of the week!!
Being a Sindhi, I was exposed to entrepreneurship right from birth. All my family and most of my extended family were entrepreneurs. Some very successful ones. Most Notably: Gopal Vazirani of WMI Cranes and Dinesh Vazirani of Saffron Art. But business never excited me. I had one dream. Being a pilot. It was the only thing I ever wanted to be.
I was in Std. 10, when my father’s business of exporting scarves started to tank. And boy it tanked, at a blinding pace. Suddenly we faced a situation where a business of over 20 years had tanked within months. The entry of China in our primary export market of Iran, the change of fashion in the Iranian market from Indian scarves to Turkish scarves meant that we were kicked out of a market which we had dominated for years. Unfortunately, we were not prepared, a bit for such a situation. Lack of Funds became an issue, which would now dominate and shape my life for years to come.
I no longer thought about what I wanted to become. I now wanted to help my father to get things back on track. The toll it was taking on our lives was getting heavy by the day. But the Scarf business was beyond repair. All our eggs were in one basket, and we were paying a heavy a price for that.
One thing my father really does well is design and he has tremendous knowledge about printing. We had to use this expertise in some form, if we were to start something afresh.
One uneventful night, after dinner, we were all watching TV. There was this segment on Leather Bags on a news channel, when my dad asked me as to why were there no prints on the leather handbags, why were they just plain. Just dyed in different colors? Well I had no answer. I had never even keenly observed a handbag before.
Next day, we went about Dharavi leather market, to find an answer to his question…Over the next few days, we extensively surveyed all the branded and unbranded bag shops in Mumbai and we finally concluded that there was no technique for multi-color, scratch – proof printing on leather!!
My father set about trying to find a way. All the little funds we had, were invested in this experiment. The experiment did succeed, he did manage to develop a way to print on leather, but it took a good two years.
It was a huge breakthrough. We were elated. But during this period we also learnt that there were two other international companies already doing such type of printing. Were are printing techniques the same? I can’t say for sure, but the results were the same. However, we were doing something right, that brought our prices down to less than 1/10th to what they were asking for printing.
So even though, we were not the first movers in the space, we were the only one’s in India and probably the cheapest company doing such a process in the world. The future seemed bright. The applications seemed endless from fashion bags to footwear to furniture. We decided to focus on Handbags.
Marketing ladies bags!
Due to my lack of technical printing knowledge, I could not help out in the development of this process but I was determined, id help him market it. I had a lot of confidence in the product. I was sure I could sell it. So at the age of about 17, I started to market Ladies leather handbags to various companies. A far cry from my pilot dream, but that’s what the situation demanded. Armed with a list of companies from Google, I started to tap leads. I had no time to get training, and had to learn on the field itself. It was a question of survival.
I approached a lot of companies/shops ranging from the shops at Dharavi to companies like TATA International, Metro Shoes, The Bombay Store, and Shoppers Stop. Each company/shop, and the experience I’ve had with them, is an interesting story in itself.
But to summarize a long story in short, I did see some success, but it was not enough to remain sustainable. We were barely surviving despite having a unique product. The common grouse was that the End product was too expensive for an unknown label for the Indian Consumer.
My bags ranged between 2000-4000. Whereas similar bags abroad, ranged upwards of 300 USD!! Most companies did understand this, but ultimately what everyone considered were the sales figures at the end of the month.
A lot of people suggested us to use the same technique on Synthetic leather, so that retail prices could come down. But we were adamant to target not to “degrade” ourselves to synthetic materials, we wanted to operate only in the “Genuine/Authentic Leather” market. It was, in hindsight, a stupid decision not to adapt as per the market.
The Change –Part II
I finished graduation and still our financial woes were very much ongoing. Survival was getting tougher by the day. Finally, to stay afloat, we decided to make the switch to Synthetic Leather to bring down our prices and tap a vast market of Gujarati and Jain customers who would otherwise not touch our products.
We sold off our ancestral house, so that we could fund the business well. For the first time in years, we had seen some surplus funds in the liquid form. I was given the option to make an exit, pursue an MBA and get a safe job.
In what has probably been the toughest decision for me yet, I decided against an MBA, as I knew, that though we had little bit of capital now, it was very limited. Not enough to comfortably fund both my education and the business. Besides, I still considered, this printing on leather and synthetic leather techniques to have tremendous scope and scalability. It would just require more time, commitment and effort from my end.
This decision proved to be very costly on the personal front. It was one of the primary reasons the girl I loved, lost faith in me. She decided it was best to part ways and left after a stable period of 5 years.
I’m now 23 and travel to various parts of the country, still doing the same thing- selling printed ladies handbags. But now, in synthetic leather. This time I’ve been a little more successful in my efforts. It’s been just 6 months since I’ve started to tour the country and we are now close to being a sustainable venture. The new price points of handbags ranging between 700-2000 have become an instant hit. “Vaz” handbags are now available in over 7 cities across the country. My bags have recently been launched on Myntra and will be rolling out by the end of May on Amazon India, Snapdeal and Shopclues. Offline you can find my handbags at The Bombay stores, Sapna Book House amongst others.
Now that sustainability is close to being achieved, im now aiming to create an offline presence in every state in the country along with a brand recall value for our products in the market.
Biggest Lesson learnt:
If you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! (From Rocky Balboa)
wow. what a story. and you are all of 23!!
you’re gonna go very very far in life!
karan – do u have a website? do add the link.
and if you ever think of starting a facebook store (i know you mentioned u want to expand offline) – do get in touch with nameet potnis of sellmojo – https://www.therodinhoods.com/profile/NameetPotnis
Having started out as early too, its a great feeling to be able to do your own thing, meet people and get the business off the ground! Loved reading your story! Good luck with the Marketplace integration, that should really help you ramp up sales.
Amazon and Snapdeal drive pretty good sales! Check if you want to integrate with Jabong too, they require certain documentation, but I have heard that its worth the effort.
If you need any help, do ping me. Happy to help
Thank you for your Kind words. I do have a website ,but its not upto date . You can instead have a look at my facebook page : Vaz . I update it from time to time.
I did try creating a webstore and facebook store about a year back. Roped in a partner for the technical knowledge i lacked, but things didnt work out and everything fizzled out. That’s why my website etc is not upto date. But now that im back to selling online via Myntra etc. I hope to get those plans back on track as well 🙂
Thanks and regards,
Have already approached Flipkart and Jabong. Havent yet heard back from Jabong, whereas Flipkart has asked for further details for consideration . Fingers crossed , hoping for the best !!
Will definitely ping for advice/help. Thanks !
Ranga Prakash S
Hi Karan Vaz!
Thank you for the inspirational article,
it would help us grow as an entrepreneur,
and I know many would agree. I wish Good Speed and Great Success
Please keep writing such articles, this stuff is amazing! And the bags are an Awe.
Thank you sir. All the very best to you too,in your endeavors
Simply wow! 🙂 Agree with Asha, I really think you’ll go very far in life. Best wishes.
Thanks Rishi !! Wish you the same 🙂
awesome story karan bhai 🙂
I am karan and sindhi too – karan ahuja 🙂
karan i kinda messed the top of your post!!!
That’s Unexpected!! But feels nice. Thank you 🙂
Brilliant story..i felt i am reading a success story of some millionaire..more power to u:)
Story of Grit. Good luck brother.
Whenever I am low .. I don’t know form where these kind of post or blog comes up to me and gives me another boosting 🙂 .. Great Bro..
Feeling I am also not alone to face same love ditch. 😉
The bottom line was perfect to end the post. And love can come again 🙂
Amazing story karan. Wish your more success.
Awesome Bags. The moment you mentioned Myntra, I left it there and checked them 🙂
Thanks for sharing with us this journey of yours.. Just 23??? You would nail it and I think you are already on that path!
All the best Karan.
Millionaire !! Hahaha
Not yet. Hopefully Soon 🙂
Glad you liked it.
Glad it could motivate you 🙂
But i wouldn’t call my experience a love ditch. The very fact that she was there in my life during such a troubled time ,is something i cannot ever discount. Just wanted to put that straight
Thank you. Best wishes to you too
Happy you liked the write up. But, im more happy because you liked my bags !!
Best Wishes to you too 🙂
Thank you Satish. Wish you the same 🙂
Thank you 🙂
Manish Singh Bisht
Dude, I feel you in many aspects! Keep up the good work! Way to go!
Best wishes to you too !
Kudos to you for sustaining through the tough phase. Yours is a story worth reading and sharing. Do talk to me if you plan to launch your offline presence in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Being a week old start-up into Brand Management & Consulting, [ I ] have all the time, need and willingness to help myself understand Client/Brand requirements. And an enthusiastic brain ready to be raked hard for new ideas.
All the best !!
Andhra is definitely a place im wanting to come !! Its not the next on my list but, definitely soon. Will ping you when i make some concrete plans.
Cheers & Best wishes 🙂
You are a nice inspiration 🙂 Having gone through tough times myself during starting up, I can identify with this. Wish you lots and lots of success and good things! I know technology part decently, if you need any help, would be glad to chat. Good luck.
Good luck to you too , in your endeavors.
And thank you for the kind words.
amazing journey for someone so young. You certainly will go far, Karan. All the very best.
Thanks Rohit. Stay Blessed 🙂
Karan, I think you forgot to mention the moment when you won a national level B-Plan competition called Mashup and your idea of printing on leather was validated by investors. I feel your idea is very unique and you are a hustler. Success is closer than you think 🙂
Yeah that too happened along the way. (Ended up 2nd actually)A cherished moment personally,and will always be.
how are things in handbagland??
i think of you every time i go looking out for “the perfect handbag” (which is very often!!)
do update us on your awesome journey!!
Things are progressing well. Entered into Flipkart about 40-45 days ago ! Stumbled in negotiations with jabong…So ups & downs & lots of learning along the way is happening.
Spent diwali today , travelling to pune & back on my new project of developing hand carving on leather & will later combine these carvings with my printing designs .Im sure , there is no such product available anywhere( Sneak peek of gents wallet designs we made today-Rough cuts)
Wish you , your family & the TRH Team a very Joyous festive season !!
Will pen down more experiences soon 🙂
PS : The July Openhouse was one of the best ive been to ,so far … Eagerly waiting for the next one !!Keep up the great work. Tc
Read your story earlier but never commented on it. Dude, you are inspiring! Keep it up and here’s another angle for you – do market your bags to vegans and Jains… they never use leather. (The stricter Jains). All the vegans I know use faux leather or cloth – so attack those facebook pages – do one thing, add me on Facebook and inbox me … will let you know all the sites… 🙂 All the best!
Thank you for your Kind words. I am glad the article has inspired you !!
I do not specifically target Jains/ Vegans.
Presently i am just targetting stores/chains in good catchment areas irrespective of the communities around it.
But your suggestion definitely gives me an added arsenal to my armory. So would love more info on the same !
Have already sent you a request on FB
P.S : Happy New Year 🙂
long time no word. we need an update from you!
happy b’day karan!
looking fwd to the story after this….!!
really awaiting your next post updating us on the journey thereafter 🙂
Good Morning Asha !
Good to hear from you . Hope you had a great diwali .
As far as my journey is concerned,post this article, im in a phase, where business has been good.
But scaling up has been very challenging. So presently working to achieve scale.
Its the quiet “grind and grow” phase for now.
Do keep in touch !