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Fashion Redefined

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Apparel retailing is a business that involves much complexity and speed. With a vast majority of retail stores being managed as family-run businesses, how far is it successful? Images Business of Fashion speaks to of Ahmedabad based Kalpana Creations to know more.

The Indian retail industry is going through phenomenal growth, marking its name into the list of top retail markets globally. The sector offers immense growth potential and has much room for further penetration. Most retail stores are family-run businesses, particularly apparel retail outlets. One such among them is Kalpana’s Creations. Spearheaded by a professional couple, Shah and Kalpana Shah, the company will complete seven glorious years of its existence in November this year. Kalpana, a fashion designer, has almost two decades of work experience in the fashion industry. In her teens, she used to attend her family shop ‘Roopkala’, founded by her father, Vaghjibhai Mehta. Similarly, has significant experience in advertising and has several diplomas to his credit. He has also completed a six-month rigorous course at Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad. He is a partner in a family-owned INS accredited advertising agency, M/s. Naren Advertising & Marketing, founded by his father, Naren Shah.

The company, which started with a 300 sq ft shop on Ashram Road in Ahmedabad and with Rs 35 lakh turnover in the first year, is growing at a steady rate of 45–50 per cent and today has a turnover of Rs 2.75 crore. It is spread across 1,650 sq ft designer studio in one of the most developing areas of Ahmedabad–Prahladnagar Garden. A typical retailer in Ahmedabad works on a margin of 15 to 20 per cent and a store can break even at the end of the third year, approximately 1,000 days.

For any business to become successful, it is important for it to stand out from the crowd. This way the brand gains a competitive edge over its rivals. So how successful is Kalpana’s Creations in this venture? To this, Kalpana answers: “In 2006, when this retail outlet was started, an internal decision was taken to have ‘Cotton’ as our base. With an average selling price of Rs 750–800 per unit, it is a low range item. For two years, our complete focus was on cotton fabrics and cotton costumes. Our designer studio now sells saris between Rs 1,500 to Rs 40,000, chaniya-cholis between Rs 3,500 to Rs 50,000, dress materials from Rs 700 to Rs 10,000, anarkalis Rs 1,250 to Rs 15,000, exclusive dupattas between Rs 500 to Rs 4,000, running fabric starts from Rs 75 per metre and goes up to Rs 1,500 per metre, borders, laces, et cetera. Our USP lies in our tailor-made designs. We do a lot of creations in ethnicwear. Sometimes, when a client selects fabric from our studio and comes back after 10–12 days as the piece is stitched, they get confused about whether the piece they selected is the same. We add many elements to our designs besides the fabric –borders, laces, patches, hand or machine embroidery, khat work, different sleeves, et cetera to make the piece unique.”

The retail store features excellent Navratri Collection of chaniya-cholis with smart Indo-Western cuts in a price range of  Rs 2,500 to Rs 6,500 per set to match the preferences of young girls as well as women in their late forties or even early fifties! There is something for everyone!

During the years of successful transition, the brand witnessed sea change in their client profile. Manan says, when they started off, their consumer were from the age group of 30 to 70 years, and belonged to the middle and upper middle class family. When they came up with their stitching unit of designer bridal blouses, it attracted customers in the age group of 20 to 28. Now they cater to the urban woman of Sec A+ category from the age group of 16 to 70.

Talking about her successful business career, Kalpana acclaims the business environment in Gujarat. “Gujaratis give a lot of respect to women, so women like me are given the lead role by the male members of their family even though the men might be a lot more or equally capable. Gujaratis spend a lot of money into travelling and as such migration of world fashion to Ahmedabad is faster. Women have a good sense of selection now, and they pick up the latest and the best from our collection, sometimes even overlooking their budget constraints.” Medium range apparels sell fast. Anything beyond Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500 takes time to sell, whereas medium range items are sold at a smooth pace.

Manan shares how they keep experimenting and introducing interesting concepts and ideas in the outlet frequently. One example is of a cotton chaniya with 5–6 metre flare that was converted into a 5–6 metre flared anarkali by adding contrast colour fabric like ‘Kotha’ and coloured sleeves. The list is endless.  All creations and innovations are done in their dead stock, which is less than 2 per cent.

After all this success, the couple says they are in no hurry for any expansion. “Now, the shopping is turning online. We have some 550 clients registered on our site from countries like the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Botswana. The average order size is Rs 10,000. We are only concentrating on these clients and others who are registering on our website or chatting with us on Skype, WeChat or WhatsApp. By 2017, we plan to cross our online sales from our retail turnover. We are as popular as local big brands like Asopalav, Aishwarya, Roopkala, Deepkala, et cetera. By increasing floor space, we add a lot of cost and managing the same like a family-owned shop isn’t possible.”
The entire web gamut and all media coverage, promotions, and advertising are taken care of by Manan, as that’s what he’s been best at as an advertising professional for a lot of companies. They are in talks with their clients in the US, UK, Canada and Australia to facilitate their online business or have franchisee with their share of profit. Manan plans to expand on the basis of franchise model. Seeing many retail majors like Future Group, Reliance, , and other small players like bleeding heavily and closing down their major retail outlets, they prefer to do a lot of backward integration before going ahead.

They conclude the conversation by sharing the insight they have gained over these years in business. “The customer is always right. If a customer does not like even a heavy costume, we either replace the piece or refund the money. We are following this practice for the past three years. Initially, in 2011, the count was 22, which reduced to 17 in 2012, and in 2013 we have refunded money in just seven cases. The customer is happy that way and we always make our best efforts to put a smile on their faces.”