Fashion Startups: The Role of Technology in Transformation

Fashion Startups: The Role of Technology in Transformation

Ravi Toshniwal, MD, Banswara Syntex, 0

AN IIT Bombay alumnus, Ravi has been associated with Banswara Syntex for over seven years now, and has even completed the Owner President Management program from the Harvard Business School.

Welcome to 2020 and the new decade of transformation in the textile industry in India! There are some good reasons for the renewed optimism, aside from the fact that we can only improve our share of a smaller than Bangladesh share of the global textile trade. We are at $17 billion compared to $33 billion for Bangladesh, and China is a huge $158 billion market!!

The US is looking for a viable alternative to China. They are ready to engage with the players who have the quality, reliability, and scale. This provides great opportunity for India. The Trump tariffs add 15 percent to goods coming directly from China. This part is shifting rapidly to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, and Srilanka. India too will benefit! The US and China are now at loggerheads, with or without Trump, the battle lines are drawn and they are competing with each other for global supremacy.

Europe sees India as a market that has aspirations and is growing. Fashion in India is becoming more and more global. Zara and H&M have both done well. Uniqlo is on the way to rewrite many rules in Indian retail. The Japanese and the Koreans already have an FTA with India. Let me plunge into what we can do about this opportunity and how technology will help lead the transformation.

Technology is the enabler and is now available and packaged by several startups in India and globally. We need to leverage this tool. The idea when you are in textiles is not to be the tech company that comes-up with a tech transformational solution, our domain expertise and skill sets could be better used to be a techenabled textile startup that reinvents itself or comes-up with new
ways of solving customer challenges. While working in manufacturing, using Tech, we would evolve and partner into tech-enabled transformational change management. The point is that not using tech in a good way can seriously hamper the possibility of you being a serious global player!

Our Domain Expertise And Skillsets Could Be Better Used To Be A Tech-Enabled Textile Startup That Reinvents It self Or Comes-Up With New Ways Of Solving Customer Challenges

I have something more to say here, and it is not about Technology. The real engagement is with a culture change! Like it or not, if you are not willing to abandon old paradigms that do not work, if you are not finding the 'Aha!' every now & then, you are not in a startup mode. This has to begin at the top. Fire the secretaries! You do not need the peons serving coffee in elaborate sets of fine pottery. Use G-suite to be your tech enabled secretary. Collaborate with the team and hang-out at the coffee vending machine and water coolers. You cannot be the C-Suite, closeted CEO anymore and lead a transformation that is from the front line. Go by cycle to work if your workplace is anywhere up to 20 km away. Sustainability is a big concern and what better way to show it than ‘One Less Car!’.

The concern for the planet is growing and one must step-up to the plate and play a useful knock. Your team needs this leadership and no one is in a better position to drive this than the CEO. Start your travels and learn from the best global practices. Find JV or marketing partnerships that allow the vision of your company to be ahead of what the ‘Bhed Chaal’ is. Go for Blue Ocean market spaces that can propel your company to be No.1 or No.2 in your space!

Never ever discount the hard work required in the shop floor to lead this change. Roll-up the sleeves. Get into Kaizen and lean management, Shed some flab and walk the floors. No job is too small to be done. Strategize all you want real teamwork is in doing it with the team shoulder to shoulder, learning and adapting all the time.

Use Technology, but be careful not to let it use you. In the end, you as a CEO are the guardian of the spirit of transformation. The question is, are you willing to transform yourself? All change starts with you!