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Fabindia: Transforming the Indian Handicraft Sector

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India is rich in art and culture and this richness reflects in the handloom and handicraft products made by Indian artisans. With the boom in e-commerce, Indian handicrafts have found a great marketing platform. But this wasn't always the case. From the steep decline in demand for handicrafts during the British colonial rule to the inability of artisans to find a proper marketing channel, the Indian handicraft sector suffered a lot. However, the situation didn't remain the same.

In 1960, John Bissell, an American gentleman, realized the potential of Indian handicrafts and decided to start 'Fabindia'. Today, Fabindia has 327 stores across 118 cities of India and 14 international stores.

Fabindia - Company Highlights

  • Company Name-Fabindia
  • Headquarters-New Delhi
  • Founder-John Bissell
  • Sector-Textile, Home furnishings, Handloom, Jewellery & Lifestyle
  • Founded-1960
  • Parent Organization-Fabindia Overseas Private Limited
  • Website-www.fabindia.com

Fabindia - Latest News

9th September 2021 - Fabindia plans to raise up to $1 billion from IPO and has hired five investment banks ICICI Securities, SBI Capital Markets, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Nomura, to help the ethnic wear retailer raise between $750 million and $1 billion, two people familiar with the development said.

1st August 2021 - Fabindia has launched a millennial mindset driven brand called FabNU—a collection of sustainable, playful, affordable western wear intended for the younger mindset. The first launch comprises four flows namely Indie Dreams, Flashback, Conversation Starter and Folkadelic.

About Fabindia

Fabindia is one of the largest private platforms in India for the sale of handicraft goods and deals in clothing, accessories, home furnishing, beauty, and organic food products. It links over 55,000 rural artisans to urban markets, preserving the Indian traditional skill sets while promoting sustainable rural development. Garments sold by Fabindia are handwoven and manufactured from hand-printed fabrics; the company gives an aesthetic appeal to customers through its products. The products sold by Fabindia are classified as fully organic, in-conversion and natural.

William Bissell speaks about how he constructed a huge platform in India for traditional products

In 2009, Fabindia acquired a 25% stake in 'EAST' a UK-based women ethnic wear retailer. In 2013, Fabindia bought a 40% stake in 'India Organic', a Lucknow-based organic food and supplement company.

In 2014, it launched its western wear segment called “Fables”. Fabindia claims to be a social enterprise as it renders employment to rural workers for various projects. The "Fabindia School", located in Rajasthan, is an eminent initiative taken by the company. It was started in the year 1992 and aims to provide quality education.

Fabindia - Founders & Team

Fabindia was founded by John Bissell in the year 1960.

John Bissell 

John Bissell, a resident of Hartford (USA), came to India in 1958 when he was given a 2-year grant from the Ford Foundation. He was required to guide and advise the Central Cottage Industries Corporation (run by the Government of India) in making goods for export. John had affection for India as he grew up hearing stories about the nation from his father who was in India during World War II. During his stay in India, his love grew further. John realized that the Indian textile industry was capable of reaching unforeseen heights. After the end of his project with the Ford Foundation, John Bissell decided to stay back in India and started Fabindia. Fabindia was launched as an export company for exporting home furnishing. In 1993, John suffered from a heart attack which led his son William Bissell to take over the management of Fabindia. John Bissell passed away in 1998.

William Bissell

William Bissell was the managing director of Fabindia until 2018. Later became the chairman of Fabindia. He graduated in 1988 from Wesleyan University in the United States. Bissell has investments in various sectors; some of them are ‘Wow! Momo’ and Juggernaut Books.

Viney Singh is the CEO of Fabindia. The company has around 2000 employees along with 55,000 rural workers. The main directors of Fabindia are Madhukar Khera, Monsoon Bissell, Vijai Kumar Kapoor, William Sean Sovak, Charu Sharma, Monika Uppal, Prakash Parthasarathy, Rahul Garg, Tekkethalakal Kurien, Vinita Bali, and Yoav Lev. Yoav Lev was recently appointed as a director in August 2018. Fabindia is associated with 29 different companies through its directors.

Fabindia - History

Fabindia started out as an exporter of home furnishing goods. Fabindia founder John Bissell began the business from his flat in Golf Links (New Delhi). The company was incorporated as 'Fabindia Inc.' in Canton (USA).

Bissell travelled through many villages and towns in India in search of artisans and craftsmen who would produce goods for the company. He then started exporting the products to the USA. However, Fabindia's entry into retailing stemmed from a crisis. During 1975-1976, when the state of emergency was declared in India by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a rule was passed whereby commercial establishments were barred from operating in residential premises.

Fabindia had a secondary premise at that time which was a residential house in Mathura Road, and owing to the new regulation, John Bissell could no longer operate from there. To tackle this, John opened Fabindia's first retail store in Greater Kailash, New Delhi. And this was the beginning of a new journey. Till 1994, the company did not open any new retail store. New outlets were launched gradually in different parts of India and in other countries.

Fabindia - Tagline & Logo

The name ‘Fabindia’ is representative of the fact that the company retails only Indian fabrics and other Indian products. The tagline of Fabindia was “Celebrate India” which has now been changed to “Serving India” and highlights the company's focus on the welfare of Indian artisans and on making traditional Indian handicraft products an essential part of people's lives.

Fabindia - Growth & Revenue

Fabindia Overseas is planning to raise $1 billion through an IPO.

For the fiscal ended 2020, when the pandemic was in its beginning phase, the net profit was at Rs 34 crore or a decline of 66% from Rs 101 crore for FY19. These numbers are at a consolidated level and revenue growth has not been impressive either - between 2018 and 2020, it grew by just 13% to a tad over Rs 1,500 crore.

The flagship store of Fabindia was established at Greater Kailash in the year 1976, which was the only retail store till 1994. Fabindia's presence expanded to 141 stores by the year 2011. The company currently operates 327 stores in 118 different cities of India along with 14 international stores. It has around 2000 employees, including contracted staff. The company offers equal job opportunities for men and women.

Fabindia - Funding & Investors

Fabindia founder John Bissell's grandmother left him $20,000 as a legacy before her death, and this money was used by John as the initial capital to start his business.

As far as funding is concerned, Fabindia has raised a total of $14.6 million in funding with its latest Private Equity round in May 2019 from Lighthouse Funds. The company also got private equity investments from Ajim Premji's 'Premji Invest'. L Capital had an 8% stake in Fabindia, which it sold to Premji Invest in 2016.

In 2007, Fabindia also sold a 6% stake for approximately $11 million to Wolfensohn Capital Partners, a private equity firm founded by former World Bank president James Wolfensohn.

Fabindia - Business Model

Fabindia focuses on Direct Supply Chain Management, which also forms the base of its business model. The company not only source its products directly from the artisans but has also taken those artisans on board as shareholders of the company. No goods are returned to the suppliers even if the goods are not up to the mark as discussed with the artisans.

Over the years, the company has been successful in creating goodwill among the rural artisans. It also arranges micro-finance for these artisans. Interestingly, as found in one case study, not all customer feedback is passed down to the artisans in order to ensure that they continue producing authentic goods.

Fabindia introduced the SRC (supply-region companies) model. As per reports, more than 12 Fabindia SRCs were operational in various regions in mid-2009. SRCs were community-owned enterprises formed in collaboration with artisans. SRCs maintained the coordination between the company (Fabindia) and the artisans of different regions. All Fabindia artisans that worked under any specific SRC collectively owned 26% of the equity of that particular SRC. 49% of the equity was held by Artisans Micro Finance (managed by Fabindia), while the rest was held by employees and private investors. SRCs also provided access to certain common facilities, artisan training, ensured that standard systems of production and delivery were followed in the region and consolidated supplies from the clusters falling under them.

However, according to some reports, the SRC model has now been diluted and the company is now focusing more on cluster development.

Fabindia - Competitors

The top competitors of Fabindia are:

  • GoodEarth
  • Stylebaaj
  • Cotton Emporium
  • Khadi Gram Udyog
  • Patanjali Ayurved
  • Cbazaar

Though it competes with the leading retailers of India, Fabindia stands out from the crowd with the largest network of exceptional artisans.

Fabindia - Awards & Achievements

Year Awards/Achievements

  • 2011 ‘Outstanding Achievement in Promotion of Cotton by a Brand’ Award – Cotton Council of India
  • 2011 Rated amongst “India’s best companies to work for” – Economic Times
  • 2010 One of the Most Innovative Models – Recognized by Monitor- Business Today survey led across industries
  • 2010 Excellence in Supply Chain Management – TIE Retail Innovation Award
  • 2009 Featured as an example of Game-Changers by Business Week magazine
  • 2008 Designated as one of India’s top marketers by Business Today magazine
  • 2004 ‘Best Retail Brand’ Award – Economic Times

Fabindia - Future Plans

As already mentioned above, Fabindia is planning to enter the capital market to raise $1 billion by selling shares to the public. The company also aims to intensify its sector of organic products by endorsing potential merits and plans to develop its international stores in near future.

“In addition to making profits, our aims are constant development of new hand-woven products, a fair, equitable and helpful relationship with our producers, and the maintenance of quality on which our reputation rests,” says William Bissell, MD of Fabindia.

Fabindia - FAQs

What is Fabindia?

Fabindia is one of the largest private platforms in India for the sale of handicraft goods and deals in clothing, accessories, home furnishing, beauty, and organic food products.

Who is the owner of Fabindia?

Fabindia was founded by John Bissell in the year 1960.

What is Fabindia Tagline?

The tagline of Fabindia was “Celebrate India” and has now been changed to “Serving India”.

Who is the CEO of Fabindia?

Viney Singh is the Director & CEO of Fabindia.

What is Fabindia's Parent Company called?

Fabindia Overseas Private Limited.

Who are the Competitors of Fabindia?

The top competitors of Fabindia are:

  • GoodEarth
  • Stylebaaj
  • Cotton Emporium
  • Khadi Gram Udyog
  • Patanjali Ayurved
  • Cbazaar

How much is the revenue of Fabindia?

For the fiscal ended 2020, when the pandemic was in its beginning phase, the net profit was at Rs 34 crore or a decline of 66% from Rs 101 crore for FY19. These numbers are at a consolidated level and revenue growth has not been impressive either - between 2018 and 2020, it grew by just 13% to a tad over Rs 1,500 crore.

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