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Ikat or Kalamkari? Fabriclore weaves a success story by bringing e-commerce to handloom

Athira Nair
30th Sep 2017
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Aiming to reinvent handloom crafts, Jaipur-based startup offers a range of curated traditionally crafted and contemporary fabrics.

Banarasi material available on Fabriclore

Growing a bootstrapped business for more than 1.5 years, going from 100 orders a month to 4,000 orders a month – it’s a great success story. Adding to it is the fact that the business is helping rural artisans reach out to a customer base they could otherwise not have access.

This is the result of a risk three entrepreneurs took with Fabriclore, leaving their regular jobs and hopping onto the e-commerce bandwagon.

Anupam Arya (32), Sandeep Kumar (31), and Vijay Sharma (45) – all from Rajasthan – started up in March 2016 with an aim to not just sell fabrics but to also educate people about the crafts and various fabrics available across India. The name “Fabriclore” was fitting; lore means knowledge gained through tradition, and together, it means traditional knowledge of fabrics.

Why just fabric?

The fashion trajectory over the past 10 years, Anupam says, has navigated through three phases, starting from the darzi era (where people extensively relied on their neighbourhood darzi to get something stitched). It was overshadowed by e-commerce and has made its way to the present age - the customisation era.

Anupam Arya, Co-founder and Director, Fabriclore

“We have now entered an age where couturiers are extensively experimenting with boho fusion designs. We realised fabric is one thing that has been common in all the phases. So we thought - why not just fabrics?” Anupam says.

Fabriclore aims to become the pioneer in the reinvention of handloom crafts and wants to narrate the lore of fabrics across world markets.

“We want to be enablers for independent designers,” Anupam tells YourStory.

Their target group includes wholesalers and designers along with male and female customers in the age group of 22-55 years.

Hybrid business model

Authentic handloom is not always affordable. Many cotton and silk varieties are expensive to produce, and customers often choose similar, cheaper fabrics produced on power looms. To cater to all the demands, Fabriclore chose to offer Indian handloom and contemporary fabrics on a single platform.

Fabriclore follows a hybrid business model with marketplace and retail. Apart from curating fabrics from artisans and manufacturers across India, Fabriclore also gets fabrics customised, fusing various designs, including those which are limited to very specific geographies and are rare to find on both online and offline mediums. However, Fabriclore has no offline presence; neither do they sell on any other online marketplace.

Sandeep’s business family background was an advantage as Fabriclore could build upon an already woven network of artisans and manufacturers that he had inherited. Wishing to build something more modern and professionally managed, Sandeep had earlier made his debut in e-commerce with www.naaari.com, an online women’s clothing store. The idea was to promote women entrepreneurs. However, later the trio decided on a long-term goal-based business execution plan.

Anupam is in charge of technology integration in the business. Vijay, who is CEO, left an engineering career in Abu Dhabi and moved to India to start his own business. After a venture in engineering, this is his second startup.

 Bootstrapped heroes

Fabriclore has been bootstrapped until now as the team wanted to gain critical mass before raising funding. Currently, they have over 30,000 registered customers, a number which they claim is increasing by 2,000 every month.

“We have already roped in a few angel investors for notional funding; that also adds to our advisory panel and outreach. We are looking forward to VC investment in 2018,” Anupam says.

Chikan work Lucknowi material from Fabriclore.

Although e-commerce in India has been grown with ample discounting, Fabriclore does not believe in leveraging customers by simply offering them discounts.

Anupam says, “We believe in building long-lasting relationships with every customer. We engage with them constantly with innovative offers.”

He adds that their customer care representatives check with each customer on what they plan to make from the fabric, and guide them in case they have ordered a wrong quantity. The orders are delivered to the customers within 4-5 working days.

Planning a strong future

Fabriclore has no plans to open offline stores. But they hope to tap international markets in coming quarters.

“We plan to more cohesively integrate artisans and in-house designers to produce more innovative designs and control quality,” Anupam says.

Their targets for March 2018 include:

  • Warehouse automation
  • Expand team in each functional area
  • 30 categories in materials and crafts from across India from the current 15 in materials and 18 in crafts
  • Sale of 400,000 metres of fabric (from the current 2,00,000)
  • Open up to select international markets - Middle Eastern, select European countries, US, and Canada to begin with.
  • GMV of Rs.Six crore, with the current monthly growth rate of 7-10%

So far Fabriclore has associated with more than 15 artisan communities across India and is planning to increase the number to 25 by the end of 2018. Fabriclore is also running a Fab Designer Programme for designers; on-boarded designers enjoy a lot of loyalty privileges. For regular customers, they run contests and offers on social media channels.  For logistics, they largely depend on Delhivery.

To help artisans produce fabrics which don’t suffer from colour bleeding, fabric quality and design innovation, Fabriclore is coming up with an independent arm to bring together modern designers and artisans on the same platform, infusing professionally conceptualized projects across various artisan communities in various parts of the country.

“These projects will not only experiment and innovate new products but will also set documented standardization of production techniques. It would even extend to quality testing and sampling centers across parts of India,” says Anupam.

A team that matters

Being based in Jaipur has had its advantages for Fabriclore. Rajasthan is one of the most sought-after hubs of Indian handloom crafts, and provides quick access to artisans and the ability to innovate with them.

“Artisans are readily available in and around Jaipur, including towns like Bagru. We also work with artisans from Akola, Bhuj, and more,” Anupam says.

Additionally, Jaipur is a fast-growing metro city, which makes access to the right talent easier while keeping costs in check.

Vijay Sharma, Co-founder and CEO, Fabriclore.

However, Anupam says the higher end spectrum of talent is still scarce in Jaipur and such talent, while available in other metros, is reluctant to move to Jaipur.

Anupam believes that finding the right team to manage business in the initial phases and good reception at the consumer end has worked for them.

Fabriclore today has a team of 26 people in departments like warehousing and inventory management, sourcing, administration, business development, photography, customer care, design customisation, quality check, and marketing.

The team says an inventory-based business requires constant injection of fresh working capital to grow the business.

“After the initial traction, when Fabriclore needed that additional push without relying on any loan and funding, all earnings and even more from our own had to be incessantly injected into the business. But we learned to manage our operations optimally, understanding the most important pain points and channelling money only to the clear priorities,” Anupam recollects.

Weaving a success mesh

Anupam believes that Fabriclore’s strength lies in understanding fabrics, intricacies in weaving, modern production techniques, and the complex legacy supply chain.

“We offer a comprehensive range of Indian handloom and contemporary fabrics with innovative design crossovers too,” he adds.

Fabriclore’s competition is mainly from standalone suppliers at the regional level and some modern retailers focused on fabrics. Online horizontal marketplaces like Amazon and vertical players like iTokri and Jaypore also sell fabrics, although not in large scale.

Anupam feels one of the reasons for their success has been their ability to creatively visualise products, both pictorially and narratively.

Sandeep Kumar, Co-founder and Vice President (Strategy) at Fabriclore.

“Visual detailing of the product, creative imagery, a slicker brand identity and packaging all contribute tremendously in an online business, so we have our own in-house photography studio and team,” he adds.

Other than helping consumers know and access the largest pool of fabrics from across India, Fabriclore also takes pride in helping budding designers in small towns bootstrap their own boutiques without substantial investment in stocking fabrics.

For the Indian economy, the textile industry accounts for 20 percent of its industrial production, employing over 15 million people. About 30 percent of India’s export basket consists of textiles and garments. Moreover, the textile industry is growing at a CAGR of 8.7 percent which reveals that the industry has a great scope in the years ahead. However, the online handloom fabric industry has just begun to get the kind of attention it deserves. With increased awareness and brand building, innovation in design, and standardisation of quality, the sector can grow rapidly. Fabriclore is counting on that!

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