The region is throwing up a whole new breed of entrepreneurs who are creating brands that allow the discerning customers to wear their passions and make statements about their lifestyles. They operate online and connect through social media. And they are growing. Here are a few names and their stories…
1)Niraj Rampuria, 27, Ludhiana: Starting a business of illustrated T-shirts came naturally to Niraj; his father owns a printing unit for garments. However, as this business management graduate gave up a cushy job in Bangalore to start his own venture, challenges came galore. “I was blessed with the initial know-how, thanks to my father. Beyond that, I have been on my own,” he says.
Niraj, whose stint with the corporate world totals 1.5 years, set up his venture, Bushirt, in August 2011, investing a couple of lakhs in website and initial marketing. For the concept and design, Niraj chose to put various emotions on the cloth. “I do none of frivolous one-liners or graphics. It’s only emotions for me. Happy, sad, frustrated, angry, disappointed — I have T-shirts for every emotion,” he says.
The venture is recent, but has grown to a level where Niraj has hired a small team of designers and staff members. Orders flow in from all parts of India and Niraj has tied-up with major e-commerce portals. “My business is growing by the day. I am confident I can sustain and will not have to return to the corporate world,” smiles he. Next on his agenda is starting a women’s line in his collection that caters only to men at present.
2) Arashdeep Singh Baweja, 42, Ludhiana: Arashdeep was quite content with running the family garment manufacturing-retail business until repeated similar queries from his NRI clients forced him to think beyond. “I was often asked for T-shirts that my clients could flaunt as a pride for their roots, their Punjabiyat,” he says. Six years ago, Arashdeep experimented with a few pieces, putting things quintessentially Punjabi on T-shirts. “Bullet bike, tractor and even famous boliyan like Bari Barasi Khatan Gaya Si,” he recalls. An instant hit, the concept saw an expansion within months, as such T-shirts, under the brand name Punjabi Heritage, were made available in multiple stores in Punjab.
The brand is a sought after name in the world of illustrated and customised T-shirts today that plays around three words — Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat. The popularity can be gauged form the fact that Arashdeep now works dedicatedly to promote the brand, closing down his other businesses. In such a short span of time, Punjabi Heritage today has presence in 75 stores in the country, with Mumbai as the latest entrant to the roster. “We also promote product in places
Punjabis frequent, such as the Golden Temple and restaurants such as Haveli,” he adds. In addition, the business has now reached domestic markets of UK and Canada.
Arashdeep began with selling 500 pieces a month, six years ago; this figure now stands at 8,000-9,000 and growing. Recently, Arashdeep began a portal titled Punjabicart that promotes the brand online, thereby expanding the reach. “Interestingly, it’s south of India that is giving me maximum business online,” he says.
3) Jaskaran Singh Arora, 25, Zirakpur: In his final year of engineering course at Punjab University, Jaskaran took up a fund-raising project through sales of T-shirts. The overwhelming response made him wonder if offering specialised college T-shirts to students would be a profitable business. Within months, Jaskaran began seeking orders from city colleges, under the brand name Madfish. His spirits got a boost as orders from about five city colleges followed, including MCM DAV College for Women, Sector 36, Chandigarh. “I never took up an engineering job after college and have dedicated all my time to my venture,” he says.
Jaskaran had begun by outsourcing everything from Punjab’s hosiery hub Ludhiana — from buying ready-made T-shirts to printing logos or slogans. In mid-2011, he made his first real investment of R5 lakh to set up a printing unit in Zirakpur. Experience has also made him buy his own yarn now and get it converted into fabric, thereby reducing input cost. Today, his two-year old start-up is bringing him brisk business (he is selling at around 1,000 pieces every month) and enough to pay a salary to a couple of staff members. “Besides Punjab-Chandigarh, I get orders from UP and Maharashtra,” he shares.
He now plans to segregate his business into retail and wholesale. “That’s my next major move in business. I am launching a sub-brand, Krishnile, dedicated to wholesale,” he shares.
About entrepreneurship, Jaskaran says that was the only option for him. “Despite my studies, all I dreamt of doing was run my own business. Also, I was convinced that if I were to go the business way, then was the time to start, rather than waiting till I turned 30 and possibly earning a six-figure salary in a multi-national firm. Maybe I would have been too comfortable with the job and family then,” he quips.
4) Harinder Singh, 45, Chandigarh: Harinder’s label 1469 is a well-established name in the market and recently touched a high when it tied-up with Imtiaz Ali as a brand partner for his next. The two-decade old brand that has five exclusive stores in the North, and was one of the first in the market to venture with designs that Punjabis could flaunt. “1469 began when I observed a lack of original designs in the country. I began with graphics and the business picked up well. In 2002, I ventured into slogans, humour and quirky one-liners. Many of them clicked with Punjabi customers,” shares Singh, 45, who moved away from the family business of steel pipes to make T-shirts soon after graduation.
Apart from stores in Chandigarh, Karnal and Amritsar, Singh, who hails from Chandigarh and is now settled in Delhi, runs two stores in the Capital, including one in the bustling Janpath market.
His designs are innovative. His ‘locomotive’ range, for instance, features fine drawn tonga, truck, tractor, autorickshaw, bullet and Lambretta and one-liners include phrases such as ‘Keha jee hun taa has deyo bhajji’ and ‘Jawan hi Punjabi’. “My business has a lot of life. I get to meet people and know their taste. It is immensely satisfying,” he says.