They form a unique team of founders. Dhiraj and Khushboo Agarwal are husband and wife. The other two members of the team are Aditya and Sonal, brother and sister of Khushboo. And, for all four of them, the surname is Agarwal. Each one of them is professionally qualified and each one has a clearly defined role in the company they have started — the Bengaluru-based Campus Sutra, which markets apparel and merchandise that make a statement, not just in terms of style but in terms of who you are.
“We are a youth apparel brand,” says Dhiraj, “the biggest bootstrapped in the online apparel space.” Campus Sutra’s apparel and merchandise are targeted at the 18-25 age group, that group which wants to make a statement in whatever it does. The idea was that the apparel should reflect something of what the target group does or stands for, rather than aping designs and logos from the West.
“What I mean by this is you will have designs from Bob Marley, you will have something from the Beatles, something on the Big Bang Theory or the Chicago Bulls. Lots of stuff which is not relevant to India and not relevant to their life,” says Dhiraj.
The venture, started off by Khushboo and Sonal, and which was transformed to Campus Sutra after Dhiraj and Aditya quit their corporate jobs, decided that it will create products that are relevant for people in that age group. Initially, says Dhiraj, it started off with professions. So, if somebody is studying engineering or an MBA or is a lawyer and would want to communicate that fact, the T-shirt or other apparel would reflect this fact. “We started with creating products for engineers, for doctors, for lawyers. It was a huge hit. We sold in loads,” says Dhiraj.
Apart from the vocation, Campus Sutra realised that sports and games are a big favourite in India. But, most of the stuff on sports is on football or basketball, still largely irrelevant to most Indians. Cricket is the biggest game in India, but the most anybody looking around will find is the Indian jersey. Which does not communicate anything about the game. Campus Sutra started on a range of cricket, which too was an instant hit. From there it moved to stuff like music, adventure, lifestyle, fitness. The idea being to create different products with which people can identify themselves.
The start-up has now moved beyond regular styling and designing of apparel, to rolling out new products — functional wearables. The first launch happened last month targeting the travel segment, a travel buddy. More such products are lined up.
According to Dhiraj, Campus Sutra works with vendors and sources products from Bangladesh and Vietnam, and from Ludhiana, Tiruppur, Hyderabad and Kolkata. “We have ensured that whichever hub prepares the best product, we source it from them,” says Khushboo. Campus Sutra sells through all the e-commerce marketplaces and some offline stores as well; nearly 80 per cent of its business comes online and the rest through 30 stores.
It does around 2,500 orders a day, which will translate to a turnover of ₹40 crore. The company’s record for the highest order in a single day stands at 12,000 orders.
“Ours is a business that has been built on the supply chain and sourcing,” says Dhiraj., adding that Campus Sutra takes just 21 days from the time it designs a product to the time it hits the market, against the industry norm of 12 months. It has been able to do this by completely integrating the supply chain, right from sourcing the yarn. It works with a two-month inventory against the industry norm of six-eight months.
The founders have put in about ₹3.5 crore of their own money and about ₹6.5 crore in debt. It has appointed consultant E&Y to help it raise about ₹65 crore ($10 million) from investors, which it will use in building the brand, strengthen the technology infrastructure and grow the team. This year, Campus Sutra expects to earn ₹40 crore and next year about ₹100 crore.
Started in October 2012, Dhiraj says the venture broke even long back and he asserts that they will never sell their products at a loss. “We have been very clear about this that we want to be a profitable company. We believe that being a bootstrapped venture keeps you true to your principles of business,” adds Dhiraj.
“What I mean by this is you will have designs from Bob Marley, you will have something from the Beatles, something on the Big Bang Theory or the Chicago Bulls. Lots of stuff which is not relevant to India and not relevant to their life.”