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What advantages and disadvantages have you noticed after selling your products?
There were several advantages.
1. As a consumer brand, we have much higher brand visibility than manufacturers. This not only helps in consumer engagement, but also in attracting top talent (HR) and quality vendors. We did not anticipate the power of consumer brand beyond marketing.
2. We have been approached by SME retailers in the United States of America and the European Union to foresee their production and design processes in India. We will soon be launching a separate division to cater to the needs of our clients in those regions.
3. Controlling the entire spectrum of the value chain, from procuring fabric to selling the final product to end consumer, gives us enormous insights about our consumer's buying preference, and we have the flexibility to incorporate our learning.
There were also some disadvantages.
1. It takes much longer than one anticipates, to build a fashion brand.
2. The infrastructure required for fast fashion is completely different from that of a traditional fashion brand. We tried to use the standard infrastructure, and after a few months, we gave up the standard infrastructure and decided to build a new infrastructure unique to us.
3. When it comes to education, fast fashion as a fashion category is still not mainstream. Hence, enough importance is not given to teaching fast fashion, especially at design schools such as NIFT.
4. Hiring skilled workers attuned to fast fashion is a big challenge. The mindset required for working in the fast fashion segment is very different from running a traditional fashion business. For example, a designer at a fashion house is required to do a collection of 20 to 30 styles, while a designer at a fast fashion company has to do 70 to 100 styles. The approach and the mindset completely change, and hiring people with the right value system becomes very challenging.
5. The cost of controlling the entire value chain is much higher than we anticipated.
Which five HR policies followed by your company are not very commonly practiced? What are the future plans in this direction?
We have paid a lot of attention to building our company culture. We call our company culture Uni-Culture. Some key points of Uni-Culture are:
1. No titles: Even the founders don't hold titles such as CEO, CTO etc. By removing titles, we took an extra step to remove bureaucratic hierarchy which stifles a growing organisation.
2. No HR: Yes, we are technically an anti-HR organisation. We think that if an external HR executive has to intermediate between a manager and the subordinate, then there is a serious breakdown of communication within the entire organisation.
3. Clear reporting structure.
4. Employee dispute resolution is not done by the recruiter or HR, but directly by the department head.
5. Office environment is fun and casual, but we have strict deadlines and office hours.
What has been your growth percentage in the last two years?
We launched in December 2014 and in the last six months, we have more than doubled sales.
What new plans are on the anvil?
We are soon launching Unicolr Supplier Group (USG). We will open-source our infrastructure of fast fashion to other retailers in the United States of America and in Europe. They will provide us the tech pack and specifications, and we will get the manufacturing done for them. Our combined manufacturing capacity is over 10 million SKUs per month.
The idea is driven by the changing approach of retailers in matured markets, where they now prefer to have a brand-to-brand conversation and eliminate the middle-men. We think we are in the right place --- India --- and at the right time to pursue this opportunity.
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