Forty-two year old Venkatesh was born to be an entrepreneur. While the faint hearted may have walked away in the face of adversity, Venkatesh, who developed cardiac problems due to heavy losses he incurred in his first entrepreneurial stint, didn’t lose faith in himself. Today, he is living a second life, as founder and chief executive of a Rs 3-crore clothing line.
The desire to carve a niche for himself in the challenging and often unforgiving world of business led this chemistry graduate to set up a manufacturing unit to supply sachets to an FMCG company, more than a decade ago. When the company shut down, the owners failed to settle dues worth Rs 47 lakh.
“Being a first generation entrepreneur, I was not able to understand how to handle the disappointment. I also had to cope with the issue of supporting my family,” he recalls.
Venkatesh and his wife Madhavi then moved in with her parents, which provided them some relief. Days of brainstorming later, they zeroed in on three areas where they saw opportunities in food, fun and clothing.
Around that time, Venkatesh noticed a massive print campaign by a nightwear brand in local magazines and TV channels and sensed an opportunity there. Wife Madhavi suggested that they could create a line of comfortable home wear for women. “We felt there was a gap in the home wear segment as there weren’t many,” he says.
Thus, Opus Fashions was born, and ‘Maybell’, an exclusive line of home wear for women. With no expertise in the area, Venkatesh approached NIFT in Chennai and managed and persuaded the batch topper Veena Chatraman to come onboard.
“I also enrolled her in a crash course in garment design, basically to understand the structure of a garment, form, shape and colour,” he says. A friend of his father-in-law gave him a loan of Rs 5 lakh, which helped kick-start the business.
The couple then created the infrastructure to start producing and supplying the garments. By a quirk of fate, when Venkatesh launched ‘Maybell’, he recalls he was “blown out of the market” due to “aggressive advertising” by the nightwear brand.
Venkatesh followed suit by advertising his product in similar locations, albeit on a muted scale. Interestingly, while the other brand was not able to deliver on quality and soon lost favour with customers, Maybell gained a dedicated following.
The Maybell line, which began with pyjamas, tops and nightwear now includes kurtas, kurtis, kids wear and men’s comfort wear in cotton and cotton-blends.
Venkatesh stocked the garments at exhibitions, local retail outlets and multi-brand stores like Lifestyle, Globus and Shoppers Stop. Once a year, they conduct discount sales at various locations in the city. Today, Opus has two manufacturing units in Anna Nagar and also sources items from Tirupur and Mumbai. “Last year, we produced 1.8 lakh garments,” he says.
The team comes up with 50 new designs across categories every month, and is now trying to reposition itself as a youth-oriented brand.
Exclusive retail outlets have been planned in Chennai, and other locations as well in South.