This startup story is of a startup called Ecentric India – Hemp Clothing by Salendra Gupta in the Sustainable Fashion space. Here is the startup story of Ecentric in Salendra’s own words

Fashion is a reflection of ones’ personality. Our endeavor is to work with fabrics which are comfortable, feel good, and at the same time are eco-friendly. Fast fashion is impacting our environment and hence we want to make sustainable fashion ‘affordable’.

Industrial hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics and we would like to spearhead change towards responsible fashion by driving demand and driving the need for suitable policy changes around supply chain for industrial hemp in India.

Whats the strategy story of Salendra? What led him to Ecentric?

I have been born and brought up in Surat, my father working as a diamond merchant. Been around mostly business families, I always looked up to the thrill of starting something of my own. My younger brother is a textile engineer by education and his experience in the Indian textile industry was a starting point. His experience being a garment manufacturer himself were useful in shaping my perspective about scope in the Indian textile industry.

Read: The Torchbearers of Sustainable Fashion

My education at IIM Calcutta also influenced my keen interest in the Indian startup ecosystem and while I was working for the last 2 years at Godrej as a part of the real estate industry a colleague of mine introduced me to the hemp fabric a year back.

The irony of the situation was that being from IIM Calcutta, I was not aware of hemp being used in the textile industry. Intrigued by the use of hemp for industrial applications including textiles, I started reading up on the hemp textile industry in India and globally. The amazing benefits hemp fabric offers, its quality, look and feel while being sustainable is something that inspired me to create a sustainable fashion brand which is fashion being environment-centric hence the name ‘ecentric’.

What are the business strategies of Ecentric to grow in sustainable fashion space?

Marketing: Since we are just about 2 months old, our marketing strategy however broadly speaking is two-pronged. First, our aim is to educate potential customers about hemp fabric. The second is to focus on our ‘affordable’ and why hemp fabric is a must-have in one’s wardrobe. Digital marketing is our key focus right now.

Operation: We are a very lean team right now and all operations are handled by me directly. Since we currently source fabric from our supplier partner, our strategy is to minimize time-to-market while managing the designing, stitching, and quality-check in-house.

In Bangalore, we have selectively chosen to work with high-quality stitching units since the fabric is very new, and not many people have experience working with natural fabric which has its own challenges in terms of the technical aspects of garment manufacturing.

Cost-Conscious: Hemp fabric in India is very expensive currently with limited suppliers and hence cost has been on the higher side for us compared to linen, high-quality organic cotton. Also, since our volumes are limited and given the fabric is new we are experimenting with different styles, designs to assess what are the fabric’s strengths and weaknesses purely in terms of product categories and customer adoption, perception.

Hence, lowering our cost is an ongoing project and we are working on reducing other costs related to garment manufacturing while being eco-friendly and sustainable.

Strategy Mistakes and Learning

An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down

Reid Hoffman.

I have jumped off the cliff and as I go down now I am learning new things everyday by making a different mistake. The key here is to learn but never repeat the mistake. One of our initial approach was to focus on one e-commerce channel at a time.

The idea was that since we had limited inventory and since this was a new fabric we were expecting a certain level of response and we did not want to spread too thin. Working with any platform means there is a certain time needed to grow and we did not account for it.

Therefore, now we are open to exploring multiple online and offline channels since we need to reach a critical mass first, and only then the scale-up can begin.

Advice for entrepreneur readers

I think it is only fit for me to take advice as I am very new to entrepreneurship. However, from my limited experience, I would say it is important to dream big and despite getting your hands dirty since that is the only way to truly learn from the grounds up, it is always important to think about the big picture and always let the vision be at the back of your mind.

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