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T-shirt man Abhishek Parihar spins a tale of success with SagarFab

Vishal Krishna
posted on 1st July 2017
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The Rs 40-crore Bengaluru-based manufacturing business supplies T-shirts to corporates and traders, besides selling thousands of units every month online, and hopes to capture a small pie of the Rs 3,00,000 crore apparel industry.

What's common among the T-shirts that so many of you Bangaloreans wear to office on Fridays with your company logos printed, emblazoned or embossed on them?

Chances are that a majority of these T-shirts have been made by Abhishek Parihar, who is building a T-shirt empire from his six-storeyed, 30,000sqft factory in north-west Bengaluru.

Today, Abhishek's SagarFab clocks a revenue of Rs 40 crore by manufacturing T-shirts for corporate houses and his own in-house brands.

Abhishek Parihar (in black T-shirt), CEO and founder of SagrFab International with his father.

“This business began after six years running to every Bengaluru factory to provide uniforms for industrial workers,” says 37-year-old Abhishek, even as he discusses business with distributors at his factory in Palace Guttahalli.

Abhishek did not have it easy financially. But he had the mental support of his family, the critical ingredient that has gone on to shape some of the best entrepreneurs of our times. However, Abhishek's father was a stern task master who never let success go to his son's head.

With little encouragement Abhishek built a business out of knowledge he picked up along the way. Now he is adept at handling the complexity of managing cash across several distributors and sales channels.

Today, he has four exclusive distributors for his brands including Scott and AWG, which sells more than 35,000 pieces a month on online marketplaces like Amazon.

The Bangalore and Tirupur factory produces 2,40,000 pieces of clothing every month that are sold by 700 traders.

But like any other astute businessman, Abhishek does not want to restrict himself to a level and is constantly looking to better the value of his offering. To this end, he has launched a progressive web app which takes the shape of any device and supports customised manufacturing and white labeling of T-Shirt quantities which are as low as 100 in number. This allows young entrepreneurs to sell T-Shirts as a business. The website SagarFab.com provides real time inventory and design for these young entrepreneurs to decide on products that they want to sell out of a huge portfolio of jackets, T-Shirts, hoodies and shirts. Most of these young entrepreneurs sell in colleges and institutions. Abhishek says,

“My website allows young traders, or even students who want to make money, to place orders of the T-shirt templates that we offer and they can bring their own designs to be embossed on the shirts.”

He believes SagarFab International has the potential to become a Rs 100-crore business in a couple of years.

The beginning

Born into a family of traditional retailers, Abhishek’s father had a humble beginning. He began by selling fabric as an office boy, before he tasted success and became a well-respected retailer in the old Bengaluru area.

Abhishek was inspired and wanted to do something on his own too. He had heard, in 2005, that there was opportunity in manufacturing uniforms for factories and wanted to explore that market.

His father and family gave him moral support to start him off on his research. Abhishek began his business with Rs 10000 of his pocket money. He began by meeting facility managers in the factories on the outskirts of Bengaluru then, which is now the sprawling Electronic City suburb of greater Bengaluru.

“A factory manager listened to me and gave me a business line worth Rs 15 lakh,” he recalls.

Then began the search for a uniform manufacturer who could do the job such that Abhishek retained a 30-percent margin. “I had 20 days to get the order and I had some savings which I paid as an advance to a manufacturer,” he says.

Upon delivering the uniforms the facility manager was pleasantly surprised by Abhishek's resourcefulness and began to give him orders. But his first success did little to impress his father. “He told me that small victories do not make a career and walked away by saying I have to work harder,” says Abhishek.

He yearned to build a big business so that he gained his father's appreciation.

So, for the next five years Abhishek did everything from selling uniforms to arranging corporate gifting items for startups. That’s when he realised that he was becoming nothing more than a trader who was not adding value in terms of design or brand building.

All that was about to change he began to focus only on manufacturing corporate T-shirts in 2009, and that’s how SagarFab was born.

Abhishek started it with two secondhand stitching machines, which he purchased for Rs 10,000. In the first year, he manufactured 10,000 T-shirts and earned close to Rs five lakh. But at that point, he had still not fully fathomed the need for scale and importance of branding.

“India's industry needs brands and we have young people who are willing to experiment with alternative fashion,” says Mansur Ali Khan, Founder of Attitude, another apparel manufacturer.

In many ways, the growth of Wrogn, of Universal Sportsbiz, has inspired brands to be born overnight. USPL is a Rs 100-crore business and boasts of big brand ambassadors like Virat Kohli, Shradha Kapoor and Kriti Sanon promoting its brands.

Watching these brands grow made Abhishek sit up and take notice of the importance of branding.

SagarFab International sells through Amazon

By 2012 SagarFab was reaching out to several retailers across India and sourced fabric from factories in Bilwara and Surat. The company also set up manufacturing operations in Tirupur in Tamil Nadu.

It was only in 2012 did Abhishek begin thinking of launching brands. He started off with Scott, a premium cotton Polo brand, which began to take his revenues to over Rs five crore.

At the time, corporate T-shirt manufacturing was bringing in a majority of the revenues. It was only in 2014 that a chance meeting with a childhood friend led Abhishek to experiment with his online business.

“I had just started selling online when I suggested to Abhishek that SagarFab should sell on online platforms too,” says Manish Chowdhary, Co-founder of personal care company Fit&Glow. He adds that platforms like Amazon and Flipkart had created several new-age brands.

Abhishek began experimenting by creating a line of premium T-shirts and jackets, which he named 'All Weather Gear'. He began with a few 100 pieces on Amazon India. Today, he sells close to 40,000 pieces a month on the platform.

Online channel garners a third of SagarFab’s revenues. An entire floor is dedicated to the online business where orders are being captured real time and shipped to the consumer. Abhishek also understands the demand on the online platform and schedules his production accordingly.

Now he has his website to bring in business too. “By creating multiple business partners with my booking engine I have a larger market share,” he adds.  He has 650 people working for him and expects to be on his way to making Rs 100 crore annually very soon.

While Abhishek's father acknowledges his son's success, he still wants him to work harder. However he has come to respect the hard work Abhishek has put in to build such a rewarding brand. SagarFab does not want to remain only a manufacturer, the company wishes to build a large portfolio of brands through its online channel. But Abhishek does not want to stop there either, he wants to make and nurture entrepreneurs through his manufacturing prowess.

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