Pivot and Persist: Clothing startup NorthMist records Rs 1 Cr MRR after launching sustainable facemasks
Facemasks are the hottest accessories in town. And with numerous options in the market, we’re not only spoilt for choice but also left with many questions. Which ones are reusable? Are all of them washable?
But even as we adopt facemasks to protect ourselves and those around us from COVID-19, a new set of problems seems to have cropped up. According to the World Economic Forum, disposable plastic masks are adding to the growing plastic pollution across the globe. WEF estimates that around 75 percent of used masks and other pandemic-related waste will either end up in landfills or floating in our seas.
As a result, the demand for sustainable masks is on the rise, and brands are catering to this market, cashing in high returns.
For example, Bengaluru-based clothing startup NorthMist introduced a range of sustainable khadi and organic cotton masks as part of its COVID-19 initiative in March 2020.
Seeing the retail industry facing the brunt of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the founders re-evaluated their business strategy to adapt to the new environment while staying true to the brand.
And the bet paid off. NorthMist managed to grow its monthly revenue rate from Rs 7 lakh in July 2019 to Rs 1 crore in July 2020.
Founded in March 2018 by Smrity Gupta and Arijit Mazumdar, the Bengaluru-based startup manufactures eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical menswear made from pesticide-free organic cotton.
“COVID-19 broke the entire demand and supply of a product cycle. We needed to look at cost-cutting wherever possible,” Arijit tells YourStory.
He adds that consumers’ preferences will now be highly affected by health and safety measures that brands follow. Owing to its thrifty and agile nature, NorthMist was strategically and operationally well-placed to establish new revenue streams.
The founders claim that it took the startup only seven days to enter the essentials space, and NorthMist has built a strong sales team to focus entirely on this business.
Additionally, it joined Rebalance, an early-stage accelerator that helps women-led startups grow, in March 2020. “They have been supporting us like a team member would through the pandemic,” Arijit says.
The emerging ‘mask’ market
The global disposable face mask market size exceeded $74.90 billion in Q1 of 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 53 percent between 2020 and 2027. Since March, several clothing brands in India have taken to manufacturing masks and other COVID-19 essentials.
So, what sets NorthMist’s masks apart from the numerous brands available today?
Besides being sustainable and organic, NorthMist’s range of masks is available in separate fits for men and women, which Arijit says is “an important detail most companies are missing”.
Face masks are usually manufactured in one standard size. “Masks are here to stay for some time; we feel it shouldn’t be any less comfortable for women to wear,” he adds.
In July 2019, NorthMist had a client base of 1,000 customers. At present, the founder says the startup has 10,000 direct clients and up to 500 institutional clients.
Previously, NorthMist raised Rs 1 crore, led by a bunch of angel investors, including Sanjay Koul, Managing Director and Chairman of a top US company; Birju Gala, CEO of Zibo Paper Tech; Soumendra Biswal, Head of Corporate Affairs of an Indian garment export company; and Srinivasan Sarangpani, Director of Supply Chain at a US company.
The startup has been growing 20 percent month-on-month and the founders reveal that it is looking to raise $3 million in the next 18 months.
According to Grand View Research, the global eco fibre (eco-friendly fibre that does not require the use of pesticides or chemicals to grow) market size was estimated at $37.24 billion in 2018. It was projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.2 percent from 2019 to 2025.
Arijit says that the global demand for sustainable fashion stands at $1.25 billion. In India, sustainable fashion constitutes only up to two percent of the total $70 billion apparel market.
In a previous conversation with YourStory, the founders had claimed to save 435 litres or 1,750 glasses of water with each t-shirt it makes.
The Indian sustainable market is still in its infancy stage and we are yet to see a strong all-sustainable fashion company that captures the growing mindshare of consumers with the right mix of quality, minimalism, and trust.
However, the market does have sustainable clothing brands including Nicobar, No Nasties, Athlos, and Brown Boy. Devyani Kapoor’s Shuffling Suitcases is an aggregator of sustainable brands, which launched its online website earlier this year.
NorthMist has been receiving positive responses for its COVID-19 product line and has been seeing growing interest in the women and kid’s categories. “With a growing B2C presence and B2B clientele, we are well placed to capture the consumer mindshare,” says Arijit.
Going ahead, the startup plans to launch women’s and kid’s category soon. Additionally, NorthMist is also collaborating with India's major ecommerce partners with a focus on performance and category expansion on its website.
YourStory’s Pivot and Persist series spotlights Indian startups that are pivoting to seize new business opportunities, transforming their business models, and offerings to navigate the current COVID-19 crisis.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta