This 13-year-old Mumbai student is building a business of handcrafted bags made from denim waste
Thirteen-year-old Mihika Agarwal chanced upon a video on the textile waste that changed her outlook towards sustainability and inspired her to start up.
“The video was on waste produced by the textile and fashion industry and opened my eyes in a big way,” she tells HerStory.
Researching on the subject, Mihika, a student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, found that 13 million tonnes of textiles, which is 85 percent of textiles produced, goes into landfills each year. And less than one percent of the material used for clothing production is recycled. The 2020 circular fashion report conducted by leading fashion brands like Vogue and Lablaco brought to the fore these alarming numbers.
Discussing these figures in her Young Entrepreneurship Academy (YEA!) class, Mihika brainstormed with her peers and mentors to start her own business, Denimblu. It’s a startup that aims to reduce textile waste by reusing denim produced in factories to make fashionable products such as bags, holders, and aprons.
With constant guidance and help from her teachers and mentors at YEA! and the guest speakers and judges at its investor panel, Mihika tied up with a vocational training centre for the disabled in Mumbai, whose residents handcrafted the bags from waste denim. Denimblu provides the design, and Mihika is happy to support underprivileged communities while running a business.
“I invested Rs 16,000 — Rs 1,200 for the denim purchased from The Happy Elephant and the rest for tailoring changes,” she says.
The products sell between Rs 400 and Rs 800, with average revenue of Rs 600.
“Our direct competition includes businesses like Dwij, which upcycles jeans to make bags. While Dwij is more focused on bags, Denimblu expands to unique products such as charging phones and stationery and bathroom kit holders. Denimblu also aims to spread awareness regarding fashion and textile industry issues on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Indirect competition include brands that make bags such as Baggit,” Mihika says.
The current market size in the bags and accessories segment is estimated at around $4 billion, and with a growth of 9.95 percent, it is estimated to reach $6 billion by 2025. The global circular fashion industry has a $5 trillion opportunity, which is $2 trillion more than the regular fashion industry.
Raising awareness on sustainability
So far, Denimblu has received multiple orders but had to delay the process for a while due to the rising COVID cases and the lockdowns year. Mihika hopes to resume operations and start delivering orders within the next few weeks.
Mihika had heard of the YEA! programme from some of her friends and immediately became interested. She says she had always wanted to set up her own business but could never have the confidence or the commitment to begin one.
“Although the YEA! the course is over, Denimblu's' journey has just begun! I plan to partner with many different NGOs, such as a Bandhavgarh-based NGO that trains village women to stitch bags and other textile products. Denimblu also plans to aggressively market the products through online marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart and its Instagram handle, as well as offline marketplaces such as local stores and fairs, as soon as it is safe enough to do so,” she adds.
Mihika’s plans for Denimblu, apart from manufacturing handcrafted bags, will also raise awareness about responsible fashion through social media and expand the market for sustainable products.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta