‘The journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step’ goes the adage this aptly is the journey encompassed by Ethix Clothing–the brainchild of Avneesh Mishra, CEO and Dharmesh Gathani, MD. From an initial investment of Rs 20 lakh in 2005 to growing multi-fold with a turnover of Rs150 crore last financial year, it is a story of grit and determination, dreaming of the impossible and making it possible in less than a decade!
The journey of Pune-based Ethix Clothing began when Avneesh Mishra decided it was time to bring in a change in the way brands were being distributed in the market with tier-II and -III cities and towns usually being neglected. He shared, “The scope that brands have in cities like Pune, Ahmednagar, Nanded, etc. is beyond imagination but a lot many premium brands do not understand this.” It was while working with Arvind Brands that Mishra realised the market gap and the possible opportunity it presented.
He had landed himself with Arvind Brands soon after finishing his MBA. Elaborating on his upbringing, he shared, “I belong to a middle-class family. I was born and brought up in Gorakhpur (UP). After completing my MBA from a college in Indore, I got myself a job at Arvind Brands through campus placement. Whilst I was there, through various interactions with dealers and retailers, I realised that there was a big gap in the market for distribution of brands and the way businesses were conducted had a lot of scope for improvement.”
Without thinking much, he bid adieu to his full-time job and began his entrepreneurial journey. Not knowing where to turn for finances to support his dream, he went to his father asking for a loan of Rs 5 lakh. Mishra told, “My father wasn’t too open about the idea of me investing Rs 5 lakh in a business and instead asked me to either buy a house or invest it elsewhere.” But he was adamant to start his own business. “I didn’t want to look back and take up a full-time job again,” he confessed. The first brand that he began with was Trigger Jeans.
Mishra would be in the field the entire day meeting with retailers across Maharashtra. It was during these interactions that he came across Dharmesh Gathani, who owned a retail store. He liked Mishra’s single-minded approach towards work. As destiny smiled on Mishra, he got an opportunity to take on the distribution for Pepe Jeans. Mishra revealed, “My former colleague from Arvind Brands had joined Pepe. He put in a word for me, they called for a meeting, and we just clicked. I was to invest Rs20 lakh for this. I asked Gathani if he would lend me the money. Instead, he offered me a partnership deal and asked me to start a company and take more brands on board.” It was no looking back then! Next came Mufti and then the list went on with brands like Puma, U S Polo, Blackberry, United Colors of Benetton, etc. Mishra recounted, “The first year we did 1,000 pieces for Mufti and today it goes to about 1.5 lakh pieces a year.”
Until 2008, Mishra was handling everything with five sales people in the team. They operated from a warehouse with just a table and a chair, it was only in 2009 that a small office space was rented. In 2011, they moved to a bigger space and today they operate from a 3,000 sq.ft. office with a full-fledged team in place.
Citing the initial challenges and roadblocks faced, Mishra shared, “The earliest of challenges was getting the right manpower in place. It was a learning for us each single day, as we didn’t really had any corporate backing or corporate experience per se. Also, the market dynamics were changing then. The taste of the people was undergoing a revolutionary change. The concept of MBOs was shrinking and malls and large format stores were fast catching up.”
Launching Groove in-house brand
The omnipresence of brands in everyday lives of consumers due to the growing penetration of media, a certain section of people in tier -II and -III towns and cities are opting for branded garments, the only hitch being the price-points. To cater to that particular section of the customers, Mishra and Gathani launched Groove. Mishra said, “So, we went ahead to launch our brand in the mid-segment category. It has been three years since the launch of Groove and so far, we have had a very positive response. The stores are anywhere in between 600–1,000 sq.ft. and we also offer franchise options.”
With over 12 brands, Ethix Clothing has managed to carve a niche and place for itself in the business of fashion and what is truly commendable is the journey of Mishra from being a salesperson to mentoring a company today, which has crossed Rs150 crore turnover in less than a decade!