Defy aspires to compete with Chinese apparels and establish itself as a qualitative Nepali brand
Susan Adhikari had always dreamt of doing something on his own to give back to the community. This dream led him to refuse a job offer from Flipkart - an Indian e-commerce behemoth. That is because he had made up his mind to start an e-commerce platform in Nepal itself. “Since my family members were also calling me back to the country and I too always wanted to do something in Nepal, I decided to return,” he shared with New Business Age.
Right after returning to Nepal, he started working on an e-commerce platform named Odokan. He first did market research and found that Nepal lacked platforms dedicated to Nepali clothing brands. During the research, he also came to know about Nepali clothing brands. “So I thought, let’s work for the niche market and promote Nepali clothing brands,” he shared.
Adhikari collaborated with around 12 Nepali brands and started his e-commerce platform. Later, he expanded the collaboration to 80 Nepali brands. But COVID-19 played spoilsport. During the lockdown when e-commerce had come to a grinding halt, he got time to analyse his business and look for other opportunities. Learning from the experiences of Odokan, he teamed up with a friend to start Defy Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd.
“A lot of companies were manufacturing formal and informal clothes. However, there were no brands that focused on semi-formals. So seeing this space, we decided to work on the semi-formals,” Adhikari expressed. Though there were a lot of companies that were producing apparel for international brands, there were no companies that did mass production as a Nepali brand. In an attempt to bridge the gap, he and his friend decided to take the risk and started the company as a trial. They registered Defy Lifestyle in 2019, but the company started operation only in April 2021.
Defy Lifestyle produces gents semi-formals such as t-shirts, shirts, and pants made of cotton. It imports the fabric from India and stitches the products in Nepal. “We import fabrics from Ahmedabad of India’s Gujarat state. Cotton is the only fabric that we are importing thus far,” he said, adding: “We have just started linen as well.”
Defy Lifestyle aspires to set an example that Nepali brands are equally competitive and are of high quality. Adhikari said there exists a notion among people that Nepali brands are not top-notch and hence, people, especially Nepali, hesitate to purchase one. “We assure that the price of our product is affordable as per the quality,” he said.
Adhikari said Defy Lifestyle provides a guarantee on fabric and colour. According to Adhikari, Defy Lifestyle prioritises comfort, price, and quality while designing products.
Talking about the challenges in business, the duo said the business registration process was very challenging. Adhikari shared that deciding the type of fabrics, finding the right fabrics and places to source them were the other challenges that they had to face. Initially, they bought cotton fabrics from local suppliers. "We approached different traders and importers and tried our best to get the best quality fabrics so that we can provide qualitative products to our customers," added Adhikari.
According to Adhikari, they got a warm response for their products when they first approached the retail shops. “They told us that 'if such good quality products are manufactured in Nepal, why should we import readymade garments from China or other countries?' And this motivated us so much that we decided to go on a large scale,” Adhikari shared excitedly. He further said that when they had just started selling their products through retail shops, one of the shops sold 23-25 pieces of Defy shirts in a day which further encouraged them. Since then, there has been no looking back. The duo has been importing fabrics from India now as they are into mass production.
“The initial phase was quite challenging, but I believe that we have made good quality products, so a lot of people like our products,” he said.
The young entrepreneurs, however, keep suffering from the policy instability of the government. For example, the government recently enforced a provision of a 50% cash margin to open a letter of credit (LC). Adhikari said such rules and regulations should be revised. “We have the capability and if the government is a bit supportive, then domestic brands and companies can prosper,” he opined.
Talking about the opportunities, Adhikari says that the clothing industry is a trillion-dollar industry, and clothes amounting to billions of rupees are imported to Nepal every year. He is of the view that if Nepal can manufacture good quality products in the country, it can substitute imports and retain billions of rupees in the country. He sees a huge opportunity in this sector.
Instead of using international branded products, he says that it would be better if people use Nepali brands and build brand trust. “At least use it, and get first-hand experience instead of not using it by following the rumours that Nepali products are not good,” he said. “It is better to give feedback if you don’t like something about the product. We appreciate it. We can improve them and give better quality products.”
INVESTMENT AND GROWTH
Defy Lifestyle currently employs 40-45 people, the majority of which are women. They provide training to them and encourage more and more women to become financially independent. “If wearing a product from Nepali brand can help this many people to survive, it is worth trying,” he added.
The company was started with an initial investment of Rs 2.2 million. The duo raised the amount from their savings, and by borrowing from their family and friends. Looking at the sales record for the last four-five months, Adhikari claimed the company is worth around Rs 4-5 million at present.
Initially, Defy Lifestyle had set up its factory at Balkot, Bhaktapur. Within just a year of operation, it has recently started another factory at Baneshwor, Kathmandu. Defy products are available at nine places in Kathmandu Valley and five places outside the valley. It has a brand outlet at National Business Trade Centre (NBTC), Kalanki whereby they sell its products in both wholesale and retail.
Earlier, Defy Lifestyle was making its products available through its retail partners only. They started a branded outlet in Kathmandu only recently so that they can directly take feedback from the customers and work on improvement factors. To reach maximum customers and get recognised as a trustworthy Nepali brand regarding pricing, comfort, and quality, Defy Lifestyle is planning to open its retail store soon. “We are doing market research for it,” said Adhikari, revealing that they will start their retail shops outside the Kathmandu Valley. “Within three to four months, we will start at least one retail shop,” he said before concluding.