We are all aware that the fashion industry is saturated with product. Yet many factories all over the world produce products one can argue there is enough of. But then again – appearances can be deceptive.
We recently met with the owner of Sunshine Apparels, R.T. Bajpai. Read on to learn more about this Indian factory and how they find space in the crowded fashion market.
When and why did you start Sunshine Apparels?
I started Sunshine Apparels in 2008 after gaining eight years of work experience in the manufacturing business. We had one factory in Delhi but as the business grew, we moved to Noida. Noida is a satellite city close to the capital Delhi, where most of the fashion manufacturing has now relocated to. Here we opened another factory. We specialise in scarves manufacturing and stoles in different materials like cotton, viscose, linen and polyester.
Why did you decide to focus on the manufacture of scarves and stoles?
When we first started scarves manufacturing, there was no market saturation. Buyers were very cooperative and relaxed and gave us creative control. Market saturation has come only recently. Buyers find it very difficult to work with Indian fashion manufacturers due to lower price competition from China. It is hard to compete on price. In fact, I am thinking of diversifying into new categories, if the situation doesn’t change.
What challenges do you face now, which were not present earlier?
Competition is the biggest problem as I said earlier. Another obstacle is documentation. People have become smarter and the government has become stricter to control irregularities. There is But digitalisation has helped in many ways. For one, a lot of time is saved and two, businesses cannot hide any data or forge papers now.
New designers are often very impatient and do not understand the importance of fashion sampling.
Do you work with new designers? What are the problems both of you face while working together?
I don’t often work with new designers. It is not because of their lack of experience but, because of our minimums. We ask for 300 pieces per style per colour, which to new brands is a little high.
We are happy to keep our MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) low but then the cost will be like that of a sample’s. This is where both the parties get stuck at.
New designers are often very impatient and do not understand the importance of fashion sampling. They feel that it is waste of time and money. The assumption is that as a factory we are an expert and we will be able to make the final product without a glitch. But, you and I both know that without a perfect sample, there are hundreds of things that can go wrong.
Do you work with Indian buying agencies? What is your experience?
We are not working with buying agencies for many reasons.
Firstly, there is a huge communication gap. Since there is a middleman involved, things take a longer route and naturally longer time. Important comments and elements crucial to the development can get lost in translation.
Secondly, these agents have different clearance levels of their own. Even if a buyer, for a given order, could get convinced by our order, these buying agents will not. They will need to be satisfied in every tiny aspect, which delays orders.
Lastly, the frustrating thing about buying agencies or agents is that they sometimes over-exaggerate and highlight unnecessary things.
Where there can be peace between two parties, they might trigger problems. I am not saying they are bad to work with. Some agents have happy clients who will not leave them, which we appreciate and are happy to work with. But, this is just my opinion.
Some of my friends from the business are happy with these agents and some are not. It is all about your individual preference and suitability to the business.
Working directly with buyers is beneficial to us. Decisions are faster since there is no communication gap.
Approvals are faster. Best of all – it is financially less expensive as commission to the agencies is saved here.
We have a mixed batch of clients. Some like to work with agencies while the majority are direct.
Generally, bigger companies have agencies as mediators.
How and where do you meet new clients? How do you manage to keep business at the forefront?
We participate in trade fairs like IIGF (India International Garment Fair) and many international ones like in Hong Kong and Paris.
Before a trade fair starts, we send out emails to our buyers saying that we are going to participate in the show. Thus, we meet old and new buyers as well.
This year at IIGF, we didn’t meet any new buyer. It was a no-show for us. We get about ten per cent business from participating in these trade shows.
What will be your advice to buyers who want to work with Indian fashion manufacturers?
My advice to fashion buyers would be to be patient with the Indian market. There are a lot of governmental changes and regulations taking place in the market. Manufacturers here are still trying to make sense of the newly introduced Goods and Service Tax. So patience is the key here.
But on a positive note, we are known for our speedy deliveries. We will not commit until we know we will be able to fulfil.
So don’t rush and be patient is my advice.
If you have any questions about this article or general feedback then please do not hesitate to let us know in the comments below.