Kamal Khushlani, Founder & Md, Mufti (Credo Brands Ltd.) Kamal Khushlani, Founder & Md, Mufti (Credo Brands Ltd.)
From carrying fabric on his motorbike to his workshop, to becoming a brand to reckon with in the apparel industry, Kamal Khushlani, Founder and Managing Director of Credo Brands Ltd., the mind and heart behind the Mufti brand, has had a long but satisfying journey and looks forward to a bigger and better future.
Interview by Aadhira Anand M. | January 2016 Issue | The Dollar Business
TDB: You have built the company from scratch to where it stands today. Tell us more about you journey.
Kamal Khushlani (KK): In the beginning, I was the peon-cum-proprietor of my business. I used to carry up to 200 odd meters of fabric on my motorbike because that’s all I could carry in one bikeload. I would drop off this fabric at a workshop, from where I could later pick up finished shirts. Within a year, I had reached a carload from a bikeload, so I bought a Maruti in which I stuffed the fabric and took it to my job worker. I often travelled thrice a day to town to pick up fresh materials every time they arrived at the mill showroom. I used to buy fabric in retail and not wholesale. The mill showroom workers were extremely happy as I was their largest retail customer; obviously! I never forgot the advice of my uncle who encouraged me to choose any profession I wanted to. “Be a barber if you want to, or be a janitor if you want to, but make sure you’re the best in town,” he’d say. And here I am!
TDB: But what really inspired you to take a plunge into the extremely crowded apparel business?
KK: The apparel industry evolved a lot between 1992 and 1997. By the time we started Mufti, i.e. 1998, we had realised the true potential of the business. In the few years leading to 1998, men’s fashion underwent a radical shift worldwide. That’s why we launched a new concept of men’s casual clothing line under the brand name ‘Mufti’. The term ‘Mufti’ is a term derived from Colonial India’s armed forces. ‘Mufti’ was then a term used for casual dressing, as opposed to wearing a uniform. The reason why we chose this name was because we made clothes that were very different from those sold by other brands and we accordingly positioned our brand as ‘alternative clothing’. We have an endless list of firsts. Back in the pre-2000 days, casual apparel manufacturers worked on a ready stock format. We would first make stock and then move out to sell. Later however, brands avoided to produce at their own risk and retailers in return did not want to preorder at their own risk. However, we took the plunge and told our retailers that we would continue to work on pre-ordering, and the result was that in spite of their apprehensions, we recorded a huge jump in orders and booked 25000 units of clothing in a single season!
TDB: So has it been all smooth for Mufti from the word go?
KK: We did have our unique challenges. For instance, we used to get adequate order volumes, but we lacked the capacity to produce and deliver. One day, I came across a textile exporter who promised that he would manufacture the needed volumes to meet demand. I trusted him, moved all my raw materials to his factory in Kandla, but he did not deliver as promised. In one month, he could only produce 14,000 units for me. That was perhaps the biggest mistake I’ve made so far in this trade! But I don’t regret having made that mistake as it taught me to choose better in life and business.
E-Commerce Is An Emerging Channel That Needs To Be Understood And Exploited
TDB: You have single-handedly built a brand that has evolved through challenging stereotypes in the fashion industry. Design – how much of it has made Mufti and your company what it is today?
KK: We do not own a factory. Neither do we own retail space or a design house. I’m a self-taught designer with no formal education in design. Design has been our core competence from the day I began and continues to be so. An innate ability has to be worked upon diligently. I had no money but I believed that I had an eye for fashion and a passion to make it big in life. You must appreciate current fashion, the emerging trends as well as forecasts as validated by leading fashion centers. My current fashion muse is Mumbai; its people, opportunities and energy – all of them inspire me!
TDB: Do you believe that cultural waves from the west have altered trends in the Indian fashion industry?
KK: Fashion waves start from many places and have worldwide ramifications. Currently, the flow is from the west to the east and the world fashion scenario is transnational. In the not too distant future, the fashion influences from the east could well create waves in the west.
TDB: Your brand is famous for its jeans in the Indian market, despite availability of global brands. Strangely, we haven’t heard of any Mufti brand ambassador yet. What about that?
KK: Our biggest brand ambassadors are our customers. Our marketing efforts have been to show the fashion quotient of our products without any commentary. Thereafter, we have remained consistent, quality-conscious and affordable. This consistency of performance over the years has been the cornerstone of our success.
TDB: Mufti has also started looking at export markets. How soon will it be? And which markets are on your radar?
KK: For quite some time now, we have been exploring the possibility of expanding outside India. Globalisation has to be factored-in if we are to look at growth in the long run. At present, textile companies in India are exporting to destinations like UAE, Kuwait, markets in Africa like Tanzania and Sudan and even a developed market like US. So the entire world is pretty open for Made in India textile products. This is a huge opportunity for Mufti and we will do our homework well before zeroing-in on the market to spread the Mufti magic in.
TDB: Are you planning to expand the market by investing in e-tail through muftijeans.in?
KK: E-commerce is an emerging channel that needs to be understood and exploited in the right manner – it is not disruptive. We believe that “omni channel” is the way forward. We are one of the few brands that are equally strong in EBOs, MBOs and large format stores and we will be equally strong in e-commerce.
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