Eleven years ago, Nidhi Yadav, then a 23-year-old software engineer working at Deloitte, Hyderabad, quit his job to pursue his passion and enrolled in a one-year course in fashion buying and merchandising at the Polimoda fashion school, Florence, Italy.
Today she owns AKS Clothing, a Rs 137 crore women’s clothing brand that she launched in 2014 with Rs 3.5 lakh in her 2BHK home in Gurugram.
|Nidhi Yadav launched AKS Clothing from his 2BHK Gurugram home with Rs 3.5 lakh (Photos: Special arrangement)|
Nidhi had been married for less than two years and her daughter Sunidhi was just a seven month old baby when AKS launched as an online brand with a modest inventory of kurtas, anarkalis, maxi dresses, lehengas and traditional costumes.
Her husband Satpal Yadav, holder of an MBA from IIM Kozhikode, encouraged her to start her business and traveled with her to Jaipur to purchase the clothes.
“I was keen to launch a fast fashionable modern clothing brand like Zara, but my husband who was then working at Jabong as operations manager felt that there was more room in ethnic clothing,” explains Nidhi, retracing the journey of AKS (which means Reflection in Hindi).
At the start of their business, they used the spare bedroom in their 2BHK home to keep inventory.
“I remember we had 936 sets of clothes in our first inventory,” says Nidhi. “We took pictures of the products and posted them on e-commerce portals. We have kept the investment low.
“By starting the home business we saved on rent and it was also easier to manage my daughter, who was only seven months old at the time. “
|Nidhi worked on her own for about a year before hiring her first employee|
For about a year and a half, Nidhi managed everything on her own. She did the packing and later trained her housekeeper to do the job.
She sold the products via Limeroad, Jabong and later via Myntra as well. These companies collected the products from her.
Nidhi got his clothes from Jaipur. Soon she identified three units that agreed to make custom clothing for her.
“The export industry was in decline then. This was the main reason we could place small orders. We were given a 30 day credit period, which grew to 60 and 90 days over time.
As the business grew, the products took up more space in their home and they were stacked in the hall and the veranda next to the bedroom. In 2015, they rented a basement to store their inventory.
Nidhi started in 2014 as a sole proprietorship, but three years later Yuvdhi Apparels was converted to a limited liability company.
From the start, Nidhi has carefully positioned its brand. The emphasis has always been on ethnic clothes and fast fashion, which means they come up with new designs every two weeks or so.
“2014 was a time when people were suspicious of things online and fast fashion was unknown. We release new styles every two weeks and produce in small batches, ”she says.
“When we produce in small batches, there is a feeling of scarcity and customers are likely to buy immediately if they like a design, instead of waiting and losing the part altogether because it may be out of stock soon. of stock.” They are launching around 300 new models each month in limited numbers.
|Nidhi modeling for the mother-child collection recently launched by AKS with her daughter|
Their latest collection is the Mother-Child Collection, which was created out of necessity during the pandemic lockdown.
“We couldn’t really source fabric at the time, and there’s a lot of waste when it comes to women’s clothing as well. So we recycled it and created children’s clothes from the same material.
Nidhi slowly grew and hired its first employee in 2015 and the following year added three more employees. Her husband joined the company in 2018 and now AKS has grown into a team of 110 members.
The team includes five tailors and a team of designers, who take inspiration from Nidhi and create the designs. The tailors then work on the designs and create samples which are sent to partner factories in Delhi and Jaipur for bulk production.
They source their fabric from Surat, Ahmedabad and Jodhpur. “50% of the production is done in Delhi and the other 50% in Jaipur”, explains Nidhi. “We don’t think we’ve accomplished anything great, but there are things that make us feel like we’re doing something right.”
She reveals that AKS was part of Myntra’s accelerator program.
Nidhi has every reason to feel happy about her entrepreneurial journey so far, even if she just doesn’t want to settle down where she is. She always wanted to be a topper and it’s too early for her to rest on her laurels.
Born to the lawyer couple Karan Singh Yadav and Rajbala Yadav in Indore, Nidhi grew up with her younger brother. She studied at Indore Public School and passed grade 12 in 2004.
“I was a hardworking, studious child, who worked hard,” she says. “I always wanted to be the top of the class and the attitude marked me. I spent my summer vacation afternoons designing different kinds of dresses. I realized much later that I was destined for the fashion industry.
Nidhi thought her interest in drawing and dresses was just a hobby, so she did her B Tech (2004-08) in Computer Science at the Shri GS Institute of Technology and Science, Indore.
|Nidhi with her husband Satpal Yadav|
After graduation, she joined Deloitte where she worked for about a year and a half until one of her elders asked her a soul-searching question that completely changed her life.
When was the last day you enjoyed coming to the office? That was the question and she replied, “Never”.
“From there, it took me about three months to realize my heart was in fashion,” says Nidhi, explaining his decision to leave Deloitte and enroll in a fashion class in Italy.
“During the first semester, I did extensive research on Zara (an international fashion brand), for about six months. I can brag about having been kicked out of Prada and Zara stores in Italy because I was not properly dressed, ”she reveals.
“In Italy you have to be properly dressed, with makeup and nail paint to enter high-end stores, and not follow the protocol that has happened to me. Italians are very fashion specific.
She did an internship at Emilio Pucci, an Italian fashion brand famous for its geometric prints. Later, she was offered an internship and a job at another renowned fashion brand Gucci, but she decided to return to India.
“I’m a relative so I decided to go home despite getting an internship and a job offer,” says Nidhi, who returned to India and worked for about three months as a merchandiser for the famous Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta, based in Gurugram.
|Nidhi turned down job opportunities in Italy to return to his roots in India|
In 2012, she married Satpal Yadav whom she met on Linkedin. “We chatted on BBM (Black Berry Messenger) for long hours and when he proposed marriage, I said yes within 20 seconds because we just clicked,” says Nidhi.
It was Satpal who encouraged her to start a business after having their first baby. Their second child, a son, Sanidhya, was born in 2019.
“While my mother and I take care of the youngest (who is a handful), our oldest daughter’s school is taken care of by Satpal,” says Nidhi.
“Likewise, we have also divided the work in the office; he takes care of the finances and the planning while I take care of the aesthetics. We have an alchemy like that of siblings. We fight against each other, yet we are inseparable and cannot do without each other.
AKS is one of the few companies to have grown during the pandemic and its turnover is expected to reach Rs 165 crore this year.