Seema Kakkar, Founder, Remanika, Mumbai
I was a born tailor. Even while in school, I use to design my own clothes and never repeated it the next day. But, being from a conservative family, fashion as a career was certainly out of question in mid-80s'. So I did B.Ed course and starting teaching science in a school. Almost immediately, I got married and we frequently moved places as my husband was in Navy. Thereafter, I did my MBA and worked in airlines and seafood industry for fifteen years before taking a plunge into doing what I know best- designing clothes. No, it had nothing to do with entrepreneurship; it was simply a desire to do something, which made me feel happy.
In 1993, I designed my first label called Rudraksh for Ensemble-Tarun Tahiliani's retail chain of stores. It was haute couture for elite class. I got very encouraging response but fashion was still at a very nascent stage in India- even rich people of South Mumbai, especially women, were not open to trendy clothes those days. I use to regularly interact with people on the streets and realised that youth in suburban pockets such as Bandra and Lokhandwala were open to experiment with their clothes but they didn't have choices at affordable prices as designers in India were into haute couture and catering to high profile individual clients. There was a need gap in the market. That's how seeds of Remanika were sown. In 94, I rented out a 100sq ft space in Kemps Corner in South Mumbai and opened the first Remanika store selling 'Go-sexy'-trendy youth wear and club wear for women.
Well, I called it 'Ramnika'. It's a Sanskrit word, which means a woman who is appealing to eyes. My clients however called it Remanika and over the years I have also grown comfortable with it.
The initial years
When I started in 94, I couldn't even afford shelves and hangers, and all the clothes used to be displayed on the floor. I paid rent in the evening on a daily basis from money generated through day sales. One fine day, with barely few months into the business, I got notice to vacate the store. The following one year was very stressful. There were times when I had to sell clothes on staircases and loft of the mall. I had to sell my car and house to stay put in the business. After some time I rented another 600sq ft of space on a different floor in the same premises. Thankfully, clients repaid my faith and business grew steadily.
The first store in 1994 and then the opening of second store in 1999. In 2000, we started retailing our products through Pantaloon, and later from Shoppers Stop, K-Lifestyle, and Pyramid stores. We have now 10 self-owned stores and retail our products through 80 other outlets. The employee strength is 400 and we have grown over 100% in the fiscal year 08.
I would say club wear and trendy youth wear is my core competency. Women also love Remanika for the Lycra and woven fit- a difficult proposition to achieve in fashion. I know girls who use their piggybank money just to buy a Remanika. That aspirational value associated with the brand is our USP.
We are into perishable clothing and not basics so we have to introduce new labels keeping in mind the market trends. There are times when company is ready to introduce the new trend but market is not ready. We have recently introduced 'Ruggiero', which is into bulk wear-cargo pants, trek wear, layered clothing- for go-getter women. We have also introduced a new brand called 'Rachel' exclusively for Reliance Trendz fashion stores. We have presence in Dubai and London. I might go for an IPO by 2010.
.Tips for budding entrepreneurs in fashion Industry
There are no festivities in commitment. If you have made a commitment, it has to be fulfilled; no matter, whether it's a vendor, customer or employees. I would recommend designers-fresh out of college-to work for at least five years in established companies before starting on your own. Have a long-term vision, and remember time is never lost for following your passion.