How an ex-Deloitte engineer built a Rs 137 crore women’s wear brand starting with Rs 3.5 lakh from her 2BHK home
Vol 12 | Issue 39
Eleven years ago, Nidhi Yadav, then a 23-year-old software engineer working at Deloitte, Hyderabad, quit her job to chase her passion and enrolled for a one-year course in Fashion Buying and Merchandising at Polimoda Fashion School, Florence, Italy.
Today, she owns AKS Clothing, a Rs 137 crore turnover women’s wear brand that she started in 2014 with Rs 3.5 lakh at her 2BHK home in Gurugram.
|Nidhi Yadav started AKS Clothing from her 2BHK home Gurugram 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 was launched as an online brand with a modest inventory of kurtas, anarkalis, , maxi dresses, lehengas and traditional suits.
Her husband Satpal Yadav, an MBA from IIM Kozhikode, encouraged her to set up the business and travelled with her to Jaipur to purchase the clothes.
“I was keen on starting a fast fashion modern wear brand like Zara, but my husband who was then working at Jabong as operations manager felt there was more scope in ethnic wear,” says Nidhi, tracing the journey of AKS (which means Reflection in Hindi).
In the early days of their business, they used the spare bedroom of their 2BHK home to keep the stocks.
“I remember we had 936 sets of clothes in our first inventory,” says Nidhi. “We took photos of the products and put them up on e-commerce portals. We kept the investment low.
“By starting the business from home we saved on rent and also it was easier to manage my daughter, who was just seven months old then.”
|Nidhi worked all alone for about a year before recruiting her first employee |
For about a year and a half Nidhi managed everything by herself. She did the packing and later trained her house help to do the work.
She sold the products through Limeroad, Jabong and later through Myntra as well. These companies would collect the products from her home.
Nidhi got her clothes from Jaipur. Soon, she identified three units that agreed to make custom-made clothes for her.
“Export industry was going down then. It was the main reason we could place small orders. We were given a credit period of 30 days, which increased to 60 and 90 days in the course of time.”
As business started gaining momentum, the products occupied more space in their home, and they were stacked up at the hall and the verandah besides the bedroom. By 2015 they took a basement on rent to store their stocks.
Nidhi started in 2014 as a proprietorship firm, but three years later converted Yuvdhi Apparels into a private limited company.
Since the beginning, Nidhi has positioned her brand carefully. The stress has always been on ethnic wear and fast fashion – which means they bring out fresh designs every 15 days or so.
“2014 was a time when people were wary of online things, and fast fashion was unheard of. We launched new styles every 15 days and produced in small batches,” she says.
“When we produce in small batches, there is a sense of scarcity and customers are likely to buy immediately if they like a design, instead of waiting and losing the piece altogether, as it might be out of stock soon.” They launch about 300 new designs every month in limited numbers.
|Nidhi modeling for AKS’s recently launched mother-child collection with her daughter |
Their latest collection is the mother child collection, which was created out of need during the pandemic lockdown.
“We couldn’t really source fabric at that time, and there is also a lot of wastage when it comes to women’s wear. So we upcycled it and created clothes for the kids from the same material.”
Nidhi scaled up slowly and hired her first employee in 2015 and the next year added three more employees. Her husband joined the company in 2018 and now AKS has grown into a 110-member team.
The team includes five tailors and a team of designers, who take inputs from Nidhi and create the designs. The tailors then work on the designs and create sample pieces that are sent to the partner factories in Delhi and Jaipur for bulk production.
They source fabric from Surat, Ahmedabad, and Jodhpur. “50% production is done in Delhi and the other 50% in Jaipur,” says Nidhi. “We don’t think that we have accomplished anything big, but certain things make us feel that we are 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, though she might just not want to settle where she is. She has always wanted to be a topper and it’s too early for her to rest on her laurels.
Born to 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 Class 12 in 2004.
“I was a laborious, hard working studious kid,” she says. “I always wanted to be the first in Class and the attitude has stuck with me. I would spend my summer vacation afternoons drawing various kinds of dresses. I realised much later that I was meant for fashion industry.”
Nidhi thought her interest in drawing and dresses was just a hobby and so she went on to do her B Tech (2004-08) in Computer Science from 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 the time one of her seniors asked her a soul searching question that completely changed her life.
When was the last day you enjoyed coming to office? That was the question and she shot back, ‘Never.’
“From there it took me about three months to realise that my heart lay in fashion,” says Nidhi, explaining her decision to quit Deloitte and enroll for a fashion course in Italy.
“In the first semester I researched extensively on Zara (an international fashion brand), for about six months. I can boast of being thrown out of Prada and Zara stores in Italy because I wasn’t properly dressed,” she reveals.
“In Italy you need to be properly dressed, with makeup and nail paint to step into high end stores, and not following protocol leads to what happened with me. Italians are very specific about fashion.”
She interned at Emilio Pucci, an Italian fashion brand, famous for geometric prints. Later she was offered an internship and a job at another renowned fashion brand Gucci, but she decided to come back to India.
“I am a family person, and thus decided to come back home despite getting an internship and job offer,” says Nidhi, who returned to India and worked for about three months as a merchandiser with well-known Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta, based in Gurugram.
|Nidhi turned down job opportunities in Italy to return to her 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 they had their first baby. Their second child, a son, Sanidhya, was born in 2019.
“While I and my mother take care of the younger one, (who is a handful), our elder daughter’s school is taken care of by Satpal,” says Nidhi.
“Likewise, we have divided the work in office as well; he looks after finance and planning while I take care of the aesthetics. We have chemistry like that of siblings. We fight with each, yet we are inseparable and can’t do without each other.”
AKS is one of the few companies that have grown during the pandemic and its turnover is expected to touch Rs 165 crore this year.