Started as an experiment, this homegrown denim brand now clocks Rs 3 Cr annual turnover
Across the world, denim is a love that never fades. Be it jeans, shirts, or jackets, this fabric continues to hold centre stage in the apparel market.
India’s denim market was estimated to be worth Rs 53,06,400 crore in 2018 and is expected to reach Rs 1,50,68,300 crore by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11 percent, according to textile research platform iBTEX.
While international brands like Levi’s, Pepe, and Wrangler have been dominating the market for long, home-grown brands like Spykar Lifestyle, Killer Jeans, and Mufti are now given the giants a run for their money.
Ahmedabad-based Freakins is another local and young brand that aims to change the way India dons its denims. Started in 2018 by Sachin Shah and his nephew, Shaan Shah, the homegrown brand is available across the country and is clocking a turnover of Rs 3 crore annually.
The brand offers over nine categories of denim wear, including jeans, skirts, dresses, dungarees, and much more.
The start: an experiment
Sachin was running the family business - manufacturing apparel for bigger brands such as Lifestyle and Shoppers Stop. Owning manufacturing units, the duo realised how bigger brands were relying on them and decided to leverage their power.
As an experiment, they invested Rs 10 lakh to design and manufacture a few samples of denim wear, and tried selling them in the market. On getting a good response, they decided to launched their own collection in 2018.
“Since we already had a manufacturing house, the turnaround time was much quicker. More than an entrepreneurial venture, it was an experiment that worked really well,” says Shaan, who joined the business soon after.
Freakins is now an online-only denim brand for girls aged 15 and above, and women. It is present on ecommerce platforms such as Myntra, Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Stylecracker, and also sells through its own website. What sets Freakins apart from other brands in the market is that it sells on a buy-one-get-one-free basis 365 days of a year. The clothes are priced between Rs 990 and Rs 2,500.
From B2B to B2C
The biggest challenge for Freakins was transitioning from a B2B brand to a B2C one. In the B2B business model, the burden of customer satisfaction is almost zero, and it is “a straightforward way of operating”. But launching your own brand entails being present for the customers 24X7 and taking great pains and efforts to solve their queries, Shaan says.
“Today, we are completely focused on customer service and satisfaction. We have also ensured that the delivery time is one day in metro cities,” he says.
Shaan also says Freakins is a brand that is intersecting style and affordability in the women’s denim wear segment. The fabric is sourced from local mills and washed, cut, stitched, and prepared at their five manufacturing units in Ahmedabad.
Shaan feels India still lacks a core denim brand. Calling denim a “versatile fabric”, he says it can be used to make a number of things without limiting the production to only jeans.
Freakins has diversified into cotton apparel as part of its “stay-at-home” collection, which comprises three percent of the total business. The brand plans to venture into the children’s clothing space, but it is “not on the cards for the next five years”.
The impact of COVID-19
Shaan says the coronavirus pandemic has had a “humongous impact on the business”. A COVID-19 positive case in a nearby factory led to the sealing of the warehouses, further disrupting operations.
“We had to disinfect the warehouse completely and take a lot of precautionary measures,” he says, adding that almost 500 orders were stocked up for shipping when they were set to restart operations.
He adds, “This was a time when I realised that speedy delivery services by our brand and others had completely spoilt customers. It was difficult to make them understand the reasons for the delay.”
The pandemic has also hit production. “Earlier, we would produce 1.5 lakh pieces in a month. Right now, it is 75,000.”
The demand for denim also took a hit in the wake of the global crisis with people spending more time at home and less likely to spend on denim and “outdoor gear”. The brand then started manufacturing masks, a must-have in today’s time.
To ensure that business is not impacted, Shaan says Freakins is looking at expanding the cotton collection from three to five percent.
Eyeing a global market
The year 2020 may have brought business to a grinding halt, but Shaan has high hopes from 2021 and 2022. The entrepreneur duo plan to take the business global in 2021 and venture into the brick-and-mortar setup in 2022.
Shaan says they see immense scope across the world, and plan to start their global operations in UAE, followed by Japan and Europe.
In the retail space, they want to launch personalised stores for customers. “We will give four to five trial options to customers at their homes, as per their convenience,” Shaan says.
Customers can order online and get products delivered, but can also visit local stores to check the fit of the clothes. Freakins also want to introduce mixed reality technology into the business so a customer can see how a particular item looks on them while purchasing online.
“Personalisation and customisation are going to be the buzzwords in the coming times, and we want to rule this space with our brand,” Shaan says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)