We talked to Akshay Narvekar of Bombay Shirt Company on how to reinforce that world class quality and product design and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Akshay Narvekar: When it began happening, we realised that our priority was our workforce and the people who depend on us for their livelihood. We immediately closed down our stores and factories and made sure that people were safe. Then obviously, you worry that your family is okay too. I was worried about my parents and grandparents, but we’re very fortunate to work from home and have access to clean water, food and medical supplies. I know how lucky we are and we don’t take that for granted. I’m very grateful.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bombay Shirt Company.
Akshay Narvekar: I have a BA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I worked for four years in Strategy & Ops. at BCBG Max Azria in the US before returning to India. In India, I completed my MBA from the Indian School of Business and then worked for Everstone Capital Private Equity before founding BSC.
I built Bombay Shirt Company purely out of a personal need. A need for good quality shirts at reasonable prices that could be custom made to your exact size. At that time, I saw a gap in the market where there was no one creating custom made shirts online, and I saw an opportunity to build a brand around this.
Over the past eight years, we’ve grown from an online e-commerce business to an omnichannel brand with an online presence and brick and mortar stores across India and Dubai and New York.
How does Bombay Shirt Company innovate?
Akshay Narvekar: There has never been a blueprint for a custom-made supply chain at scale. Over the last eight years, we’ve made mistakes, iterated and learnt from them. Over time, we now have a thorough understanding of the appropriate production model vis-a-vis the business or category’s scale at a given time. Whether that means building out the manufacturing units, outsourcing production, automation, or a hybrid hub and spoke model, we can plug-in potential manufacturers and suppliers that can fulfil production operations irrespective of quantities. Our raw materials get on a just-in-time basis, and we have algorithms that are applicable across all categories.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Akshay Narvekar: There’s no doubt that we’ve been affected by a demand perspective due to the lockdown and the work from a home shift. However, we’ve quickly evolved to launch brands within categories more suited to these times – like denim and basics (tee shirts, sweatpants etc.) which we built using our existing platform.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Akshay Narvekar: When I get stressed, I need to disconnect. I put down my phone, close my laptop, take a few deep breaths and play a round of Xbox. That seems to help, and then I’m ready to go again.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Akshay Narvekar: Everybody and nobody. We’re trying to build something new. Of course, you see brands that launch, and you admire their collections or their attention to detail or their resources. But overall, we’re just pleased that fashion is finally having this long-overdue conversation about sustainability.
Over the past eight years, we’ve worked to build a platform that can house multiple brands and leverage the same technology and data stack, automated supply chain and our online and offline distribution channels that we’ve already created.
I believe that retail’s future lies in a tech-enabled, multi-brand platform with an ethical supply chain.