Knowledge, Excellence, Network Is Ken’s Secret Of Success

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Nikunj Bagdia, Director, Ken Enterprises
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Tell us how your company has transformed over the years to its present form?
Ken Enterprises Private Limited is a second generation family-owned textile business that was started in Ichalkaranji in the year 1976 as a partnership firm by my father Late Shri Hariprasadji Bagdia. After undergoing many transformations over the years, it has morphed into its current structure about eight years back. The company started off with manufacturing and selling of dhotis, then moved on to branded low-cost school uniforms and related fabrics in 1980s and after numerous technological upgradations it established its present state-of-the-art airjet weaving facility in Ichalkaranji in the end of 2013. Thereafter there has been no looking back and the company has grown 10 times in the last eight years and also bagged the Texprocil awards on the way.

In our quest to create value for the stakeholders and to scale up, we decided to enter the apparel manufacturing business about two years back. However, the pandemic last year completely threw our plans out of gear. The plant commissioning got delayed by over six months with major cost overruns. But there was no looking back and we persisted ahead with our plans and doubled our bets. We have created an absolutely state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, fully compliant with international requirements and with certifications like Sedex, GOTS, RCS, OCS and others. We have built a training school for training 100% operators in-house and benchmarking us against the best practises of manufacturers from Sri Lanka and Vietnam. We already are working in the domestic market with Amazon, Myntra, Nykaa, Van Heusen, Shoppers Stop and soon will be starting exports as well. We are creating a single stop design to delivery solution for the brands. Hopefully apparel will be our growth engine going forward.

What is the secret of Ken’s consistent growth and success?
I think building a good team, relentless focus on customer satisfaction and ability to consistently learn, grow and adapt to newer ways of working have helped us stay the course. Our company name KEN is the acronym for Knowledge, Excellence, Network. We apply these three simple attributes to our daily business practises. First is to apply Knowledge to every task, deal or transaction that is carried out. Second create and build Excellence in everything we do. Finally spread our Network – of relationships and goodwill.

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You won two Texprocil awards this year. How did you achieve this in a market that was difficult even before the pandemic?
We have been very lucky to have been recognised with Texprocil awards for three years. Especially considering that our exports started in the third quarter of 2014-15 and we have got the recognition in our first full year of exports in 2015-16. Also, we feel proud of our team to have achieved this consistently coming from the decentralized manufacturing hub of Ichalkaranji, not known till then for direct exports.

  • Year 2015-16 – Gold Plaque for highest grey fabric exports from India (Category I)
  • Year 2018-19 – Silver Plaque for highest grey fabric exports from India (Category I)
  • Year 2018-19 – Gold Award for highest employment generation in MSME units
  • Year 2019-20 – Silver Plaque for highest grey fabric exports from India (Category I)
  • Year 2019-20 – Gold Award for highest employment generation in MSME units

We also got recognised by the government of Maharashtra for second highest textile exports from MSME in the state for the year 2016-17.
The award this year was for our export performance in 2019-20, just before start of the pandemic. In fact we lost out 3% of export sales that were to be done in the last week of March due to sudden lockdown. Nevertheless, last year has generally been good for all the exporters across the sectors aided by local lockdowns, crash of prices locally leading to better realisations in the export markets. We made the most of the challenging situation by keeping our team motivated, engaging with the customers intensively and were the first manufacturing unit in the region to start operations on 22nd April itself generating trust and comfort for the customers as well as the team members. Also, we ensured that the Covid-19 protocols were judiciously followed to the extent possible. We distributed homeopathy antidote vials on monthly basis to all the team members and their families. Fortunately, during the pandemic, newer markets like EU and Brazil opened up for us.

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What would you say are your advantages and obstacles of operating in a cluster dominated by the unorganised sector?
Typically the advantage of operating in a cluster is low capex to start the business and very little learning curve as the eco system is very strong to get you off the mark immediately. We have been able to grow the business essentially because of the Ichalkaranji cluster’s strong manufacturing base. However, the same cluster approach also becomes the biggest obstacle in terms of mindset and fragmented manufacturing capacities. We can take advantage of the cluster manufacturing capacities if we invest in team building, marketing, processes and most important of all – quality control.

How do you see markets panning out in 2021 and 2022?
2021 has already exposed us to the vagaries of nature and the raging second wave has hit our plans out of the park. I think this year will generally remain very volatile with no clear direction but businesses will start rebuilding and recovering the lost ground for solid growth going ahead in 2022.

As a young texpreneur and technocrat, what is your view of the Indian textile industry. What are the two most important changes that you would like to see in this industry?
The textile industry offers vast opportunities and I strongly believe that successful textile industry stories like Vardhaman, Welspun, Indocount, D’décor, Lux, Jockey, etc need to be told. The industry in general lacks inspiration and dynamism. Though we do have islands of excellence amongst ourselves within the industry.

The one thing that strongly needs to change are the archaic labour laws which doesn’t let the industry scale up to global standards. It is just too overwhelming to scale up a labour intensive business in India. Let’s just learn from our neighbour, Bangladesh. They have overtaken India in per capita GDP in just four decades of focus on only one industry – apparel manufacturing.

The second change needs to come from the entrepreneurs in creating the right growth mindset and to increase the pie for all the stakeholders and not only focus on personal wealth.

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What are your goals and targets for the next two years? What are the next steps to achieve these goals?
While the fabric business continues to grow at a steady pace, the focus is on scaling the apparel business 3x in the next two years. We are investing very heavily in HR, training, building robust processes and organization structure and a very strong, young and dynamic team. Further a lot of effort is being put to build a strong IT backbone to manage the very high variables that this business presents. The focus is also on building the design capability in-house using the best in class technology like 3D imaging and virtual simulation.

One important thing I would like to highlight is the availability of qualified and experienced manpower locally due to massive reverse migration to smaller towns like Kolhapur and nearby places on account of the Covid pandemic across the world. This phenomenon has greatly helped us in building our teams.

Your message to the younger generation that is hesitant to work in this industry?
I do think the industry is ripe for disruption and is waiting for newer generation to lead it to greater heights. We are only bringing in the industry specific, age-old thinking to the textile industry rather than looking at it from a completely new perspective. Like our PM put it, we have the biggest advantage of 3 D’s – Demographics, Demand and Democracy. We need to bring in design thinking to lead the industry to a much higher orbit.

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