QuadB is a customised apparel store where you can get the ideas in your head printed on high-quality and affordable clothing. QuadB, formerly known as QuadB Creations was an idea conceived in 2013 but the exact date of launch was later on, in 1st August 2014. Litesh Gumber is the co-founder of QuadB and is currently serving as the company’s head of Brand Consultant. An Industrial Engineer by trade, he’s a creative mind with a love for new ideas, both artistic and entrepreneurial.
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Please share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: The problem we’re trying to solve is of the relentless looting of college students done by various custom apparel brands. This is something that we suffered from ourselves, in our college days. College students thrive on connecting with other people, and one of the most prominent ways they do that is by joining clubs, societies and what not.
The startup idea was first thought about seriously in our graduation years and in the following couple of years we grounded that idea into a firm that started with producing custom apparel for college students, later on expanding into a full-fledged custom apparel brand which is as big as it is today. The startup has two main functioning branches, a manufacturing plant in Ludhiana and a physical office which handles most of the operations in Chandigarh. Both of the spaces are vital for the company as one handles the product, while other handles everything else related to it. We also have different franchises in various cities like New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kochi etc.
Ever since the advent of custom clothing, we’ve seen trends point to higher and higher adoption of custom tshirts and merchandise by students part of societies. It is their way of connecting with a myriad of students hailing from different cultures, places and streams because it gives them something to identify with. We observed during our college time, that while there were loads of people making custom things for students, they were still drab, poorly made articles of clothing. There was no creativity, no genuine quality or even customizations to justify their astonishingly high prices. The manufacturers profited from selling subpar clothing to innocent students by making everything in the same mould.
That was probably the point when this idea struck our minds and we saw a way to make this better for both students as well as manufacturers.
Q.: Please tell us about the founders
Ans: When we started, the team consisted of Litesh, Bandhul, Vinayak and Rupin. All of whom brought something different and vital to the table. Once we started production, we found there was a need for people who could help our business expand and develop, which is how Nishant and Sahil came into the picture. A brief introduction for each of them is below –
Bandhul – An entrepreneur at heart, he was the one who first started to look for a solution and came up with the basic business plan. He won ICICI Trinity alongside Vinayak, which was a business plan competition help across the whole country. A Production Engineer by trade, he has a love for adding value to things and is into financial relationships. It is his investor-friendly personality that helped in growing QuadB from its initial phase. A highly-opinionated person who has a love for writing poetry which commentates on social and political issues that plague the world.
Litesh – A master problem-solver, he was who Bandhul pitched the idea to, as they had a shared concern for the problem they were facing. He has a brilliant knack for finding out new ideas and paths worth following. He’s also a social worker who believes in giving back to society. Being a songwriter himself, he’s always looking for ways to help indie artists and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. His contribution to making QuadB what it is today cannot be understated.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skill Sets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
Ans: Along with the 2 people mentioned above this is how our core team shapes up to do what we do.
Vinayak – He has been critically important for his technical expertise that has made us accessible and approachable by clientele all around the country. He helped build our online platforms and his experience of working at Infosys also helped us in scaling. He won alongside Bandhul at ICICI Trinity and is highly-organised. He believes in always having a plan and sticking to it, which keeps us on the right path. Technology excites him in a way nothing else quite does.
Rupin – The Creative head of the company, he is a multi-talented artist who is highly adept at designing. He had worked with some of us in the past and helped us provide a touch of artistic sophistication to our projects. He was adaptive and willing enough to study and master Digital Marketing to grow QuadB manifold. He has also developed a love for advertising which he took to as a fish does to water. His spontaneity of ideas is complemented by his creativity and result-oriented approach.
Nishant – Always looking at the bigger picture, we connected with him in the early stages of our first expansion. He connected with the idea and wanted to build upon it to make something grand. His business-scaling expertise alongside the bigger picture thought-process aided in expanding to our first big clients. His approach towards vertical development is unmatched by anyone we’ve seen and we have benefitted from it hugely.
Sahil – An integral part of our core, Sahil is an eccentric personality. That certainly helps him in being an expert salesperson and his people skills are second-to-none. A Sales head should always be willing to learn, as is shown by his social psychology approach towards making deals. He was critical in us pushing our products to the people who really needed them and eventually helped us in overcoming any problems we had with sales, whatsoever.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: As of today, our website has 1000+ products, which are explained by the different situations of every client we have. This is especially necessary for us as our products are adorned by a list of buyers that includes student groups, SMEs, big MNCs and other corporates. To cater to them, its vital we have a unique solution for every one of them. That’s why we manufacture everything from 1-day budget t-shirts to premium corporate apparel that oozes creativity and class. While we make different products for everyone, we maintain our policy of a 100% guarantee on every article of clothing that we make.
The first customer for any company is special, as they were for us. We had received our first order of customised tshirts from College students of a famous university around us. Rest assured, we put our heart and soul into delivering some of our best works to them and we’re glad we did as it helped us build a solid platform to build on.
We already knew our first target market as we had only started with the idea of making college life more fun and easier. Getting our first real customers gave us a look into what special requirements and restrictions are there present with this specific market. They were looking for highly custom t shirts for their student group and at an affordable price too. This helped us to fine-tune our processes to make it more efficient for us to provide these people with products they’re proud of at an affordable price.
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: Our zeal to use innovation is one of our key selling points. It helps us distinguish ourselves among hundreds of other competitors who use primitive techniques that are no good to the customers. That is precisely how we solved our problems of manufacturing at the very start. We researched and inculcated new techniques like JIT & VAL. JIT(Just-in-time) and VAL(Virtual Assembly Line) are two techniques that assist us in catering to the high demands and manufacture in huge amounts efficiently and rapidly. Our ability to fulfill even orders with small quantities in the shortest time possible is something most of our competition cannot provide.
Another key USP of ours would be the diversity of options that we give to our customers. Our customers are provided with the option of customising their apparel in more ways than they’re even aware of. Everything can be customised, from the design, to the stitching, right down to the fabric itself!
We pride ourselves on being the only brand in India to provide customers with the highest levels of customizations for their dream apparel. This is what makes us resonate with the ideas that our younger clients have!
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: In our first foray into the custom apparel industry, we were sure that our assumptions and reasons for starting out were genuine and grounded in real life. We knew that our target market of students and other people needing customers was fed up with shabby and poorly designed clothes that were uncomfortable to wear or live with. Our assumption was that they would definitely appreciate someone who would give them all they wanted in terms of customizability and quality, which turned out to be. We were welcomed whole-heartedly and our approach towards manufacturing was appreciated by people who we catered to primarily.
And as for the question of an ideal customer, we believe there is something unique and special about the needs of every new customer. Every customer needs to be treated in a way they deserve which is with utmost care for their requirements. An ideal customer is anyone who chooses to work with us to make their dream apparel come to life!
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: Around 2016, we were doing good business as a company but it became clear to us that it wasn’t sustainable. We were making loads of sales all over India to various institutions and colleges but most of the money we earned usually went right back into financing the company’s expenses. It came to a point that we didn’t have enough change left over to fund our own personal expenses due to our paycheck to paycheck planning.
Our startup had recently been featured in TOI as a profitable startup, which it certainly was at the moment. But being of bootstrapped nature, all our profits went right back in. This left us personally, with very little wriggling space. Being broke was a real possibility, staring us down the barrel every single day. That’s when we realised something was wrong. We just weren’t sure what it was!
Finally when we ran a SWOT analysis and came to the conclusion that our major problem was that our cash management was really poor. We had taken little care of personal finances and spent a lot of money without any proper planning. It was evident that it was going to hit the company in a bad way in the long run. So when we had diagnosed our problems, we started focusing on finding our own solutions.
Our solution was to learn more about personal financing and being bootstrapped. As our search for solutions continued, we implemented better methods of management of finances of the company as well as find some ways to make enough passive income to sustain our entrepreneurial careers. This turned out to be our way out, as soon enough we were making profits that weren’t getting used up right away and some passive income that allowed us to pursue our other interests with more freedom.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
Ans: As a custom apparel brand, we need to base our products on a varied range of clientele who themselves have some of the wildest needs and requirements. Thus, we have 1000+ products which range from single day budget t-shirts from Rs. 80 to premium corporate apparel that can cost up to Rs. 1500.
This is necessary as we understand the different needs that different demographics can have. Say, a student may focus more on custom designs and affordability, while on the other hand a corporate person would focus more on fabric quality and reliability. Even though we give a 100% guarantee on our products, we still manage to provide to customers who have dizzyingly different requirements.
Our pricing depends on various factors of quantity, quality and the customisations that our customers may want in their product. All of this while not once compromising on the quality that we give to the customers.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: In the early days, we were completely bootstrapped while fulfilling orders for all quantities, large or small. Eventually, as we scaled and the orders increased in numbers, our machinery and infrastructure could not keep up, which is why we started looking for efficient and innovative solutions.
And so, we tried to get some funding going to help us take off. We managed to crowdfund around 20 lac INR with the help of seed-funding from our friends and knowns. By becoming market leaders, we managed to pay off all our borrowings when the revenue started flowing in. Due to our ability to find original innovative techniques we managed to keep our prices and expenses low and so, we achieved new landmarks without needing large amounts of investment.
We have been a self-sustaining company for the larger parts of the last 5 years. We believe this is our greatest achievement as it isn’t easy for a startup such as ours to achieve what we have without having financial backing from some giant investors. We have managed to use parts of our revenues to grow and increase our footing as one of the industry leaders.
Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in detail.
Ans: In a sense, our rise has been gradual and the product of the efforts of our team over the years. Yet, it seems like an understatement to put into context that our first turnover in a quarter was a meagre 15,000 INR. It was an inconsequential amount, but one that fueled our belief that we were doing something worth every minute of ours.
In 2014, we registered a turnover of Rs. 7 lakh, which was our first major step and somehow we kept getting better. After building rapport with the market, we became well-placed to make deals with companies such as Amazon, UberEats, JP Morgan etc. This building of portfolio eventually gave us the opportunity to take the next leap, to finally register a turnover of over Rs. 3 CR! Our customizability and ease of doing business has actually helped us fulfill over 13,000 different orders to more than 700 different customers. Today, QuadB is running its operations in over 100 cities, 20 states and even multiple countries abroad! Our client list is filled with some prestigious institutions and corporates today. I think we are doing justice to the goal we started with, to make custom clothing accessible and fun to wear, while also registering some interesting numbers!
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Our big picture thought would be to increase expansion internationally and to build a franchise system base, which will make us more accessible to markets who don’t like to shop online. The immediate goal would be to increase our annual revenue from 3 Cr INR in 2018 to 25 Cr INR in 2020 which will aid us in our future endeavours. We’re also planning to build franchises all around India during the next couple of years. We also have big plans keeping in mind the importance and exposure which an IPO could provide us with in the next 5 years.
We’re also expanding internationally, and aim to grab a major chunk of the market share of custom apparel industries in the USA soon. We also hope to give back to the community in any way we can and plan to launch some more brands down-the-line. The ultimate goal would be to become established enough so that we can help more up-and-coming startups and brands.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: Our main competition are newly established custom-clothing ventures as well as older players who keep on pushing the same products from their shelves as they have been doing in the last 5 years. There are a lot of small businesses located in small-towns and cities that fail to do justice to whatever requests they may get from unsuspecting customers. They actually take up a significant amount of orders on their own, but we are sure we can overcome the problems with their abysmal products at a faster and more affordable rate.
Our online and digital approach is one of the main differentiating factors that helps us register sales and deliveries from almost every corner of the country. It helps us connect with people from remote parts, as well as make it easier for them to understand and preview the products that they’re ordering from us. Our website actually plays a huge role in bringing us many orders and a lot more queries, which we’re happy to address. Along with this, our promise of totally customizable clothing also assists us to attract customers who are looking to do more with their merchandise than just print a design. Our variability of fabrics, stitching and design is definitely a big reason we have been doing as good as we have in the past half-a-decade.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months? Any other information you would like to share?
Ans: Our goal would be to increase existing sales to a good point, and to make products that stick with people(and not literally). While our existing customers are happy, we would be more than glad to focus on customer satisfaction after their purchase. We also plan to sell some more franchises of our brand and set up physical spaces in various cities around the country.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: An entrepreneur must do one thing; and that is to think. Great ideas are the result of smart people constantly questioning everything around them in their environment. They’re always looking to improve how certain things are done and they do that by questioning every structure, situation and product they see around them.
As they say, you can only build a great product when you’ve encountered a great problem. That would be the advice that changes everything for an entrepreneur, as they have to innovate and bring new ideas to the forefront, and what better way of doing that than questioning the existing?
Another requirement is to start. Just start! There are millions of people who have a world-changing idea everyday, but probably only a tiny percentage of them actually take a step towards it. Making plans and brainstorming is nice, but what’s better is to get going with your idea in whatever way you can. Gather some friends and pitch them that idea! Whether an idea is worth thousands or worth billions, you’ll never know until you get up and start working on it.
Once you do have an idea and you’ve started working on it, its not enough to be technically sound. A great idea may look great in your head, but a great entrepreneur needs to know how to communicate that idea and make people relate to it. You’ve got to grab your idea and make it something worth everyone’s time.
Thanks Litesh. All the best!