Launching India’s first ‘zero-waste fashion’ store in Mumbai, co-founder Bhumika Chheda’s label Bhumika & Jyoti is all about marrying concept, creativity, and conscience. Having created inspiring and innovative designs, she is building a new ecosystem of entrepreneurship with skilled artisans and vendors who are committed to her idea of social and eco-conscious entrepreneurship. She shares her journey, the brand’s first milestone, financial decisions that helped boost the label, and the importance of team building for success.
1. What’s your educational and professional background?
I graduated with a degree in Freelance Journalism and hold a Diploma in Business Management.
2. What prompted the idea for your venture?
I have been associated with the garment industry since 1995 and worked for ace designer Seema Roye, who mentored me for a decade. There, I gained practical knowledge of the nitty-gritty of designing and technical knowledge about the construction of garments. I assisted her for all her fashion shows, domestically as well internationally, and really owe a lot to her in grooming me.
Post that, I joined my uncle at Amarsons Bandra where I started manufacturing and exporting. I also helped them set up online e-commerce but felt stagnant, as I really wanted to make a difference in the industry I choose for my career. So in 2010, I started my own export firm where I designed for the brand and exported to multiple countries. The germination of my brand concept has always been in my mind since I started my own organisation, as I didn’t have the heart to throw and pollute anything.
I went on to consciously launch a zero-waste concept store under the flagship brand Bhumika & Jyoti. We made a collection that eliminated all the side cuts and waste and undertook waste management by creating job opportunities for the local ladies as well as villagers to create variants and verticals from these leftover side cuts like umbrellas, pouches, bags, shoes, slip-ons, jewellery, accessories, bookmarks, table runners and more. This was my way of paying gratitude to nature and society, and uplifting people around me by creating job opportunities for them.
3. Did you always know you wanted to work in this space?
I always wanted to make a difference in others’ lives and I feel every human has a creative side waiting to be unearthed. But if you get the air beneath your wings, then nothing can stop you from flying. Your intention has to be pure and you have to be strong-willed.
4. What was your first milestone and how did you get there?
I consider every achievement as a milestone, but to remember them in series: I was one of the first Indian designers to showcase at Eiffel Tower in the opening show of Namaste France (European Fashion Week) and at the FDCI, we launched our zero-waste collection with Sushmita Sen supporting and vouching for us.
5. What are your tips for an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to enter this space?
Take every step with a pure intention where you think of everyone around you and work towards uplifting others will surely uplift you too. My advice to new or aspiring entrepreneurs would be to make sure they work on not just the creative, but the quality side as well because it’s not just about clothes. It’s about an experience. Goodwill and trust are very important in this industry.
6. What were the 3 best business/financial decisions you made?
Most of the young entrepreneurs lack patience. The best decision of my life was the step to first work on my foundation and create a strong manufacturing set up where I started dealing in bulk. It helped me gain knowledge and experience of the processes and taught me how to handle my brand image and clients.
Another decision was when I started the zero-waste concept. This was appreciated by all the big wigs and they helped us with their CSR projects and funds. It also personally helped me earn good karma and in turn, give back to society.
My third decision was to diversify into the local market and work towards manufacturing for Indian giants like Reliance Trends. This helped provide us with turnover stability with bulk orders, especially when the season is slow for high-end products.
7. How long did it take you to monetise your venture?
I believe in investing in relationships and strong bonds. Give the best service, and then the client only wants to deal only with you. So I started my company with a full advance which helped me to see profit in the first 3 months of exporting. My turning point was when I successfully turned my business into doing a year’s turnover in less than 4 months.
8. Are you looking for funding or have acquired investment?
My dream is to have the brand rolled out in every city and for that, one needs to have investors. We have tentatively worked out a one-time investment of Rs 30 to Rs 35 lakhs and 3 months of working capital. But it differs from person to person and what they would like. We are looking to raise more funds in the future.
9. Who are the key employees/vendors you need to secure to work in this space?
Skilled workers and vendors who support you throughout are a key element. I believe in a long-lasting relationship with employees and vendors, and hence, our key staff has been with our organisation for more than 5 to 15 yrs.
10. How do you intend to scale up/expand your business in the next 5 years?
Going online is the way forward and catering to all segments of the upper-middle class and middle class can help you grow and increase your numbers. It’s the age of digital and we’re gearing to ride this wave as well.
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