Kapil Bhatia, CEO & Founder, UNIREC, a brand under aegis of parent company Brandstore India Pvt Ltd, talks about its inception and how the company faced challenges of the pandemic head on. UNIREC is a brand that makes garments, workwear/uniform from recycled PET bottles.
Tell us how year 2021 panned for business.
For the fashion industry and other businesses all over the world, the year 2020 changed everything. Due to the serious rise in COVID cases, the industry had to shift its operations from offline to online and make most of them automated. In such a disrupted environment, we, as a fashion brand, strengthened our supply chain management and focused more on product offerings, downsizing collections and profitability. Hence, the year 2021 has been a roller-coaster ride with the business taking a new shape and adapting to the new normal, but we have come out better and stronger.
Highlight a key opportunity that you saw during the year and how you made the most of it.
Initially, like most garment companies, even we started manufacturing cloth masks more from a survival perspective than a business opportunity. However, over a period of time, we grew this business into a full-fledged vertical and have sold more than half a million masks since then.
Moreover, with the increase in use of disposable products like masks, gloves, PPE kits and plastic bottles, we took it upon us to launch UNIREC, where we manufacture garments made from recycled pet bottles. We understand that consumer behaviour in terms of usage of the above products will not change overnight. But, at least the awareness to offset the use of plastic products is there now, which is why the need for sustainable products has risen.
Please elaborate on the challenges faced in the year and how you overcame the same.
The biggest challenge that we faced in this year was the change in fashion trends. We saw a major surge in consumers looking for sustainable fashion. Recycled products and low-end comfortable clothing came in trend since most people were staying at home and even working remotely. We took this trend into consideration and formulated strategies to fulfil customer demands and address the transformation in the entire fashion industry as well.
What, according to you, was the most prominent trend this year in terms of – consumer behaviour, technology and marketing?
Comfort clothing was easily the most prominent trend in clothing this year. Formal wear saw a downturn in the first half, but as things opened up, there has been a tremendous demand in this space as consumers are out to buy garments which they otherwise would not have bought in the last two years.
With a new COVID-19 variant, business may again be impacted. If you agree, please elaborate on how well-prepared you are for any such disruption. What is the action plan?
With the new variant on the horizon, we are well-prepared to tackle the same. We will continue to follow the precautionary measures and government guidelines as we are right now. Moreover, if the nation sees a surge in cases, we will plan on going aggressive online and have fewer working hours, simultaneously waiting for the government and health officials to either come up with a remedy or a strict precautionary plan for businesses and people to follow.
This year, people were vying to shop. But, do you think that in the year 2022, sales (online/ offline/ both) will be as impressive as they were in 2021?
As per our experience, the year 2022 will see an increase in online shopping. Since a new COVID-19 variant is in place, the companies as well as the customers will not continue staying home but will come up with a middle path of working from home as well as in the office environment. Most importantly, industries and we are planning to formulate a robust plan with supply chain, inventory management, delivery cycle, product manufacturing, etc., in place with the right customer data so that we can serve them without any hassle in the coming year and learn from our mistakes that occurred this year.