Started by college dropouts, bootstrapped Indian Threads aims to build a global brand
Indian Threads is an Indore-based company that designs and manufactures high-quality yet affordable menswear.
It may be a profitable venture today, but Indian Threads didn’t start with a formal business plan. In fact, 22-year-olds Abhishek Rawal and Vishi Porwal had absolutely no background in fashion and design. Rather than following the “traditional” model of starting a business, they just tried to apply common sense and figure things out as they came up.
“The design aspect, on the other hand, came very instinctively, and we completely surrendered to that passion. We’ve found that the best way of learning is by doing,” says Abhishek. The duo had dropped out of college as they were keen on doing something on their own.
One day, when they were shopping for shirts, they found that the top brands had great design, fit, fabric, and style, but were heavy on the pocket, and the smaller brands, while lighter on the pocket, weren’t great in other aspects. Abhishek says,
“High-quality fabric shirts and garments shouldn't necessarily mean expensive – that’s when we decided to start Indian Threads. We started it with the sole purpose of making the finest quality shirts at the cheapest rates possible. By cutting the profits and selling directly to customers on our online platform, we cut out the middlemen at three levels. And that’s a huge margin of profit at every level, and we pass the savings on to our customers.”
Regular feet on the street
Over the next 12 months, they continued to build Indian Threads by working round the clock, both Monday to Friday and on weekends, refining designs, learning the process, making mistakes, building a team of craftsmen, organising logistics, and you name it. Abhishek says,
“Our dream of starting a brand was no longer just a dream. It was what fueled us, and this is what keeps us moving. We also had to make sure everything was ethically managed. We did door-to-door meetings with hundreds of small vendors and even big multi-brand outlets to market our product. The sole belief that fashion can be made in an inexpensive way kept us going.”
The challenges, however, didn’t end for the duo. Being in the product manufacturing industry, the key challenge was to reduce the long product-to-market cycle, the time period from conceptualising a product to getting it out in the market, which ranges from two to four months.
Abhishek adds that they have been able to work around this and bring the product-to-market cycle to about 20-25 days, and they intend to bring it down even further. Apart from the online webstore, Indian Threads shirts are also available at 120 MBOs (multi-brand outlets) in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.
Growing from 60 to 6,000
Started in Indore in 2015, Indian Threads still has a small team of six people. Apart from the two founders, there are two sales and marketing people, one fashion designer, and one technical person who handles both the webstore and social media.
Abhishek says that they sold only 60 shirts for the first three months. However, slowly, after product recognition, they saw a rapid growth in sales. Today, Indian Threads sells over 6,000 shirts every month. He adds,
“After launching Indian Threads in the market, the only dream we both had was to see a random guy at some random place wearing Indian Threads. So, one fine weekend, we along with our friends headed out for dinner. While waiting for the lift, a guy came in. We observed him closely, and couldn’t stop smiling. He was wearing an Indian Threads shirt. It was a moment of pride for us. It took us more than six months to see our first little dream come true. And then, there was no looking back.”
The market and differentiator
The concept of customised shirts and menswear is fast picking up. According to Vidya Nataraj, Founder of bespoke garments platform Tailorman, this is a $15 billion industry. But it deters risks because it is highly fragmented. India Retailing pegs it at a more modest $8 billion, or 20 percent of the market share. Also present in the space are the famous Bombay Shirt Company and Threads and Shirts.
Indian Threads launches new designs based on their observation of trends in lifestyle and fashion, as well as by listening to their social media followers and customers. “By cutting down our time on production cycle, we are successful in launching our fresh collection with more than 50 new styles every month,” says Abhishek.
The team claims to be growing at 200 percent a year, and they say that Indian Threads is already a profitable company. Their website receives around 1,500 hits per day, with a conversion rate of 2 percent. Indian Threads has also partnered with elite lifestyle and other online apparel portals to increase their reach.
The team intends to expand to bottom wear, ethnic wear, suit, blazer, and accessories. “We aim to open our own stores all over India in the next five years, and expand the Indian brand by exporting to different countries. Our vision is to empower our members to feel like a million bucks without spending a million bucks. We want everyone to stay fresh, for less, and we want to keep them at the forefront of trending fashion – we aim to continuously redefine everyday style for men in India,” says Abhishek, signing off.