To start a business is one thing but to sustain one in a market that is continuously evolving, takes a flair for innovation and the willingness to take risks. Tushar Handworks is a business enterprise, not afraid of experimentation and confronting challenges head-on.
Meet Tushar J. Bhatnagar – the designer cum manufacturer, who discussed with Fashion Insiders, the changes he has implemented to adapt to the competitive times, about sustainable fashion and the qualities that make a customer, an ideal one.
Tell us about yourself. Did you have any fashion background prior to starting your business?
As a kid, I grew with textiles all around me. My parents are the ones who started the business back in 1987. Since the beginning, we never shied away from the very difficult and intricate production processes. My parents and growing up in the business has inspired me to always have a unique perspective on design.
After completing my schooling in India, I pursued fashion studies in Australia. Then, I moved to England for further studies in the field of fashion.
At present, I am the Joint Director, Head Designer and merchandiser in the company.
What is the difference between ‘Tushar Designs’ and ‘Beautiful clothes’? Why two separate entities?
Tushar Designs was launched in 2005 for catering to the needs of our domestic clientele. ‘Beautiful Clothes’ was launched in 2013 for online branding and domestic branding of our products. Our manufacturing unit’s name is Tushar Handworks. All of these come under the Tushar Group.
Why did you feel the need to launch your own brands, given the saturation of the current state of the fashion industry?
Over a time period of 5 years, we have had regular visitors at trade shows in India interested in our line who ask us to cater to domestic needs. This motivated us to make a separate line for the domestic Indian market.
What was the biggest challenge your parents faced when they started Tushar Handworks?
Personally, by the time I joined the business, it was already established and I just had to take it forward with new developments and changes that I thought were appropriate. I am still doing this today.
On the other hand, since my parents were the first generation to start this business in 1987, I saw them face a lot of challenges which made me value the work that we do today. I remember, during that time it used to be a big deal to have a fax machine, so, we used to collect orders from buyers on fax machines at the GPO (general post office) by making payments.
The number of employees that we had back then was very small so I could closely observe my parents’ involvement in that we were producing. That was very inspiring.
Times have changed and we are working via email. We speak and talk freely on many devices. In some ways, to me, the good old “Fax Machine times” were so better as communication was harder and limited and therefore more quality oriented. Today we speak a lot more and waste time by doing so, which ultimately hampers the quality of everything we do.
Is there a difference in starting a factory now versus when your parents started?
Yes and No! Both.
Yes, because it’s difficult to have a trained and knowledgeable team today for a new business. Every company is defined by its team and so this becomes such an integral part of the work.
No, because if you are determined, knowledgeable, experienced and focussed you may still develop a good team with your sheer love and passion for the work despite the odds.
What are the current challenges that you think the fashion industry faces?
There isn’t a single problem that faces, rather a series of problems.
The biggest challenge, according to me for Indian manufacturers is the lack of government support in exports. Support like “drawback” and incentives that were given sometime back.
Then, there are heavy taxes and import duties on exporters.
For example, Dubai is a duty-free zone. For sure, we cannot reach that level in India right now, but reducing duty and tax will make the end product’s price cheaper and thus boosting overall exports. Both, the wholesaler and the direct customer will surely benefit from a cheaper product range.
Besides this, I believe that the Indian government should provide a new and reliable transparent support system for its manufacturers. If the current government wants to make India, the hub of manufacturing, then a ‘transparent’ system is the way forward.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for entrepreneurs who want to pursue a career in design or wish to set up their own manufacturing unit?
Upcoming entrepreneurs must think hard about the reasons why they wish to be a part of this industry.
Once they have the reasons it would be very clear to them whether this is what they wish to go for or not.
Once they decide to go ahead, they must get busy preparing the lines that they want to sell and show to buyers and at Trade Fairs.
While they shouldn’t neglect to think about Who/When/ Where will buy their line, they also shouldn’t obsess over it. They just have to be convinced that the product they create and make is the most amazing one and then, believe me, their line will find a client and they will grow.
What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion? Would it benefit manufacturers in the long-run?
Sustainable Fashion is very inspiring if your pocket allows you to do so. The benefit of it may be decided by the buyers, since as a manufacturer, we may only produce what is sold by our clients.
Sustainable/Eco-Fashion comes at an EXTRA cost of input in the form of vegetable dyes, alternative textile etc. Any company making a line on this fashion must think about the “pocket” of their clientele. Whether or not they will be able to sell and promote this line at the cost it comes out to be.
We are currently manufacturing sustainable garments for a select clientele, whose end customers can “afford” this genre of clothing.
Who is your typical customer and what patterns do you see in their buying habits?
We don’t get to select our customers. The customer chooses us at the show and then their designs and requests allow us to see if we go further or not.
Our buyers come from all around the globe – Europe, USA, South America, Middle East, Japan and Australia just to name a few.
The collections we typically develop constitute of 10-12 mini collections. Each collection focuses on a different look. This may be the reason that our designs are more global.
Every client has a different set of requirements. The majority of our customers do 2-3 orders in a year – spring summer, autumn winter, mid-summer followed by repeat orders.
What according to you are traits of a great customer?
I have three basic parameters by which I judge a customer.
Prompt reply to day to day communications.
Timely payments of shipments.
Clarity in mind of what they are looking for.
What has been your biggest achievement so far and how has it affected your business?
Good health, clear mind, sound sleep, fun and enjoyment at work – all these have helped me to make good decisions in my daily routine and moved things ahead in an awesome way.
If your personal life is sorted, it actually clears your mind and the work is fun then. But, that’s just me.
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