What is your product-wise category split?
Manish K. Mehta (MM) We mainly deal in men’s wear in the premium and value category. It includes the entire range from INTEGRITI and Copperstone. We also deal in men’s ethnic wear brand, SFW, but majority of our revenues come from denim and casual wear.
Which is your area of operation?
MM: We handle the Chennai market and work with around 50 to 75 retail outlets in the city. When I started the business in Chennai, there were around eight to ten apparel distributors in the entire city. However, things have changed drastically in the last 15 years. Now there are so many distributors, which has led of fall in our margins.
What is the capacity of your warehouse?
MM: We can easily accommodate 10,000 to 15,000 garments at a time at the warehouse.
Why did you enter men’s ethnic wear market?
MM: Ethnic wear has very good market in Chennai and it is growing even now. A number of brands, like Manyavar, SFW Star King, Ethos, Manish etc. are present. In fact, I introduced Manyavar in Chennai in 2008 by opening its first retail outlet. However, I decided to exit as they were getting into bigger store format in the range of 4,000 – 5,000 sq. ft. Since this segment was showing good traction, I stepped into the ethnic wear category again in 2008 with the SFW brand.
What role do you play in terms of market intelligence, designs, trend information and more with your brands and retailers?
MM: We suggest our suppliers on the market trends and keep them updated about the current fashion. We also suggest retailers about the current trends and designs.
What are the major challenges you faced?
MM: The major challenge is the shortage of quality manpower. In fact, I look at new client acquisition to grow my business and I get new ones due to my personal rapport since our business runs on mutual trust. So I feel crippled when i don’t get the right people. The other major challenge is the rise in credit period. The average credit period today is anywhere between 60 – 90 days as compared to 45 days earlier. Any delay in payment stretches our business finances. This is mainly due to rise in the number of malls which has raised operational costs at the retailers end. A slowdown at that end upsets our calculation. Even margins have halved to four per cent from the eight per cent earlier.
According to you, which new cities can be coined as emerging markets?
MM: In my view the new emerging markets are the cities of Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and the outskirts of Bangalore.
What, according to you, are the basic requirements to be a distributor in terms of capital and knowledge?
MM: The capital investment of a distributor depends upon the number of brands he wants to deal in. As far as knowledge is concerned, it totally depends on how well the person is networked with his suppliers as well as retailers. However, the key to success is developing a good wholesaler retailer rapport.
E-commerce is a jackpot of fashion retailing and is fast catching up. How does online retail affect your business?
MM: Personally, I feel that e-commerce has already affected the business to the tune of 10 – 15 per cent by now. Its adverse impact on our business will be more in the coming days. However, there’s no denying that consumers have largely benefitted from online retailing as they get their desired products at cheaper rates delivered at their doorstep.
MBOs are great for your business. What is the support you provide?
MM: I feel that the margins for MBOs should be increased as they are facing inflated rent and salary problems along with other operational expenses. If we look at the international market, the retail margin offered by the manufacturer is very high. So my humble request to all the manufacturers is to increase the margins for MBOs.
What is your staff strength?
MM: We have four to five office boys along with three marketing personnel (ASM level).
Any major achievements as a distributor?
MM: I found CAA in 2006 and am also holding the office of Secretary. I also started the first Manyavar retail store in Chennai in 2008 followed by the K Lounge retail store in 2009.