Baggit got its name from the popular Michael Jackson number, Beat It : CEO Nina Lekhi
Started purely as a means to earn pocket money, the then 18-year-old college student turned part-time entrepreneur Nina Lekhi put her experience of working for a while with designers and also in a store to do something different in the category of handbags.
Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday in Firstbiz which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
It was started purely as a means to earn pocket money. The then 18-year-old college student turned part-time entrepreneur, Nina Lekhi put her experience of working with designers and at a store to do something different in the category of handbags. She wanted her bags to be trendy and cost-effective, and named it 'Baggit' -- after the popular Michael Jackson number, Beat It. Seeing the young Lekhi shopping for the raw materials and then getting tailors to sew her designs, her father quipped, "Are you going to make grocery bags?" Even Lekhi could not envisage that her venture would one day be an over Rs 100 crore business.
Excerpts from an interview with Firstbiz.com:
What made you venture into the bags business?
From a very young age I was passionate about painting which inspired me to take up a diploma in foundation art course at Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai. But after I failed the course, I decided to take up two part-time courses. I also took up a job in a retail store where I gained customer insights on the shop floor. After that I started the Baggit journey in 1985. Being a right brain person I was very much inclined towards graphics. So when I decided to make bags,I wanted to make fun stuff for college kids. In the initial years it was just a source of getting pocket money and helping out at home with small expenses. By 1989 Baggit became serious business with an annual income of Rs 30 lakh.
Who gave you the capital to start the business considering you were a collegian then?
My mother gave me Rs 7,000 to start off. I invested that to buy canvas and pay thetailors who stitched the bags. The money from sale of bagsat exhibitions and multi-brand stores were reinvested into the business. Thecash started flowing in as these were direct sales. I did not have to repay the initial investment as my mother funded the venture.
What were the challenges that you faced before launching Baggit?
Though I had failed at the Art course at Sophia's, I was determined to be taken seriously when it came to designing bags. I needed to prove to myself that my designs could sell. I worked like a dog, and a 'will-not-quit attitude' buoyed up withenergy and exuberance saw me through those difficult years. When I look back now, I wonder how I did it..
What encouraged you to carry on with the business?
I guess what encouraged me was that besides the outlet the business provided for my creativity, it was a big high to know that my bags were liked and they got me the cash! The most kickass feeling was to see my bag as an accessory in the hands of girls and women. This holds true even today.
You were in your 20s when you launched Baggit. Was age a barrier when dealing with known names, meeting up with retailers, etc?
No, not at all. My bags made everything easy for me. I remember that big brands wanted to stock it up even then. And it hascontinued toremain that way. I think if your work is good, people will find you.
When did you set up your first store?
In 1989 Baggit made its first appearance at INXS, a bag store in Mumbai. After that we spread across trade channels in Mumbai and Delhi. And in 2000, wemade an entry in large format retail stores. After that there was no looking back. Currently we are present in 101 cities across India, with 36 exclusive outlets along with 300 multi-brand retail stores. Recently wemade aforay into the UK and Kenya market.
What is your strategy to meet with competition?
The lifestyle industry has always been a very competitive market and now even more so with the entry of manyinternational brands. What sets us apart from our competitors is that we are a completely eco-friendly brand, a fact that is appreciated by fashion and environment-conscious consumers.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur?
I have only one advice to give them: Do what you love to do. If you love what you are doing, thenthe passion will automatically come within you. You won't feel like you are 'working'.
What are the pitfalls, according to you, an entrepreneur should avoid?
As we age, the mind becomes more and more fixed about ideas, processes and systems. I'd say, do not get too complacent; always be with young people so that you are in that learning curve, and be ready to experiment. Don't play safe, start taking risks-that will help you explore new dimensions. Once in a while it's advisable to do crazy things-go cycling to Goa, for instance. It will also help you grow stronger spiritually. I would say travel more and explore more.
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