Nina Lekhi eyes double digit growth, foreign market entry for Baggit in FY17

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An entrepreneur by profession and a role model for many aspiring young women entrepreneurs, MD & Chief Design Curator for Baggit, Nina Lekhi’s journey to the top was one filled with obstacles.
After failing her foundation art course at Sophiya’s, she decided to pursue two part time courses – one in textile and another in interior decoration, while balancing a salesgirl post on the side. The failure, instead of deterring her from her chosen path, ignited a spark within her and a determination to be successful. The job gave her clarity on her business vision, as well as customer insights.
She picked up the tools of the trade fast, and in 1985, started her own accessory brand, Baggit. Today, with 48 exclusive stores and retail through over 1,000 large format stores, multi-brand outlets and online retailers, Baggit is one of the fastest growing handbag brands in the country.
In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing Bureau, Nina Lekhi talks about the brand, its Omnichannel strategy and expansion plans…
Baggit was set up over 25 years ago. Give us a brief understanding of the journey of the brand.
baggit-1Three decades ago I realised that my friends and I did not have funky and contemporary bags to buy in India. My design background helped me start off with one bag then. Thankfully, my parents were very supportive. I sold at exhibitions, supplied exclusively in my initial years to a few retail stores in South Mumbai. I learnt a lot of important lessons and gained customer insights on the shop floor. One day in our screen printing class, I found myself asking a question-why don’t we design bags with graphics?
Thus, I started off with designing bags. One thing led to another, and an entrepreneur inside me was born. No woman in our family had ever worked, but my mother was extremely encouraging. I have always strived to cater to the lifestyle and fashion needs of the modern Indian women. Whether it was 26 years ago, when I first started with a few bags or today when we get sold at 1000+ outlets. My designs and my commitment to not use leather have been appreciated and bought by the Indian woman of all age groups and that gave me the impetus then, and even today to provide the best.
From a very young age, I was passionate about painting which inspired me to take up a diploma foundation art course at Sophia’s. But after my failure at the art course, due to unavoidable reasons, I decided to do two part time courses; one in textile and another in interior decoration. After that, I picked up the tools of the trade and started the Baggit journey in 1985. But in the initial years, it was just a source of getting pocket money and helping out at home with minimum expenses. By 1989, Baggit became serious business.
Elaborate on your product range.
From the day of its inception, Baggit has been primarily catering to the wide Indian market with a product portfolio that is affordable and fashionable. Baggit is a brand that incorporates eco-friendly values to its entire product portfolio that has led the brand to win PETA Proggy Award. It is aimed at the modern Indian women and men with a wide range of bags and accessories such as belts, caps, wallets, multi-utility pouches along with several more wardrobe must-haves to uplift the fashion quotient of every Indian.
Tell us about your men’s bags and accessories ranges. Why did you decide to venture here?
We have been designing bags like backpacks, sling bags, messenger bags, laptop bags, and in the wallets category we are creating varied options like the passport holder, credit card holder to meet their travel and fashion needs. We believe in having different bags for different occasion so we have a large mix of product portfolio for Indian men.
How many cities is Baggit present in? 
In 1989, Baggit made its first appearance at INXS, Mumbai. After its successful start, we spread across India with trade channels in Mumbai and Delhi. In the year 2000, Baggit made its entry in large format retail stores. After that there was no looking back.
We currently have 48 Exclusive Baggit stores and retail through leading 1000+ large format stores and multi-brand outlets, and other online retailers, spread across different cities in India. We want to open a lot more outlets in each city in India, with special focus on metros and mini metros.
We are present in over 90 cities through brick-and-mortar outlets, in. Also, to reach out to the last mile audiences we are also available on leading e-marketplaces of India, in addition to our own e-commerce portal
What is your brand’s Omnichannel strategy?
Omnichannel presence is mandatory for Baggit from a strategic point of view, in terms of providing integrated shopping experience to the consumers. The need of the hour is to have appropriate resource allocation for omni-channel and keep recalibrating with the changing dynamics of the category and the evolving consumer. Baggit is working towards creating a seamless experience by integrating each platform and device that the consumers utilize to provide the Baggit brand experience.
WHO’S WHO: Nina Lekhi, MD & Chief Design Curator, Baggit
How much does e-commerce contribute to your overall revenue? Are there any targets for the next fiscal?
E-retailing has added to our sales immensely apart from increasing brand awareness. However, though online sales have been growing faster than offline sales, majority of the business still comes from brick-and-mortar formats.
We have our own portal i.e. Apart from that we are also present on leading online market places. We constantly update them with our new collections. In the e-commerce space, we are expecting a double digit growth in the next fiscal year.
Technology has led to sharp changes in shopping behaviour, especially in the past five years? How would you sum up these shifts and what do they indicate for your growth strategy?
baggit-2Today it is a ‘consumer’s market’. Consumers have a plethora of options to choose from multiple brands available offline and online at one’s fingertips. Change in the digital world has pushed e-commerce and mobile shopping into the mainstream and has also made it easier for consumers to shop. Since digital shopping is become a norm, we are continuously improving our supply chain to deliver a superior shopper and brand experience for our consumers. E-retailing business for bags has indeed added to our sales because of a seamless shopping experience we provide to our customers.
What is the pricing strategy and target audience of the brand?
Baggit is spread across different channels and is continuously working towards integrating platforms and devices that our consumer across varied age groups utilizes to create a seamless brand experience. Our online portal sees a lot of young crowd, whereas are consumers who visit our exclusive Baggit outlets and large format stores are a healthy mix of working professionals and housewives. Our target market segments play a factor in our pricing strategy. We have a wide array of products, priced differently depending on the target buyers it caters.
The handbag market in India is huge and dominated by international players. Is the entry of prominent international brands being seen as a threat?
In the world of fashion, the brand Baggit – by virtue of being the largest selling bag and accessories brand – competes with private in-store labels, global fashion brands and exclusive bag brands out of India.
Baggit’s strength lies in delivering a product which is superior, in terms of functionality as well as design. We create products for the well-travelled consumer with a global outlook and therefore, we create benchmarks as a policy and we do not consider any brand as a challenge or threat.
ALSO READ: Baggit Founder Nina Lekhi’s biography ‘Bag It All’ released
What is the USP of your brand that it helps stand apart from the international as well as big domestic players?
Our USP lies in being an eco-friendly brand with a wide range of vegan products. Our products are in sync with the latest international trends and expectations of the well-travelled consumer with a global outlook. Also, we make it a point to mix fashion and functionality together, and make sure to keep in mind the needs of the modern consumer before we design and manufacture our bags.
Baggit designs and manufactures its entire product portfolio in India. This is in line with the company’s philosophy of ‘Make in India’ while keeping in mind the sensibilities of the Indian consumer.
Please share turnover details in the last fiscal, along with sales projections for current fiscal.
From FY14-15 to FY15-16, Baggit’s topline (revenue) has grown in double digits. We are looking at continuing this double digit growth that will surpass the category growth.
What are your expansion plans? Do you plan on foraying overseas?
We have a plan to open 20 new stores by the end of this year especially targeting tier II cities. We are working towards opening at least one store in each city of India.
Internationally, we want to spread our wings in other countries too. We plan to enter the Sri Lankan market through a multi brand outlet very soon. We already have tie-ups in the UK and also advance discussion for markets in Africa, Dubai. I would love to see Baggit as a leading international fashion brand.
What have been your biggest learning’s and insights in all the years that you have been in business?
baggit-3My challenges were more internal to me. My failures, however small led me to challenge the environment and be accepted seriously as a person. I needed to prove that my designs mattered and catered to the latent need of the customers. So the enthusiasm at such an early age coupled with the determination drove me to create a successful ecosystem @Baggit.
My ‘never quit’ attitude coupled with my energy and exuberance saw me through those years. My belief is that if you work with positive attitude then people appreciate your work. This hardwork and support from my team made Baggit a successful brand.
I also learnt that direct interaction with the customer gives me innumerable insights about business processes and product design.

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