How 3 startups merged to solve companies’ merchandise branding needs

By Athira Nair|27th Jun 2018
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Bootstrapped Tag Unlimited, which provides customised merchandise branding for companies, claims to have 40 percent monthly growth, and is looking to raise funding to strengthen its infrastructure and marketing processes.

At a glance

Startup: Tag Unlimited

Founders: Rahul Raj, Adith Maharaj, Yeshwanth Rao, Chitra Mokali

Year it was launched: 2018

Where it is located: Bengaluru

Sector: Manufacturing and retail

Problem it solves: Branded merchandising for single and bulk orders

Funding: Self-funded

The third time was the charm for 26-year-old Rahul Raj M Singh, a Bengaluru-based management graduate.

In August 2014, Rahul and his friend started a midnight cake delivery business. That failed, and he went on to start a T-shirt printing unit with a friend. They pooled in Rs 40,000 for their first machine, and started printing T-shirts in a small space in a 6x5 mobile accessories store.

Rahul claims their products came to be known for the competitive pricing, superior quality, and timely delivery. However, professional differences with his co-founder led Rahul to leave the company. Undeterred, Rahul was clear he wanted to start up again.

With a capital of Rs 1 lakh, Rahul launched TagUnlimited in August 2017, to make T-shirts for companies. One of TagUnlimited’s clients was Bengaluru-based MADD Square Creations, which does the branding for Tesco, Porsche, and IPL, among others. The synergies worked well and MADD Square Creations - founded in 2015 by Adith Maharaja and R Yeshwanth Rao - merged with TagUnlimited in March 2018.

The duo was joined by Chitra Mokali, whose Nishchit Lifestyle had established itself in the gifting industry for over eight years. “They were great at sourcing from across India. So the merger was mutually beneficial,” Adith says.

Today, the combined entity – Tag Unlimited - provides customised merchandise branding for companies, be it for one T-shirt or a hundred. The merchandise on offer includes round-neck T-shirts, polo T-shirts, jerseys, hoodies, sweatshirts, and formal shirts. Other merchandise includes caps, backpacks, mugs, badges, sippers, pens, keychains, and even aprons. All customised products are branded with the client/company name – even on inner tags – and not Tag Unlimited’s.

Creating an ecosystem

Tag Unlimited aims to serve individuals, companies, educational institutions, and the hospitality industry (F&B, travel, and tourism) by catering to their merchandise requirements, ranging from conceptualising to sampling to production. The plan is to be a “one-stop platform for all merchandising needs for branding”.

“The biggest strength is references from happy customers, and word-of-mouth marketing which we still think is the best marketing tool,” says Rahul, on how the company reaches out to potential customers.

Tag Unlimited focuses on customer service, quality of work, value, and cost efficiency. Customer retention, profitability, and overall revenue are also important.

Adith claims the company started making profits just four months since it started, and has 40 percent monthly growth.

The attrition problem

Although there are other players in the same business, Tag Unlimited’s model is different. “T-shirt printing is usually done on MOQ (minimum order quantity). This restricts quick turnaround. We do it faster as we do it for any number of units,” Adith says.

This speedy execution demands a skilled blue-collar workforce, but attrition has been the biggest challenge for Tag Unlimited. Skilled labour is essential for T-shirt printing; you can’t just hire and train people, the founders say.

Adith says they resolved the problem by putting a few rigid processes in place. “We believe in the saying ‘Happy employees make happy customers’. So we upgraded their lifestyle, provided health insurance and financial help when they were in need, and - most importantly - gave them more responsibilities. We have put in place quality check stringent processes to make them accountable. We hired a quality manager too.”

Elaborate plans

The bootstrapped company had an annual turnover of Rs 80 lakh for FY2018. Tag Unlimited is targeting 35 percent revenue growth this fiscal. From B2B2C (bulk orders), the startup makes 10-12 percent margin, while B2B (orders for less than 100 units) give 20-25 percent margin.

The startup is now looking to raise funding. “We are looking for funding to strengthen our infrastructure and marketing processes, and automate part of our workflow,” Rahul says.

Tag Unlimited is planning to open 12-14 retail stores across major Tier I and Tier II cities in India this fiscal. Their long-term plan is to open a few stores across Europe and Africa, with customised merchandising service by 2020.

The aim is simple: to build more visibility through offline stores by catering to individuals with text and photos printed on T-shirts.

“Apart from having the latest machines and equipment we want to integrate AI and virtual reality as part of our process to provide a new experience for our customers,” Adith tells YourStory.

Tag Unlimited claims to cater to many companies and colleges across Bengaluru. It also wants to launch its own ecommerce site, rather than sell on Flipkart or Amazon, along with designing (and selling) what (B2C) customers want.

For Rahul, the most enriching experience of his entrepreneurial journey was when people started recognising him, and started referring to him as “Rahul, the T-shirt guy”.

Gifting industry market leader Qwikcilver predicts that the sector will boom in the coming years, growing from the current size of $65 million to $84 billion by 2024. According to IBEF, India’s textile market was worth around $150 billion in July 2017, and is expected to touch $250 billion by 2019.

With this massive opportunity, Tag Unlimited is looking to bite a chunk of both pies. Rahul, the T-shirt guy, and his friends are surely on to something big.

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