How 2 brothers built Rs 1,500Cr turnover D’Decor - world’s largest curtain and upholstery fabrics maker
When Ajay Arora and his brother Sanjay joined their family’s apparel textile business, little did they know that they’d discover a market opportunity worth thousands of crores of rupees. During the 90s, the Mumbai-based brothers worked in their family business, manufacturing and selling fabrics for women’s wear and making affordable imitation silk in polyester.
Ajay, scouting for new opportunities, looked into fabrics and designs that were selling well. A huge gap in the home furnishing category presented itself before him. The demand for fabrics in the home furnishing industry was swelling, especially in international markets, and there were not many players to meet the demand.
“In 1997, I set forth on a journey to Heimtextil, Europe’s largest textile fair, in Frankfurt. From there, I went to Como, Italy, to meet some design houses. This way, I learned the tricks of the trade in the home furnishings industry over several months. Then, my brother Sanjay and I quit our family business to start manufacturing our own home furnishing fabrics,” he tells SMBStory.
The business was named D’Decor. In 1999, it was a modest fabrics manufacturing unit in Mumbai. The brothers’ focus on delivering European quality products at Indian prices worked wonders, and took the business to unprecedented heights.
D'Decor cofounders and managing directors Sanjay Arora (left) and Ajay Arora (right)
Today, D’Decor is the largest maker of woven upholstery and curtain fabrics in the world. The Rs 1,500 crore turnover business has five manufacturing plants in Tarapur, India, producing over 1,20,000 square meters of high-quality fabrics every day.
D’Decor exports its products to over 65 countries, with USA, Europe, UK, and the Middle East being its biggest markets. It is endorsed by Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan, and consumers are drawn to its various touch points all over India.
D’Decor was certainly not an overnight success and had its fair share of challenges. Ajay says the biggest initial hurdle was setting up an international business despite having no manufacturing clusters, design appropriateness or customer relationships to work with.
“At a time when getting information was not as easy as it is today, we forged new relationships with the ecosystem of international suppliers, designers and customers through extensive participation in trade shows and visits to Italy in the early years,” he says.
The brothers’ export-oriented business faced another shock when global recession came calling in 2008. At that time, 65 percent of D’Decor’s business came from the USA, and its sales took a hit.
“Dealing with the recession was probably the most difficult moment for the company. We decided to address this by diversifying to different geographies, such as Europe and India. The move paid off because it brought us significant stability through our presence in all major developed countries and it was already a strong consumer brand in India,” Ajay says.
A D'Decor factory in Tarapur
Product and retail strategy
Curtain and upholstery fabrics have been the mainstay of the company’s product portfolio. When D’Decor ventured into B2C in 2010, it took the opportunity to make beddings and made-ups such as towels, blankets, etc. It also added blinds, rugs and wallpapers to its portfolio.
Before they started the B2C business, the brothers acquired their largest distributor and introduced subscriptions to its sample books and catalogues, which in turn allowed retailers to stop stocking inventory.
Under this lean manufacturing model, retailers could show customers the sample books, take orders, and ask D’Decor for only the exact quantities of fabrics they required, as opposed to full rolls. This eliminated their stock risks.
Explaining how it worked, Ajay says, “In an almost Amazon-like process, the retailer placed orders on D’Decor’s digital platform. Once the order was received, our robotic warehouse cut the exact quantity of fabric, packed it and dispatched it to the customer, who received it within 48 hours. This brought in operational efficiency and reduction of operating costs for the retailers.”
In 2016, D’Decor launched D’Assist, an app for its retailers to access its entire product catalogue and marketing content. “Our entire product library is digitised and our IT infrastructure has been built in a way that allows us to access or track any SKU or collection at a moment’s notice,” Ajay explains.
D’Decor also claims to have delivered other firsts in Indian home textile manufacturing, such as creating water-repellent, flame-retardant, antiviral and air purifying fabrics.
Today, D’Decor retails its 20,000 SKUs across 250 Indian cities, and says it is part of over 1,000 multi-brand outlets, has over 30 exclusive brand stores, and also sells through large format retail. In the last three years, it has established its own online store on ddecor.com, and is selling on Myntra and Amazon.
COVID-19 impact and future plans
As D’Decor’s products are in the non-essential category, the brand saw a slowdown due to COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown. However, the shift in consumers’ lives towards work from home presents the business with an opportunity.
“Home has become the epicentre of life. People are spending more time at home, which means there’s an increased use of furnishing fabrics, bedding, etc. Home improvements, furniture and furnishings will see an inevitable spike, and we are working to ensure that we are in an optimum position to help our consumers with our products and services,” Ajay says.
At the same time, fabrics is a touch-and-feel business, and customers will be less likely to step out to get first-hand experience of D’Decor’s products before making a purchase decision.
Factory floor at a D'Decor facility
Ajay feels this can be addressed by giving customers a better experience in discovering and engaging with D’Decor’s products digitally.
“We are investing in harnessing 3D technology and digital platforms to develop visual assets and enhance consumer experience and help them bridge the imagination gap. We are developing our own platforms that will allow our retailers to leverage these assets to help their customers as well,” he says.
The brothers also worked through the lockdown to set up a digital services arm to help them and their partners leverage digital technologies and online platforms to bring products swiftly to consumers. Despite the uncertain times and the possibility of future lockdowns, D’Décor’s digital services arm allows its B2B customers to launch products quickly and remotely.
“We create 3D assets, which are photorealistic digital models and images of products that can be used in myriad situations, right from creating marketing materials and virtual showrooms to customer-facing e-commerce pages supplemented with a quick Sampling Solutions Service,” Ajay explains.
The brand is also working on safer and more hygienic products to prevent hosting and transference of microbes and viruses through surfaces. It has partnered with European textile innovations company HeiQ to launch antiviral and air purifying fabrics for curtains, upholstery and beddings.
“We are going to focus on taking our customer experience quotient to the next level by building our product portfolio, giving consumers better consultation services, and collaborating with technology partners to expand our content and marketing horizons,” he adds.
With its focus on creating value for consumers and retailers, Ajay and Sanjay’s business has pulled ahead and become a market leader in its category. Rising income levels and growth in building and construction segments in India are poised to drive demand for non-clothing textiles. India also enjoys a comparative advantage in skilled manpower and in the cost of production.
If the brothers can tide over the current COVID-19 crisis and leverage such macro trends, their Make in India story can continue to be one of imagination and innovation in the textiles industry.