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Like the latest ad campaign of Baggit, founder Nina Lekhi who began her entrepreneurial journey at 18 is ‘Not just Pretty. Pretty Tough.’
Interview by Babita Balan
In 2013, Baggit won the PETA Proggy award and the Shopper’s Stop Best Brand Award in the Bags & Accessories Category for the third time in a row. Currently, Baggit has a presence in 61 cities across India with 28 exclusive Baggit outlets and presence in 300 multi-brand retail stores.
How and why did you take the entrepreneurial road?
Nina Lekhi: I never wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place. I was studying at Sophia Polytechnic College when during my first year, I failed my examination. It came as a big shock and I wanted to prove myself when that happened. I was fond of bags. I had different bags for gym, swimming, partying and work. Probably, that’s why I enjoyed designing bags. I saw a friend of mine exhibiting his garments at Oberoi Hotel, so I began making handbags and exhibiting them. The next break came when I worked as a sales girl at a clothes boutique. I started to stock handbags and sell them from boutiques. Gradually, large-format stores began stocking up my handbags and ‘Baggit’ became a hit among professional women.
There must have been many hurdles that you had to overcome before seeing your dream come true. Could you share you biggest hurdle so far?
Nina Lekhi: Five years ago, I faced a setback in costing. We made no profits. That was a big blow to us. But the next year we saw good profits coming our way.
What makes Baggit stand apart from other domestic as well as international brands?
Nina Lekhi: Our handbags have a casual look to it. Unlike other handbags, a lot of the thought has gone into the spaces within the handbags. We offer good quality when compared to other brands at our pricing which is not heavy on the pockets. Our designs are in tune with international trends. Our recent campaign ‘Not just pretty. Pretty tough.’ is targeted at women who are multi-taskers. They are home-makers and office goers. It’s not just about our product but about women. Our handbags compliment women.
Baggit has a presence in malls, how did you enter this market? What are the pros and cons of having one’s own retail outlet, versus retailing through other stores/malls, and online retailing?
Nina Lekhi: Our focus has been manufacturing. We started off small from exhibitions, and gradually moved to assignments. Eventually large-format stores came into India and we got selling our handbags through them. Our first collaboration was with Shoppers Stop, which had just entered our country. We saw an increase in footfall and began selling our handbags pan-India with the set up of large-format stores. So it was a gradual move. Malls were a stepping stone towards our goal of starting our own retail store which provides brand visibility. I opened my first store at Atria mall. We have our stores opened at tier-2 cities and they are doing well. Online retailing suits our brand very well since we have built our brand over the years. Customers do not need to touch and feel our handbags. They see the latest designs online and place an order immediately. Online retailing is the future for those who are facing brick and mortar hassles. It also offers pricing benefits. Online retailing is one more shop for ‘Baggit’.
Who do you consider your competitor in this field and how has Baggit managed to beat its competitors? How do you perceive competition from foreign players entering into the market? What strategy will you adopt to counter the threat of bigger players coming in?
Nina Lekhi: I do not see anyone as our competitors. Since it’s not apple versus apple. We have made a niche for ourselves in the handbag space. ‘Baggit’ has a contemporary look with absolutely no comparison. ‘Baggit’ has grown through word of mouth and therefore we do not wish to market in a big way and kill the price point in the bargain.
Tell us a bit about the working culture at Baggit?
Nina Lekhi: My husband and I follow Siddha Samadhi Yoga. We have imbibed some of those habits into our work culture. We have a meditation session before lunch. We offer fresh salads for lunch and brown bread sandwiches to munch on after work. We organise silence camps which are a part of the Siddha Samadhi Yoga culture. We hold workshops and satsangs every Friday for employees on the terrace.
Where do you see Baggit 10 years from now?
Nina Lekhi: We have initiated our endeavours in the rural market here in India. We have set-ups on the outskirts of Pune where we are keen to tap the man-power. We have already expanded our presence to international markets such as Europe. We wish to see ourselves as an international brand in the coming years.
Tell me something about you that is not yet known to people?
Nina Lekhi: After marriage at the age of 22 to my husband Manoj Lekhi, I joined Siddha Samadhi Yoga (SSY) founded by Sri Rishi Prabhakar. We are both teachers at the centre now.
I spend only 3 days of the week in Mumbai; I spend the rest of the week at Katharkadak – the Yoga centre on the outskirts of Pune.
What are the lessons learnt so far in life?
Nina Lekhi: ‘Whatever is outside is the manifestation of what is inside you!’
If you had a chance what would you like to change in your life?
Nina Lekhi: I would have loved to paint like M.F Hussain. If I had not become an entrepreneur, I would have loved to be a painter.
Who or what kept you going during your journey to success?
Nina Lekhi: During my early days, it was my mom. Now it is my husband who keeps me going. He believes in doing what you like and so do I. Do something only so long as you enjoy doing it.
What does success mean to you?
Nina Lekhi: Success to me is sharing my wealth with people, sharing my creativity with people around the world and seeing people across the globe carrying ‘Baggit’ handbags.
What is your advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Nina Lekhi: Go get it. If you are passionate about something, just go for it. The deeper the roots, the bigger will be the tree. Go to the depth of what you pursue. Don’t let the light fizzle out.
*Photo Credit: Nina Lekhi
Ooh I still remember the Baggit bag I owned fondly. Used it till it was threadbare.
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