Campus Sutra: Creating Apparels and Accessories for Indian Youth

Campus Sutra is looking at becoming a $100-million brand by 2020 and plans to open offline stores soon.

Campus Sutra is an online, on-trend fashion brand for the youth based in Bangalore. Founded in 2013, it was originally started by sister duo Khushboo and Sonal Agarwal who were later joined by their brother Aditya, and Khushboo’s husband, Dhiraj. Campus Sutra is a youth brand for apparels and accessories based on a slice of life of a young person in India. It designs apparels and accessories that on-campus youngsters in India can identify with. The company offers its customers 'college stream-based' T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, jerseys, bags, mugs, backpacks, and a lot more. The streams covered include management, engineering, medical, science, arts, law, techies, accountants, sports, music, cricket, and more. Its customer is the average 18 to 25 year-old who is aspirational and looking to express themselves with apparel that resonates their personalities. The range of cool, trendy merchandise is designed to reflect the unique aspirations of today’s generation.

Campus Sutra is the largest bootstrapped brand in the Indian apparel industry and has grown from revenues of Rs 1.65 crore in FY 2013 to Rs 16 crore and Rs 40 crore in FY2014 and FY2015; the company is on track to reach revenues of Rs 100 crore on the back of expansion in the range and other exciting plans. The venture has scaled from being focused exclusively on custom merchandise to offering an entire range of apparel and accessories based on a slice-of-life for young Indians. The initial investment in the company was $1 million and a further $2 million has been raised from financial institutions.

Challenges and opportunities

In running a bootstrapped firm, one of the biggest challenges that one has to face is to establish credibility of the organization among stakeholders. For a funded company, the credibility may come with investment and the investors backing it, but for a bootstrapped company, the founders' vision needs to come through and translate into something that stakeholders can trust. This perhaps was the biggest challenge that Campus Sutra faced as well.

However, the company also stands out from others in the field, in a number of ways. While most players in the industry focus on front-end metrics like revenue growth, repeat purchase clicks etc., Campus Sutra considers back-end metrics like inventory turnover ratio, sell-through rate, and time to market etc., key to its business.The company’s inventory turnover ratio is 45 to 60 days (compared to 6 to 9 months average for the industry). Campus Sutra takes just 21 days from design to market stage, against the industry norm of 12 months. It is also the largest youth college product range online currently.

Campus Sutra has challenged the conventional way in which an apparel brand is built here in India. The design philosophy of most brands in India is limited to showcasing the brand logo in an innovative manner or ending up replicating designs that are relevant to developed countries. Online fashion businesses in India have been excessively focused on the “ONLINE” component and have paid too little attention to the “FASHION BUSINESS” component of the venture. Fashion business world over are built predominantly on 2 platforms – back-end innovation and design differentiation. With the advent of e-commerce, the channel end of the business has become equally important. Campus Sutra believes that the competencies that the company is building in back end design will be the key success factor. This is also perhaps the key differentiating factor when it comes to competition.

Market size and focus

Campus Sutra is currently working with a gross margin of 30% and has broken even in the first year of its existence. The company has also initiated work on building proprietary offline distribution channels. The current market size is $4 billion and expected to be $20 billion by 2020. Campus Sutra is growing at 300% and is hopeful of maintaining this exponential rate for the next 2 years.

All products sold by Campus Sutra are manufactured under its own label through its network of manufacturers in Ludhiana, Tirupur, Kolkata, and Mumbai in India, and China and Bangladesh internationally. Using online channel as the primary distribution network, Campus Sutra ships 5,000 orders/day.

What the future holds

Campus Sutra aims to be known for its innovations as a company and achieve “cult” status among the target audience. Product innovation is a big focus area for the company. While Campus Sutra continues to bring designs that resonate with the audience, it is also committed to bringing to the market a range of apparel and accessories built around a young person’s lifestyle.The company will continue to push the envelope when it comes to truly optimizing the potential in the segment it addresses. Campus Sutra is looking at becoming a $100-million brand by 2020 and plans to open offline stores soon.

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