Go natural with organic retailing
Zeme is an organic clothing company, conceptualised in the spring of 2006 in San Francisco, California and was founded in India, in December 2007 by Arati T. Nagaraja. In a thought-provoking interview, she speaks about the concept of organic clothing.BY Shubhra Saini | October 21, 2009 | comments ( 1 ) |
Arati T. Nagaraja, MD, Zeme Organics Pvt. Ltd
Zeme is an organic clothing company, conceptualised in the spring of 2006 in San Francisco, California and was founded in India, in December 2007 by Arati T. Nagaraja. In a thought-provoking interview, she speaks about the concept of organic clothing.
Shubhra Saini (SS): What was the vision behind an organic apparel range?
Arati T. Nagaraja (ATN): It is our way of contributing to help reduce the green house effect so that mother earth can breathe easy. We are offering and encouraging people to wear organic clothes so as to fulfill this vision.
SS: What is organic clothing? How is it different from other garments?
ATN: Organic clothing is called so because of the method of production and not the characteristics of the product as the cotton used for making organic clothes is different from the usual cotton. Organic cotton is grown using organic farming method and regulations, i.e., cultivation of plants without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Organic farming also helps small-scale and poor farmers in countries like India, since it offers economic benefits in terms of yields, cost benefits and employment.
SS: How open is the Indian retail market for a new initiative like yours?
ATN: Yes, the Indian retail market is open for this idea. I would say, customers are more interested in it rather than retailers. I say this, because I have come across some retailers who have a fixed mind-set, and believe that Indians are not eco-conscious, but that is not true. Indian people are more aware of the environmental impact of the green house effect and ground water pollution now, than they were about five years back. And they would like to contribute in a small way towards a better environment by buying eco-friendly clothes like 'Zeme'
SS: What strategy do you adopt to compete with other known brands in the market?
ATN: We try to keep the prices of our garments very competitive, and in some categories our pricing is almost the same, as regular cotton products.
SS: What sales channels are you using for retailing?
ATN: Presently, we are selling through shop-in-shops and have also tied up with three online stores to sell Zeme organic products. We also export Zeme garments under the brand ‘Zeme' to boutiques abroad.
SS: Are you planning to take on the franchising route for expanding?
ATN: Yes, we do plan to adopt the franchising route for expanding, once the funding comes through.
SS: What other products are you offering through your retail outlets?
ATN: The Zeme product range includes infant wear, body suits, T-shirts, frocks, bath towels, denim jeans, maternity wear, menswear and women’s wear.
SS: What is the cost ratio in producing organic clothing? Does it cost more than the usual clothing?
ATN: In organic clothing, entire supply chain is certified, i.e. from the farm till the end-product. The entire manufacturing process is certified and certification costs money. Hence the cost of the product increases. But even though the cost is more, it helps the environment. People who are conscious of the environment will not mind paying extra to buy organic cotton garments.
SS: What planning and organised efforts at the design stage are required to go green? What are the concerns behind this concept?
ATN: Zeme Organics and its entire supply chain follow the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), which are acceptable all over the world. The concern we would have would be that the retailers should check the certification of the product and the company. Some companies might sell products to retailers as organic; without understanding the terminology or the certification process required in it, or by duping them. It is important for the retailers to ask for certification details from the company and confirm with the certification agency about the certification.
SS: How does green initiative build brand value and what is the CSR initiative behind this?
ATN: The USP of the product is that it is environmental friendly. It helps to reduce ground water pollution and green house effect. And this enhances the brand value, as the company selling the product is doing well for environment. People who are conscious of the environment do not necessarily go at farm level to help the cause. Instead, they would buy eco-friendly product to do their bit. People like to contribute even in a small way if they can to protect the environment. Such people would not mind paying little extra for eco-friendly organic products.