.
An online push to an expansive market
According to statista.com, the textile industry’s market was valued at US $ 137 billion in 2016 across India which further increased to US $ 150 billion in 2017. The market size was forecasted to rise to a whopping US $ 223 billion in 2023. While the numbers are impressive, the overall industry took a much needed plunge with the inclusion of technology, and today, a number of young generation artisans are resorting to the use of digital interferences and mediums of selling which have given rise to e-commerce in this segment. Also, with the rate at which businesses are opting for an online vertical, it was time for the fabric industry to venture into e-commerce in order to better tap the new-age audience and the designers who stand exposed to a plethora of fabrics at the click of a button. “The Indian textiles industry is extremely varied, with hand-spun and handwoven textiles at one end of the spectrum and the capital-intensive sophisticated mills segment at the other end. Fabriclore is a one-stop shop for all kinds of fabrics. Earlier, the artisans used to visit local or regional exhibitions which were quite a sporadic source of income for them. Fabriclore created a very consistent demand for these products by the local artisans, we represented them globally, created a lot of content strategy to make customers aware about the legacy and the process involved in such crafts. Our biggest contribution to the community is taking the crafts to a global platform. Also, we pride to be the frontrunner in the way we have catalogued the fabric and marketed it across the country,” maintains Anupam.
What goes in the back-end?
Even as the start-up is establishing firm roots in the fabric world, it is trying to exhume various art forms of the age-old Indian handloom industry by pushing the design abilities of the talented craftsmen. Also, the founders of Fabriclore – Anupam Arya, Sandeep Kumar and Vijay Sharma – understood the nerves of the Indian consumers and are now looking forward to more sustainable garments and have enough disposable income to be able to pay for the quality handloom products. This, in turn, has led to an increase in the demand for handloom fabrics. Fabriclore’s consumers are predominantly women who are either individual buyers or have their boutiques. Besides, a lot of fashion ideators from across the country along with a number of wholesalers too procure fabrics from this start-up. “Around 85 per cent of our consumers are women and the average ticket size at our portal remains around Rs.2,000 per order. We keep adding new products almost on a daily basis without compromising on the quality. Our USP lies in the fact that our customer can buy as low as half a metre of fabric and as much as the whole thaan from us and while we are a fabric-selling firm taking into consideration that a cut fabric cannot be used for resale, we still have a favourable return policy. If the customer does not like the fabric, we take it back and return the money, if the reason conforms to our policy guidelines,” informs Sandeep.
Fabriclore follows a hybrid business model with marketplace and retail. Besides getting fabrics from artisans at piece rate, it also gets fabrics customised, fusing various designs including those which are limited to very specific geographies and are rare to find on both online and offline mediums. However, Fabriclore does not have a narrow focus in terms of design language but its ‘mandate is very clear in terms of brand position that the firm would not venture into things that are very flashy but would concentrate on artisanal and designer fabrics’.
Explaining on the sourcing and manufacturing front, Vijay elaborates, “We do not invest in our own proprietary units and will always outsource manufacturing so that our in-house focus remains predominantly on proprietary designing and setting up of production procedures. We have a dedicated sourcing team, which, along with our in-house textile designers, travel across India, curating different types of crafts and materials. While we have successfully covered west, south, central and select areas of north India, we plan to cover the north-east in the near future, bringing in myriad varieties of silk. At present, we offer materials ranging from cotton, cotton silk, khadi, georgette, poplin to chiffon, raw silk, modal silk, chanderi and satin; and crafts, including ajrak, kalamkari, shibori, indigo, ikat, leheriya, bandhani, bangalgiri, dabu and bagh. The range of varieties in art and craft forms that we offer gets updated on a regular basis.”
The survival strategy
According to Government statistics, the domestic textile and garments industry stood at US $ 140 billion in 2018, out of which US $ 100 billion was domestically consumed while the remaining portion worth US $ 40 billion was exported across the world. And Fabriclore does not believe in limiting itself to just the Indian market but caters to consumers from across the world. The online start-up automatically calculates the shipping charges based on the weight and distance and delivers to all markets. Fabriclore has been bootstrapped until now and is ‘looking for half a million dollar worth of funding to expand its footprint in both international market as well as offline retail’. Currently, it has 80,000 registered customers, which the firm aims to increase to 2,000 on month-on-month basis.
While the online business in India relies mostly on ample discounting, Fabriclore believes in building long-lasting relationships with its customers. “We have a high rate of repeat customers and the reasons for this are good quality products and phenomenal customer service. Our customer support team is well trained about fabrics, quality, fall, stiffness and helps consumers with whatever problems they face regarding the fabric. Also, we deliver the orders to the customers within 4-5 working days. We have ‘wish card’ as well which gives consumers store credits at a discounted price,” asserts Anupam.
Since touch and feel is the key to buying fabrics and Indian consumers have been turning to unorganised offline players for their fabric needs for years now, there ought to be a rise in competition for the online firm in the category. However, Anupam sees it differently as he explains, “We have a strong in-house photography team that regularly conceptualises collection shoots. Each fabric is shot from three different angles, offering customers an easy visual experience while shopping online. Unlike the traditional players and fellow online fabric category players, we offer a unique return policy which gives us an edge over the others.”
The way ahead…
Handloom in India has a rich cultural heritage and each state has its own identity and crafts, like kalamkari of Andhra Pradesh, chanderi of Madhya Pradesh, bandhani of Gujarat, bhagalpuri of Bihar and countless others. Besides, the policies and reforms by the Ministry of Textiles only directs towards growth and development of the handloom and overall textiles sector. Growing at CAGR of 12-15 per cent, Fabriclore has plans to take this growth rate to at least 25 per cent in the next 5 years with the infusion of funding. “Going forward, we are focusing on offering a lot more premium and pure materials, with target to increase order size and are definitely looking at going offline in the times to come. The plan is to launch our branded stores across major cities which might, in the years to follow, offer tailoring services as well,” concludes Anupam.