We are aiming to become a $100-million brand by 2020: Dhiraj Agarwal
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We are aiming to become a $100-million brand by 2020: Dhiraj Agarwal

Indian fashion industry, for the first time, is providing youth centric style and fashion opportunities suitable for campus as well as course specific fashion statement. Campus Sutra aims to maintain the innovative style that appeals and reflects the lifestyles of young customers in Indian as well as abroad. In an exclusive interview with Indianretailer, Dhiraj Agarwal, Co founder of CampusSutra talks about the brand’s journey, experiences and plans.

What prompted you to launch Campus Sutra?
While on a trip to Goa, Aditya, Khushboo, Sonal and I (now Co-Founders of Campus Sutra) thought about starting something of our own. We saw that the Indian apparel market, especially which caters to the youth was not very relatable with current trends and happenings. The market was much disoriented in terms of wearing what revolves around one’s lifestyle or reflects upon one’s thinking. There were no apparels representing true campus life or specific to academic streams like engineering, management, law etc. The Goa trip was a deciding moment in our lives, and we decided to join hands. Thus, we came up with the idea of launching Campus Sutra as a trendy fashion brand that offers Indian youth something they can relate to. We registered the firm as soon as we came back.

What are your views on the online fashion market in India?
There are many factors driving the online fashion in India today. Some of them are the entry of smart phones, increased use of the internet, increasingly disposable income, improved lifestyle, and rising awareness about domestic and international brands. Buyers are increasingly adapting to new technology and the fact that most of the brick-and-mortar stores are online today is making it very convenient for buyers today to access their favorite products online. Even Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities are experiencing this change.

Online fashion businesses in India have been excessively focused on the “ONLINE” component and have paid too little attention to the “FASHION BUSINESS” component of the venture.  Fashion businesses world over are built predominantly on 2 platforms – back-end innovation and design differentiation. With the advent of e-commerce, the channel end of the business has become equally important. Campus Sutra believes that the competencies that the company is building in back end design will be the key success factor. This is also perhaps the key differentiating factor when it comes to competition.

What are your plans regarding launching offline stores?
While Campus Sutra continues to bring designs that resonate with the audience, it is also committed to bringing to the market a range of apparel and accessories built around a young person’s lifestyle.The company will continue to push the envelope when it comes to truly optimizing the potential in the segment it addresses. Campus Sutra is looking at becoming a $100-million brand by 2020 and plans to open offline stores soon. We will enter the offline space through our own franchise-owned stores. Initially three stores will be launched in Bengaluru by September and seeing the response we will expand to other cities.

What is the business model of Campus Sutra?
We have shifted focus from exclusive custom merchandise to presenting an entire range of apparel and accessories based on the lifestyle of Indian Youth. We have a range of products for Men & Women including Sweatshirts, T-Shirts, Caps, Jackets, Sportswear, Shorts, Tops, Hoodies, Bags, Laptop Sleeves, Mugs and Sippers. The fact that we are developing competencies in back end design will be our key differentiating factor. We are competing with brands like Wrogn, Roadster and Yepme in the youth fashion space.We are working with a gross margin of 30% and have achieved our break-even in the first year of business itself.

What are the number of orders received per day? What is the company’s yearly turnover?
Campus Sutra is currently working with a gross margin of 30% and has broken even in the first year of its existence. The company has also initiated work on building proprietary offline distribution channels. According to a recent report by the global Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and social media giant Facebook, the Indian online fashion market is expected hit $12-$14 billion by 2020.We are the largest bootstrapped brand in the Indian apparel industry. From revenues of Rs. 1.65 crores in FY 2013-14 to Rs. 16 crores in FY 2014-15 to Rs. 37 crores in FY2015- 16 and Rs. 70 crore in 2016- 17, Campus Sutra is growing at 300% year-on-year and is on track to reach revenues of Rs. 100 crores (with 8-10% EBITA) on the back of exciting expansion plans. The company plans to achieve revenue of 200 crores next year and build a $100 million brand by 2020.

All products sold by Campus Sutra are manufactured under its own label through its network of manufacturers in Ludhiana, Tirupur, Kolkata, and Mumbai in India, and China and Bangladesh internationally. Using online channel as the primary distribution network, Campus Sutra ships 5,000 orders/day.

What initial challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
When we started out, the biggest challenge was to step out of our personal comfort zones. We all had steady fixed incomes adding up to a good sum that we decided to leave behind and start afresh with the creation of Campus Sutra. Along our journey, we realized that we needed to be prepared for all eventualities, especially in the initial days of the venture, when everything from processes to basic system layouts can create setbacks. There have been a lot of things that have kept us awake all night or made us run around at odd hours. Our warehouses would get flooded during heavy rains, and we have had to physically shift goods to a safe spot. Another learning we have drawn from our initial days is the importance of creating a bond with your employees. A competitor offered all our 30 employees treble the salary they drew with us. But fortunately for us, only 4 took the exit gate while the others stayed on with us on our thrilling journey to eventually take up more powerful roles in the company. Running a bootstrapped firm is itself a great challenge as it takes a lot to establish the brand image in the market and build trust among the stakeholders. Selling your vision becomes somewhat easier with a good flow of funding and a strong investor backing.

What is the USP of the products by Campus Sutra?
We believe Campus Sutra has brought a big transformation to the conventional apparel market in India. While most brands in India focus on showcasing their brand logo in different ways or bring in foreign designs that do not reflect on the Indian scenario, Campus Sutra is out to give today’s youth what they truly relate to and offer them ways to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Having said that, our brand is not only focused on aesthetics but also in creating designs that appeal to the target audience- between ages 18-25.

We make sure that our designs are latest and in line with trends and issues of the contemporary youth world. What stands us apart from the rest is the fact that we can bring a design to market in less than 21 days unlike other players who usually take much longer to do this. Delays generally happen either because of glitches in the internal processes or ineffective ways of managing the supply and source. In terms of connecting with the audience and quality of design, we want to be like the “Amul advertising” of the apparel industry.

What are your investment plans for the ongoing fiscal year?
The focus is going to be on offline stores and the plan is to start with 3 stores and scale up to 25 stores next year. Most of our investments are going to go into this initiative. Category expansion and increasing product offerings is going to be the next main focus area. We have established a strong customer base in the newer categories of Active wear and Athleisure and the plan will be consolidate and increase collection and cover more sub categories under these main categories.


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