AKS Clothings, a start-up Indian ethnic brand was founded by Ms. Nidhi Yadav, a young, energetic inspirational designer & entrepreneur. She started AKS when she was 25 in a small warehouse of less than a thousand units and today, AKS headquarter is located in the Millennium City of India, Gurugram, and has an integrated network of printing, dyeing, stitching, and manufacturing units in the Pink City, Jaipur.

When Nidhi launched AKS, she ensured launching 15-20 new styles every two weeks. Today it has about 150 new styles every month, and a customer repeat rate of 35 per cent. AKS provides contemporary ethnic wear at an affordable price for women, Kids & Men’s. Today, the brand is available on Nyka fashion,Ajio, Jabong, Flipkart, and AKS’s own website. The company also ships products across India, Singapore, and Malaysia. It also has a couple of offline stores in Nagaland.

Nidhi Yadav spoke with the Textile Value Chain in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts:
You have built AKS Clothings from a scratch. Tell us about the early years of growth.

The stories behind clothing labels have always aroused my attention. So, while studying fashion design in Italy, I looked at the business models of several well-known fashion firms. Inspired by their success, I decided to emulate it in AKS, a Yuvdhi Apparels company, in May 2014 with a bit of seed capital of Rs.3.5 lakh. AKS began in a modest warehouse with only a few thousand units.

The only purpose was to inject comfort into the everyday needs of a new generation of women by bringing fresh fusion  themes to the ethnic wear industry. The process of constant expansion and implementing the newest business practices to serve clients continues, thanks to our highly skilled management team. We’ve grown to a turnover of Rs.200 crore and presently serve over a lakh consumers every month without any outside funding. We want to raise Rs.500 crore shortly.

When did the company really take off? Give us details of its growth.
Aks is steadily flourishing; it has skyrocketed since we increased our apparel ranges. It’s also because we’ve made ourselves available across all digital channels. Because our brand is exclusively available digitally, accessibility across numerous devices was a must for us to reach a wider audience. In terms of industry growth, we’ve expanded by five per cent.

What is your brand building strategy?
At AKS, we strive to provide fashion that is appropriate for the fast-changing times while maintaining high-quality standards and affordable prices. Since its beginning, the company has advocated for women’s empowerment and has already established a specific section for women to help them find better jobs. More than half of the outsourced businesses that work with AKS are either created or headed by women.

How did you manage the tough times of Covid in the last two years?
During the initial lockdown, there were several difficulties. However, we were able to keep our daily wage workers engaged by providing them with consistent employment. During the first lockdown, we created PPE kits and masks. It assisted us in keeping the manufacturing process running during the pandemic. We recalled our personnel in staggered shifts even after  the lockout during the unlocking phases to preserve social distance standards.

We had all of our resources accessible for work during the second shutdown, which helped us retain. The textiles and raw materials, on the other hand, were a hurdle. As a result, we came up with the concept of upcycling our waste textiles into children’s clothes. This collection was always on our minds back then, but it wasn’t a top priority for us. The second lockdown, on the other hand, provided us with a boost since we needed to engage personnel. As a result, we began working on the children’s collection on June 1st and completed it in just one month. It was, as expected, difficult, but we’re delighted we did it since it turned out to be a big success.

The covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on consumer behaviour. They now place a greater emphasis on internet enterprises, and they believe that some platforms and brands provide real, high-quality, and cost-effective items. Because demand was growing and output was slowing, the key issue for us was to increase product production. It was difficult to boost output while preserving social distance at work. So, to address this issue, we increased our supplier base, which aided us in combating the problem.

What are your achievements in domestic and export markets?
The process of selecting a raw material supplier is not difficult, but it is also not straightforward. To be honest, it’s a lengthy and time-consuming procedure. Initially, we sourced our raw materials from Jaipur, Maharashtra, and small areas of Surat, Odisha, and Banaras; however, we have now expanded our raw material sourcing to include more States. From the beginning till now, we at AKS Clothing have been delivering our products throughout India.

How do you see the next few years? What are the plans for expansion & diversification?
In near future, we aspire to become one of the topmost leading E-commerce platforms in the entire country. This time, we’ll concentrate on our direct-to-consumer (D2C) and franchise models. Apart from that, for our Maternity and Nursing line, we recently partnered with Neha Dhupia. We aimed to be the market leader in ethnic women’s apparel, and the entire team of AKS is working around the clock to achieve this goal. Our major objective in this regard is to increase market penetration through MBOs and e-portals, and we expect some pretty fantastic outcomes.

We’re planning to bring more celebrity collections in the future. Initially, Aks focused on women’s fashion labels, but we are now expanding to include products for all members of the family. In terms of future goals, we want to make AKS a comprehensive women’s apparel brand in modern trends, and to make that a reality, we’ll use MBOs and Franchisees to expand the brand’s market penetration. In-house manufacturing is also a high priority for us in the future. In five years, I hope to see AKS among India’s top ten garment brands. We’ll go further into the country’s most popular e-commerce platform. This time, we’ll be concentrating on B2C as well as the franchise model. Aside from that, we’re working on a unique collection in collaboration with celebrities. Celebrity-inspired collections are also in the pipeline.

At AKS, we strive to provide fashion that is appropriate for the fast-changing times while maintaining high-quality standards and at affordable prices. Since its establishment, the company has advocated for women’s empowerment, and has already established a specific section for women to help them find better jobs. More than half of the outsourced businesses that work with AKS are either created or headed by women.

Ethnic wear: How do you rate its growth in India & abroad?
The Indian ethnic wear sector is one such industry that has seen significant progress in recent years. The level of accomplishment that this sector has attained is remarkable. Even now, it’s flourishing like crazy. People’s lifestyles in India have altered dramatically in recent years and continue to do so. In tandem with this, the Indian ethnic wear business is introducing a slew of improvements to the design patterns and styles of various ethnic wear. Even if urbanisation and globalisation have brought about a lot of change in today’s wearing style, ethnic wears continue to be in high demand. The explanation for this is simple: in India, most women adhere to traditional beliefs, which is why they favour ethnic clothing. Indian ethnicity is highly distinct, and in today’s world, not only Indians but others from all over the world value it.

What are your messages for new entrepreneurs, industry and the government? 
The most important motivation is to continually challenge yourself in order to attain your objectives. Running a business requires a lot of time, but the only way to be happy in life is to pursue work that you truly care about. Please don’t be afraid of failing since we never know what will happen unless we try. Believe in your ability to achieve, and you’ll find a method to
overcome challenges. Keep in mind, my entrepreneur friends, that most overnight triumphs take a long time to achieve, so don’t be scared to put work into your business.

In the future, sustainability will be a big trend in the fashion business. Consumers are growing more sensitive to Mother Nature, which has pushed firms to implement environmentally responsible practices. While worldwide designers and retailers have begun to choose the sustainable way, I propose and recommend that my other industry companions follow suit. Also, the government should surely aim to implement some efforts that the sector should take to stay on the sustainable path and guarantee that there is no waste at the end of the lifecycle by allowing shipping expenses to be compensated with carbon credits.