Vani Bajaj's 3 tips to fashion entrepreneurs

“As India makes an impact globally, the veil over the rich and unique heritage lifts"

July 09, 2013 10:48 IST | India Infoline News Service

Vani Bajaj, Chief Mentor, International College of Financial Planning and International College of Fashion. An entrepreneur and educationist who learned the tricks of the trade after joining her family garment export house after college. Bajaj is a DU alumni who topped her college all three years and later set up set up ICFP (International College of Financial Planning) in 2002 with the backing of Bajaj Capital. She introduced courses in fashion entrepreneurship that enable young designers to launch their own signature label and become the leaders of the fashion industry. She is an entrepreneur that aims to produce entrepreneurs

International College of Fashion (ICF), promoted by the Bajaj Capital Group, is a leading college imparting Fashion Entrepreneurship education. ICF, through its Entrepreneurship programs, takes the initiative of discovering those talented and successful individuals who have both the flair and business edge to become future leaders and champions of the local fashion industry.

Vani Bajaj while speaking to Manu Kaushik of IIFL touched upon various facets of Fashion entrepreneurship and the business of fashion. She said “As India makes an impact globally, the veil over the rich and unique heritage lifts. It is well known that many international designers are looking towards India for inspiration”.

What is your assessment of Indian fashion industry right now?

India has a major tryst with the global fashion industry. We have all the ingredients, be it raw materials, skilled labour, unique heritage, and growing markets. Things we lack are large investments, brand marketing and retail growth. The investment, both indigenous and foreign, is now beginning to happen. There are of course ups and downs depending on the economic cycle which affects the quantum of growth. We are pulling out of one such trough at the moment and this will make the industry stronger. But the direction forward is quite clear.

Where does it figure on the global fashion radar if at all?

India is fast becoming an important destination for the global fashion industry as well as a source for inspiration and inputs. The fact that we are the second largest growing economy with a large untapped populace, makes us prime destination for the international fashion industry to market their products here. In addition, as India makes an impact globally, the veil over the rich and unique heritage lifts. It is well known that many international designers are looking towards India for inspiration.

What does it take to create a fashion/clothing label that clicks with end users?

There is a lot that is required to make a fashion label click. First comes the back end. Consistent quality, standardisation, distribution and strong merchandising are a basic requirement which is often found wanting. This is only a base for the inspiration. The rest of the challenge is to create a brand positioning that is relevant and a brand personality that is exciting and targets an audience that is ready for it.

Five must haves in the business plan of a fashion entrepreneur?

Financial investment required

  • Sourcing/manufacturing of consistent quality

  • Merchandise planning

  • Design & Line development

  • Brand marketing

What are the hurdles entrepreneurs in Indian fashion industry face?

Indian entrepreneurs face umpteen hurdles. This starts at the very beginning. Initially there is the lack of financial support. Government banking and other institutional support such as Sidbi is too tedious. Infrastructure is very poor. This includes quality vendors, poor distribution logistics, and absence of organized and professional retail, amongst other issues.

View on FDI norms in retail and how will it affect the apparel industry?

There has been a sustained effort by the Government to liberalise the FDI norms in the retail industry. This has been somewhat blunted by the opposition and local politics. This is not unusual as there is always opposition to big retail around the world. However, if carefully implemented as in China and other Asian Countries, it can be a catalyst for growth for the apparel industry. Foreign retailers can bring in the large investment required for this industry as well as the specialized skills needed. While the political tussle will continue, there is no doubt that any Government at the centre will have to go in for progressive liberalisation.

Will foreign clothing brands entry in the Indian market boost sourcing from local entrepreneurs.

Yes, as foreign brands enter India, they realize that the markets are cost sensitive. As a result they require local sourcing to manage these costs. Marks & Spencer is a prime example. While quality sourcing in India requires some effort, the better brands are realizing that this is a necessary route.

Are there any fashion specific incubator programs in India?

NID has an incubator program in Ahmedabad that is well known.

Is there enough space for mushrooming clothing brands vying for a pie of the market?

The Indian fashion growth story has just begun. In fact one of the missing elements in the past has been brands, a tool which the West has effectively used to market fashion. There is scope for hundreds of carefully nurtured fashion brands over the coming decades. While some will succeed and some fail, the growing Indian retail sector will ensure that the demand for them will only continue to grow.

Your advise to fashion entrepreneurs to built up a good business?

This is a great time to give wings to your entrepreneurship dreams. You must be true to your dreams, be ready to bootstrap, and be persistent to overcome the numerous hurdles that you have to contend with. Social media is a boon as traditional media is totally out of the reach for start-ups. A significant portion of the target consumers are net-friendly and interact through social media. I have seen young start-ups use e-commerce effectively through simple websites and enhance their penetration through simple Search Engine Optimization tools. As social media is still developing, there are many creative ways which can be developed to make your presence felt and promote your products with little cost.

Your comments on Indian apparel companies such as Arvind shifting base to Bangladesh?

In the short run, industry will go where the costs are lowest and the business environment supportive. However, over the long run, the dynamics will tend to balance out the differences. India will continue to be a major base for the apparel industry for decades to come.

After two textile plant related tragedies in Bangladesh are global companies looking to shift their manufacturing base to India.

International companies that have flocked to Bangladesh have realized that the local Government’s inducements come with a hidden cost. Such companies are waking up to the realities. While they may not move whole-scale to India, they will hedge future growth outside Bangladesh.

Is there any change in labour practices in India post those unfortunate events in Bangladesh,.

Bangladesh’s poor labour practices are in-part due to the Government’s overarching protection of the apparel business at the cost of labour. This is not so in India where the labour movement is stronger. There is positive fallout in India in the sense that companies are now more sensitive against flouting ‘good practice’ norms required by buyers.

Anything desirable from the government on policy front to boost the sector

The Government needs to provide easier funding in this sector. Further it needs to continue rationalizing the tax structure. One of the important landmarks will be the GST.

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