Naming one’s company after the rising sun might sound too ambitious, but it can be said that apparel website Bhane (rising sun in Gurmukhi) is doing their name justice. Started in December 2012, in less than three years this website, known for its youthful style, has expanded business to New York, have opened a store in Delhi and now they even have an ice-cream shop.
“We are not just selling clothes and bags; we aim to be a part of a growing youth culture in India and we try to reflect that in all our ventures,” says Anand Ahuja, the brains behind the brand. Ahuja, after studying and working in the US for 10 years, returned to India and started working for Shahi Exports, Bhane’s parent company. While he saw similarities between the demands of the youth in India and America, there was no similarity between the markets serving them. “When I was at Shahi, I noticed a lot of people get into blogging and graduate from design schools and peruse their creative likings, but there was no real support for them in the market or even culturally. Bhane was started in a way to harness their creativity and support and encourage them. As my background was in clothes in Shahi and Macy’s in US so that seemed like a nice way to go,” said Ahuja explaining the inception of the company.
Swati Dogra was the first recruit at Bhane was, the designer, who Ahuja claims had eight rounds of interviews before being hired. Reflecting on the clothes they make, Dogra says that everything has to be in line with our basic principle which is “live simply and simply live”. “Our clothes have to be simple, authentic and have to have universality. They also have to be versatile and wearable, meaning we don’t want the clothes to give a person a certain look but to go according with the person’s style. And off-course the quality has to be non-negotiable,” Dogra says.
Transforming your plans from paper to reality is not always as you thought it would be in theory. From a design team of two, in Delhi, Bhane expanded and eventually had a design team in Bangalore too. “This affected the quality. So we had to downsize as it works better when all the participants are in the same room the final products gets scrutinized from all angles and the result is better,” Ahuja explains. A big reason for the brand’s popularity is their models. Bhane has until now shot with over 600 common people for their website. “The clothes we create are for the common man’s everyday use. And this goes perfectly with our principles of building a people’s brand,” Ahuja says. “This has also added to the popularity. All the people we have shot with us are or have been our unofficial ambassadors in their personal circle of friends. Word of mouth is one of our best advertisements,” said Somak Sarkar, the marketing head.
Laughing about the cons of using common people as models the team says that they have to travel with all sizes of a piece of clothing. This means if they shoot ten looks they have to carry all the five sizes of every single piece. Whereas if they used a model they would have to bring just once piece of the standard size, but as Ahuja kept on repeating, through the course of this interview, “for better or for worse” they have stuck to their core principles. They say that at the end this is what gets you credit with your clients. The brand’s other policy is to attract it’s buyers through innovative and youthful design and not through discount driven and “in your face” advertising which other websites use. “We try to be a needed brand instead of being a needy one. Our products though have a signature of the brand but also have enough flexibility to give the buyers freedom to express their individuality,” says Nishant Fogaat experience designer.
Now experience designer might sound strange, but this brand pays a great deal of time and thought to make their customer’s experience better. Opening up an ice-cream shop would not be your next step after you have just opened a clothes store but Bhane thinks differently. After starting as a website they did not align themselves in the online versus physical store fight. “The experience of buying something from a physical store is never similar to shopping online. People shop online since it’s quick and easier, so we kept that in mind while designing our website; we made it simple and fool proof. Similarly, for shoppers who like physical stores, we want to enhance the experience by giving them an area which they can enjoy in, and ice-cream and coffee is something which everyone enjoys,” Ahuja said talking about the reason for opening the ice-cream shop above their store. Keeping up with the times, Bhane is big on recycling. All the way from their packaging, which is made up of old recycled cartons, to not wasting the excess fabric from their clothes which they have used as cushion covers and on walls as art in cafe, they don’t waste.
Coming back to the brand’s name, Ahuja and his colleagues confess that it has made for some funny stories. “People come in and pronounce it in all sorts of different ways,” he says. ‘Bhain’, ‘Bhaini’ or ‘Behane’ are some of the common ones. “We did not have a name at the start. Swati was the first one to join and she did not even know what to call the company,” Ahuja remembers. One day while playing with some ideas he reluctantly filtered it down to Bhane. On being asked by the web designers if that was the final name he said that it was just a place-filler and the final name would come later. But when he saw the final logo with Bhane in the current font with the dot at the end he did not think any more. “It just looked beautiful. They had written it on a sheet with a lot of other samples and I loved this. The name is intriguing as no one knows the meaning or how to pronounce it correctly, so they get interested in us,” Ahuja said as he recalled the naming of the company.