By quitting corporate jobs to sell bamboo bath towels online, these 2 friends have made sales of Rs 7 Cr in the past 12 months
Engineering batchmates and friends Ayush Agarwal and Nihar gosalia loved to discuss business ideas with each other. Despite corporate roles at Amazon and TCS respectively, the duo wanted to start their own business.
Nihar, whose family ran a B2B textile business, realized bamboo fabric was a relatively unexplored concept in India. When he shared his discovery, Ayush, who had seen e-commerce sellers thrive on Amazon, immediately felt that bamboo fabric would work well on D2C channels online.
âIn 2018, we quit our jobs to start Mush Apparel in Ahmedabad and bring our vision of products made from bamboo fabric to life. We sell bamboo cloth bath towels, face towels, bath sets and socks on Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Tata Cliq, etc., âsays Ayush.
âThe previous year, we timed Rs 4 crore of income, and in the last 12 months we have recorded Rs 7 crore. This year we aim to achieve Rs 12 crore.
Ayush and Nihar’s bath sheets are made from bamboo viscose, which makes them absorbent, antibacterial and anti-odor.
They claim that their products largely use a 70-30 bamboo and cotton blend, which is not common among big fashion brands who prefer to use a smaller amount of bamboo in their blends, according to the founders of Mush.
âThe sustainable fashion industry doesn’t always focus on blends. Some brands label their products as being made from bamboo, but in reality the items can only be bamboo charcoal dyed. Other brands may use a 40-60 blend of bamboo and cottonâSays Ayush.
In the sustainable fashion industry, bamboo blends are seen as alternatives to pure cotton or polyester blends, as bamboo requires. relatively little water and resources to grow, does not require pesticides, is highly biodegradable and is found in abundance.
Bamboo napkins by Mush
The first days
Convinced that bamboo was the way to go, the two friends launched Mush in Ayush’s father’s office.
âMy dad is a stockbroker and he gave us a space to start our business. At the time, we paid him Rs 25,000 per month as rent. He always told us that if we occupied an office for free, we would never realize or understand that rent is a significant cost in doing business, âsays Ayush.
He also claims that Mush started with Rs 5 lakh savings invested by the founders. They reinvested the profits and did not inject new capital into the brand.
With their makeshift office set up, the duo decided to start making bamboo napkins. Nihar’s family business used fabric machines to make textiles, and these could not be used to make towels.
âWe wanted to focus on creating a high quality product, so we had to control the entire manufacturing flow to make sure there was no compromise. We bought yarn from local suppliers, had it dyed and sent the raw material to the napkin factories with instructions on how to make napkins to the mix we wanted, âsays Nihar.
Around this time, Ayush and Nihar would fill their cars with yarn and drive to local factories to deliver it, later returning to pick up the final product.
In this way, the founders first obtained 110 pieces of bath towels manufactured, listed the brand on Amazon and believed the stock would last four to five months.
An attempt to sell offline
Nihar also approached an offline towel store near their office to see if he could place Mush’s towels on the store shelf.
âThe store liked our product, but they refused because they only bought stock from their distributors. So we took their distributor’s contact number and set up a meeting, âAyush explains.
Upon arriving at the distributor’s office, the founders were asked how many pieces of napkins they had in stock. âWe told the distributor we had enough, then he said he wanted buy all our stock in one go. We were completely taken aback, but we couldn’t go through with it because he wanted to buy our stock on credit, âhe says.
Ayush and Nihar then made a deal to sell only a few pieces of towels at high-end stores in the distributor’s network. This experience taught entrepreneurs that while offline distributors wanted their products, most transactions took place on credit – a deterrent effect for them.
Lightweight Bamboo Turkish Bath Sheet by Mush
Internet-centric business model
âWe started to focus on Amazon sales and position our product as a premium buy because people only buy them once every two or three years and don’t replace them frequently,â says Ayush.
âIn the online premium towel market, there are players who sell regular cotton towels in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. In offline spaces, these towels are often sold at Rs 2,000. They were profiting. traditional margins because there were few competitors. We bought a few to compare to our towels, and found our towels to be of much better quality since we were using bamboo.
The entrepreneurs then decided to price Mush’s bath towels and bamboo fabric sets as a premium offering in three price ranges: Rs 1,899, Rs 1,499 and Rs 1,300.
The 110 bath towels, which they thought would last four to five months, sold out in 30 days. This response reinforced their belief in bamboo based textiles and clothing and prompted them to add more references such as hand towels, face towels, hair towels, etc.
Even if 95 percent of sales come from online channels, Ayush and Nihar are not ignoring offline sales. They have established relationships with distributors in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra as good as United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and the UK, and regularly increase their offline sales.
Mush is still far from focusing on T-shirts and underwear because these products usually require polyester in mixtures and are difficult to do without it. At the moment, the brand only makes custom made bamboo t-shirts and does not retail them.
Ayush and Nihar face an obstacle of reduce delays for their range of towels. âWe have a challenge because our product is niche and we are very specific about controlling the manufacturing process. Our delivery time is currently between three to four months and this leads to planning challenges. We are out of stock or out of raw materials because of this, âexplains Nihar.
These difficulties have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has negatively impacted Mush’s raw material supply.
“We are out of stock in 70 percent of our products and are still not at 100 percent of their manufacturing capacity. Although we had stock when the locks were put in place, we ran out of stock once they were lifted, âsays Ayush.
The founders of Mush Ayush Agarwal (left) and Nihar Gosalia
Moving forward in the sustainable fashion market
The global ethical fashion market is expected to grow by $ 4.67 billion in 2020 at $ 5.84 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.1 percent, according to a Research and Markets report.
This growth is mainly due to the fact that large and small fashion brands are resuming their activities and recovering from the impact of COVID-19, as they also seek to invest more in sustainable and ethical fashion.
In the continuity of this growth, the founders of Mush hope to find a better balance between their sales and their purchases to improve their delivery times, and aim to venture into new areas such as sustainable development. baby clothes, sheets, blankets and quilts.
Ayush says, âWhen we launched in 2018, no one else was making towels like ours. Now there are a few players who are trying to do the same. We expect to see a lot of competition to come. The sustainable textile and fashion industry will see a lot of new players, and we intend to constantly innovate and maintain our pioneering advantage.