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Interview with Shivang N Desai & Saija Bhatt Thakker
Shivang N Desai & Saija Bhatt Thakker
CDO & CEO respectively NS International
A new vertical in the business of start-ups
It started with studies in microbiology and moved on to the business of immigration and then on export-import. Call it serendipity, or just that each role she took up was a call of that time, and she bravely, but with strategy in place, leaped headlong into each. Her current passion is the just-incepted NS International-a consultancy startup that handholds aspiring exporters on the business of export and import. Saija Bhatt Thakker and partner Shivang N Desai share with Richa Bansal their strategy and game plan ahead.
Why call yourself a start-up?
Shivang N Desai (SND): We believe we fulfill the criteria of being a startup. There is an enormous market out there, we have an innovative idea, and yes we have a kick-ass team. There's a healthy start-up culture in the country. A start-up imparts credibility to the business, and people are responsive to a new idea when it is a start-up.
Tell me about your plans.
Saija Bhatt Thakker (SBT) Currently,we are into food, but we plan to launch into textiles, in classical and technical textiles very soon, probably next month. We are in the research phase. We are in talks with the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SGCCI) to help create awareness and help non-exporters in textiles to turn into exporters. This is not just limited to helping them fetch orders, but provide a corporate service where we can give them good revenues 3-5 years down the line.
Which are the top five problems that textile units encounter while exporting?
SND: First, a majority of the people are very poor at data analysis. They are not aware of international payment and delivery systems; they fear that they will not receive payments for their shipments, and we want to bring clarity on this. Again, there is a certain lack of professionalism in small businesses in India.
SBT: When we travel abroad one complaint that we receive is that we Indians are very convincing at the sampling stage, but when it comes to deliverables, both quality and quantity are not as promised. Another issue is the inability to balance the business in terms of domestic production and export, because to do this they need finance, infrastructure, good communication skills, and a travel plan.
SND: In Surat there are agents for different stages-60,000 traders who deal in the complete textile value chain. The competition is also very stiff. The industry here is currently facing a problem of shutdown of almost 60 per cent of the grey fabric because of cheap imports from China. We want to put a message across that if China can come into our market and sell goods, which we are very well capable of making, why can't we do the same?
SBT: Surat is the market leader of cotton polyester and nylon polyester fabrics. But China is producing at one-third of the manufacturing cost. The traders act as a bridge between manufacturers and retailers. The thriving force of the textile industry of Surat are the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These manufacturers export through merchants, and also they themselves reach out to markets to export their products. Institutes like MANTRA have a good association with the government, providing vocational training for classical and technical textiles. They help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to conduct research and training, and help them source information on the latest machines and technologies being used. They also provide the help of their lab and scientists to conduct research. The Global Fabric Resource and Research Centre (GFRRC) has a fabric library that has curated samples from over 30 countries. We want to bridge the gaps between all these and connect with the manufacturers.
Finally, a critical issue is a lack of knowledge on how to provide proper quotations to the buyers for export. Manufacturers are unaware of the taxes and tax cuts. We want to help SMEs in this field too and encourage them to export.
Have you floated the idea in the market?
SBT: We did a soft launch and have put out advertisements in newspapers. The response has been very good, and we get 3-5 inquiries every day. When we go and speak to 10 people in the market, 9 of them want to export, but eight don't have the knowledge on how to go about it. Almost 90 per cent people do not know that while exporting there is a banking channel you need to go through even if you are trading with a known person, business partner or entity abroad. If you are channelling funds directly into your account, there is a provision that requires updating the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at regular intervals under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). These are the gaps we will plug.
Which are the categories people are looking to export in?
SND: Currently, people are willing to export whatever products they have. Yarn is getting exported like nylon, polyester and other blends for making fabrics and upholstery. Globally also there are pockets that are moving into specialising in a particular category. For instance, Vietnam is into apparel export. There are a lot of international manufacturing processes that are coming into Vietnam from China since the labour is cost-effective. Bangladesh specialises in apparel as well, Turkey is into upholstery and carpets. Surat-based manufacturers of yarns and fibres export to Turkey. There is a huge potential for technical textile manufacturers to provide the base of carpets to Turkish buyers for carpet making. Opportunities there are aplenty.
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