Nina Lekhi, Baggit Co-founder, has generated a bequest that traverses over three decades. Commencing the business with merely Rs 7,000, her journey is nothing short of incredible.
Over thirty years ago, at the age of 18, Nina Lekhi inaugurated Baggit as a vegan accessories label made from eco-friendly materials, with just Rs 7,000 in hand.
“No woman in our family had ever worked before, but my mother was extremely encouraging. I think Baggit is proof that failure is the stepping stone to success,” says Nina.
We’ll come to the breakdown element a little later in the story. Firstly, let’s look at where the company stands today. The Mumbai-based startup is worth Rs 111 crore with over 360 stock-keeping units (SKUs) in handbags, 360 SKUs in wallets, 70 SKUs in mobile pouches, and 10 franchised stores.
While numerous national brands source their materials from China, Baggit continues to design and manufacture its whole product collection in India. The startup strongly believes in the ‘Make in India’ philosophy, designing and manufacturing with the Indian consumer’s sensibilities in mind.
The company has a vision of being a trustworthy global fashion brand, and a financial goal of 10 by 10 – growth in turnover of 10 times in 10 years at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26 per cent.
One step at a time
Initially, Nina started with just one bag with the idea to design and produce more bags that have their own “unique attitudes and personalities.” She sold it at exhibitions and provided it exclusively to a few retail stores.
“That was my first founding lesson in marketing. For a brand to be successful and be driven by passion, the founder needs to believe and own it completely.”Nina Lekhi
Eventually, Nina started designing and outlining varied modifications, ranging across slings, purses, wallets, clutches, shoulder bags, totes, and satchels. She started holding her exhibitions, which then intensified to outlets like Shopper’s Stop and Regal wanting to stock her bags.
Swaying with the events
Times have certainly changed since Nina Lekhi started up almost 30 years ago. Women entrepreneurs are now able to grip the power of social media to not only influence and ponder their business but also to help balance family and work demands
“Take, for example, WhatsApp – it makes work more fun, adds a touch of entertainment with all sorts of emoticons, gifs and memes. While in the office, one can send a prompt voice note to assure that all’s well at home.”Nina Lekhi
For those who are envisioning beginning their venture, Whatsapp Business is an affordable medium, free of cost and comfortable with its ‘easy to use’ payment integration. A woman sitting in Lucknow now has clients in Mumbai for her beautiful kurtas!” she says.
Arising above failures and hurdles
Nina’s journey as an entrepreneur has not been without challenges. She recalls the disappointment she felt when she failed her first year at the university.
“Always being the best student, it was for me as if I’d failed in life,” she recalls.
To keep herself occupied during her year at home, she did a short-term design and screen printing course, while working as a part-time sales assistant in a shop. She started making bags using canvas, with colourful patterns on them and convinced the store owner to keep her arts in the shop.
Later, when she tried to open her first offline store in 2000, it turned out to be a failure. She endured heavy losses but headed to find her footing again.
The pandemic demonstrated to be another challenging time, during the lockdown the company’s operations stayed shut for two months, resulting in big losses. “But we focused our energies on addressing a new market (mass market), strengthened execution in a new channel (online channel), and focused on improving operational efficiencies across the entire value chain of designing, manufacturing, warehousing, and selling,” Nina shares.
The true measure of her accomplishments are reflected not by her strides in business, but by her success in building a wholesome life replete with quality time with family and her loved ones, she believes.
As a self-made entrepreneur, with a thirst for achieving more, Nina also believes that being a woman entrepreneur in a competitive segment for over 30 years has its own set of advantages.
“I think being a woman entrepreneur comes with an advantage, as most people want to help her, as she is presumed to strike a balance between the expectations of being a daughter, wife, daughter-in-law and a mother, with that of an entrepreneur.”Nina Lekhi
I have been very lucky to have the support of my family and also the team at Baggit who see me as an entrepreneur and not as a woman entrepreneur,” she says.