A change in product focus, emphasis on direct buyers, benefits of organic, compliance set-up, 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 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 family-owned) 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.