With GAB Project, Madhumita Bagchi turns the focus on ethically manufactured, sustainable productsRekha Balakrishnan
GAB Project -‘Gift A Bag’ Project is a “loom-to-market” initiative and a model of providing better costing and high-quality goods adhering to international standards and compliance.
In an interview with YourStory, Madhumita Bagchi of Gab Project talks about starting up, sustainability of the products sold, the challenges of a woman in business and her future plans.
YourStory: How did the idea of this startup come about?
Madhumita Bagchi: GAB International is a technology-based sustainable manufacturing company. In 2015, I met my partner Mithun Roy at a business summit. That was the time in my life I was frustrated by the ethics in manufacturing and no innovation, the market was flooded with similar product designs and I was searching for a new opportunity to explore, myself. I realised from past experience that there were so many areas to work with craftsmen and enhance business for small-scale business. We found that in the B2B model there were so many flaws that can be solved by using technology, and thus we clicked.
YS: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
MB: I belong to a first-generation business family from the outskirts of Kolkata. I had completed my graduation in Physics Honours from Scottish Church College, and wanted to do a PhD in Physics.
But after my graduation, certain circumstances caused my father to leave the family business and property because he didn’t have a son to carry forward the business. The incident changed my thinking and I was adamant to start my own business, with no planning whatsoever of whether I would be a success or a failure.
I just wanted to know if it is possible to start and run a new business without having any support from anyone and without any prior experience. I didn’t get any support as expected from my family and friends except my father. He was with me throughout my journey and struggles.
YS: What was the pain-point you wanted to resolve and what opportunity did you seek to exploit?
MB: Sustainability came first - of artisans, and of products sold. To become an entrepreneur the first thing is to know the market demand for the products and experiences. After running my proprietorship manufacturing business for 10 years I thought this was the right time to start as an entrepreneur with a new objective. So, we started the new venture GAB Project, and since then we have launched a couple of leather brands, like Leda Eavan.
YS: How did you address the opportunity?
MB: GAB Project means ‘Gift A Bag’ Project, a “loom-to-market” initiative and model of providing better costing and high-quality goods adhering to international standards.
YS: What is your core offering?
MB: Products better than approved sample, and delivery before the specified time, complete visibility of manufacturing process and innovation beyond customer expectation are our USP.
YS: Can you list your product line?
MB: Ethica is a sustainable contract manufacturing offering for B2B enterprise.
T.I.L.M – The Indian Leather Makers – was set up to nurture the retail sampling partnership with new businesses, fashion schools by offering end-to-end services.
- a) Leda Eavan is the brand of premium leather products.
- Leather wallet, passport holder, organiser
- Leather unisex laptop bag, rucksack
- Canvas leather laptop bag, backpack, gym bag, travel bag
- Ladies leather bag and canvas leather shopping tote
- Leather briefcase
- Corporate T-shirts
- Organic products made with jute and hemp.
YS: What is your business model?
MB: Our current target is primarily B2B enterprise production and offering services to retail buyers for sampling, and new business partnerships for channel sales mainly for TILM and Ethica services.
YS: What has been the toughest moment you've faced so far, what has been your biggest success?
MB: In 2008, I got a project from Tripura Handloom and Handicraft Development Corporation to set up a silk processing and printing unit in Agartala, Tripura, and we had to provide manpower development where 15 employees, including eight women, were trained in block printing. Incidentally, they were the first women printers in Tripura and it was the first silk processing and printing unit. It was very challenging because block print on silk sarees is the toughest job for a woman and they had successfully and energetically completed the training. We got the media coverage for that and also support from the Tripura government. Women are indeed the best and most sincere employees.
In GAB International I work at Topsia leather cluster, Kolkata. I had to work with the minority communities, who are called chamrawalas. The places where they work are very dingy, suffocating, and unhygienic, with no electricity, as it is an industrial belt. More than 6,000 artisans work there. The entire world appreciated the finished goods made by the cluster craftspeople there. Being a woman, it was really a difficult job for me to work in that environment, but after working for one year we changed our thinking and decided to do something for the cluster and started an NGO, Startup Awareness Venture Foundation, with an objective to change the work environment of the clusters, whether it is the leather cluster in Kolkata, the embroidery cluster in Howrah, or others.
YS: How have you been funded?
MB: We are self-funded but are looking for an investor to establish our brand Leda Eavan in Australia, the Netherlands and Japan.
YS: Do you think it was difficult, as a woman, to start a business?
MB: Being a woman it’s very difficult to manage home and business at the same time, as both are important. Most of the time we don’t get the support from family or friends, as society is still male-dominated and conservative. Despite all the hindrances, if you have the passion and will power to achieve something, it will not be difficult for a woman to start a business, run it successfully and overcome challenges.
YS: What are your future plans?
MB: GAB will expand the business internationally in the next six months. We have a supplier chain in Bangladesh and India and prospective leather and textile buyers in Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, France and China. On the technology aspect, we plan to work closely with our partner Expostores Tradetech and we will try to implement our own Blockchain.
YS: How has Google helped you in your business?
MB: We started traditional B2B marketing first to understand the pulse wherein our average daily sales was in the range of less than Rs 5,000, but the cycle time was long. But after using Google Services we increased it to 10 percent daily growth rate. At present our focus is on long-term orders, and we are now trying to focus only on the major sustainable bulk conversions with less than Rs 1 crore/month, as money flow is still a challenge in the SMB segment, banks are not completely open to funding us yet, and our team is relatively small. Post-funding, we expect to increase the production flow on a considerable basis and open our marketplace.
Google has been the backbone of our growth story and continues to play a major part. Our digital presence is all due to the Adwords run on Google. We found this to be the most effective medium to reach our customers. Our growth has been organic thanks to keyword optimisation we followed stringently.