How a mother-daughter’s eponymous textiles and décor label clocked Rs 200 cr turnover
The women in the Handa household are too humble to believe that they are a “business family”, primarily because it was initially run on an army official’s salary. However, Sarita Handa and her daughter Suparna Handa shared a love for textile and designs, and made strategic investments in the year 1992.
Sarita, who is 74 now, invested nearly Rs 10 lakh to start a small business of cushion covers and quilts, and single-handedly managed the Sarita Handa label while Suparna went on to study fashion business management at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“Now when I look back, I am amazed at the fact that with an army man's salary and very little savings, they managed to send me abroad to study and start a business,” Suparna says.
After brief stints with Ralph Lauren and ABC carpets, she returned to join her enterprising mother In 1994. Suparna says her experiences in the US was “driven by what value it would have back home.”
Nearly three decades later today, the business has grown into an eponymous label with turnover of Rs 200 crore in the last financial year.
Growth and expansion
Today, the label offers a wide range of home décor products like quilted and non-quilted bed linens, table linens, bath and hand towels, embroidered, printed and block colour cushions, curtain and upholstery fabrics, floor and wall coverings, hanging lamps, and decorative accents like sculptures and antiques, mirrors, and ceramics as well as lifestyle accessories including bags, iPad covers, travel pouches, tissue box covers, scarves, and jewellery.
The company is headquartered in Gurugram, where it has a 400,000 sq ft factory. It has also recently ventured into the furniture industry, sold in the brand’s retail stores in Mumbai and Delhi.
However, as much as 90 percent of the business is driven by export and international sales through B2B associations with brands like Macy's Pottery Barn in the US, Zara in Spain, and John Lewis in the UK, among others.
"My mother gave me a fantastic platform and my focus is on growing Sarita Handa in the domestic market. While it is primarily US-driven today, we are looking at how we can take it to every country including India." Suparna says.
To capture the market in India, she created sub-brands like Blue Boat and a luxury product line, yet to pick up due to the pandemic. Suparna hopes to target various demographics through differentiated pricing.
Brand identity and challenges
Suparna, who is Managing Director of the company, says that while the brand’s identity is rooted, they also try to blend in Indian textile and crafts to contemporary ideas.
“For example, how do you take something like Phulkari (a form of embroidery) from Punjab or Kantha from West Bengal and make it relevant to a more contemporary customer globally?” she says.
Her design aspirations are fuelled by extensive travelling and unique finds from antique stores all over. To ensure a healthy balance between design creativity and the business, Suparna says strong collaboration and partnership across design, merchandising and client servicing teams play a key role.
“All the products go through me and the Head of Design. It is a large but closely knit team because when you work well with people and communicate, design values are imbibed naturally,” she adds.
As the business is dependent on manpower of the artisans, scaling took time. Craftsmanship that has been traditionally passed through generations has seen lesser engagement from their younger generation, as children of the artisans do not prefer pursuing the same professions, causing a lack of manpower.
Sustainability is one of the core values and has several certifications, including STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX, Organic Content Standard, and SEDEX.
Women power and passion
Although Suparna has taken over the business, her 74-year-old mother is as passionate and involved as a mentor. Suparna is not surprised and says her mother is a natural leader. In fact, she says, her late father always believed her mother was a visionary who was 20 years ahead of her time.
“She is always available to share her point of view when I have a question or get stuck. She is as passionate as she was when we started, and is already thinking of her next few business ideas,” Suparna adds.
Edited by Anju Narayanan