Nitin Mohan and his elder brother Nikhil are the Co-Founders of Blackberrys Menswear, which is now in its 30th year. According to Nitin, who is also Managing Director, the root of the company’s success dates back more than a century to its parent company Mohan Clothing Company Private Limited, a 130-year-old retail store in Chandni Chowk.
“Blackberrys Menswear has been built on the values and trade learned there. Textiles is a very sensory business. There is a lot of touch and feel to it,” Nitin shares. In the beginning, market research was scarce. However, Nitin and his brother didn’t let that stop them. Armed with the passion necessary for success, they devised their own studies and found opportunity in the complex.
“The spirit of our business is grounded in our entrepreneurial nature and our ability to deep dive into issues, transforming them into opportunities,” he shares.
“So while everybody else in the industry typically begins with shirts, we saw opportunity in suits – the most complex category in menswear.” The beginnings were humble and saw the company start out as a garment manufacturer before eventually evolving from wholesale to retail. But with a commitment to quality and building relationships and a network with the trade, Blackberrys has grown by leaps and bounds
“We were a bootstrap startup, using our own privately held family funds,” Nitin reflects. “It was a small beginning, but a good beginning. We had a great response from the market because of our strong, product-centred focus. And from 2010 onwards, we started our retail expansion. Now we have about 180 stores, with another 80 stores on the franchise side.”
While the building of the Blackberrys business has led to lessons learned, Nitin says the evolution of its products has also been an interesting journey. “When it comes to understanding the consumer, we’ve always had our ears close to the ground,” he explains. “Our ability to understand the market and connect with the consumer has been central to our business, as well as product knowledge and innovation.”
The new era
Prior to the pandemic, the team had already embarked on what they dubbed the “New Era” in June 2019, when it was conceived. It is something that has served them well in the past two years, and is based on the concept of integrity.
“When I say integrity, it means honouring our word. It is the way we interact with each other – the way we interact with our colleagues and our customer,” Nitin says. “We are investing heavily in the future, in aligning our people, and in building a culture of integrity and agility.”
As India begins to emerge from COVID-19, Nitin believes there are great opportunities. The pandemic has provided valuable time for reflection and a chance for market disruption. “Over the past few years, there’s been a great deal of similarity and very little differentiation among many of the brands,” he says.
“The pandemic has given us time to think deeply and realign ourselves. We’ve taken the time to amplify our focus on innovation, strengthening our suit and trouser collection, an area where we’re already the market leader. Now, the need of the hour is to continue aligning our bricks-and-mortar stores with digital stores.”
It’s a dilemma that most retailers are dealing with, but Nitin is positive about the company’s ability to blend online and physical stores to provide customers with convenience and a great shopping experience. “Whether the consumer is sitting at home, seeking an exclusive appointment at the store, or they’re looking to shop from the comfort of their home, we can meet their needs,” he says.
“And the way we’re building our team and investing in the leadership development program allows us to move forward into this New Era as an omnichannel retailer together.” After streamlining costs, the team is leaner yet more empowered as a result of the leadership work that the brothers have been investing in.
The Blackberrys brand has also been reinvented with its former tree logo being replaced by a firebird – a symbol of reinvention that resonates with Blackberrys’ brand value to keep rising. And the company, with its ears to the ground, continues to work very hard at developing the customer experience and ecosystem, listening to feedback, even that which is unspoken.
“Through innovative technology, Blackberrys has built a system to listen and understand latent needs,” he says. “This insight helps us course-correct where necessary and take relevant actions to ensure customer happiness.” FUTURE FOCUS Nitin explains that Blackberrys has a number of key areas of focus for the future, but fortifying its establishment as the “fit expert” is number one.
“This is the single most powerful attribute that the consumer recognises us for,” he stresses. “When I say agility, I’m referring to the ability of the team to align with velocity, so it’s not just to do it quickly, but to do it quickly and efficiently with an impact,” Nitin says, adding that peer review will form part of that focus.
“Of course, on the consumer side, we want to continue serving our existing customers well. At the same time, we want to be able to expand our horizons to engage with new customers,” he says. “We will also continue to nurture our relationships with multi-brand outlets and large-format stores, as some of these go back 30 years. These relationships are strong and built on trust.
“We’ve helped suppliers start from scratch. One had to rent machines to make his first 500 shirts, and today, after a partnership of nearly 10 years, he’s making 20,000 shirts every month. There are set guidelines on the Blackberrys’ way of working that empower these entrepreneurs to create quality products. This also applies to other service aspects as well, ranging from technology partners to hanger suppliers.”
These partnerships saw the company safely through the supply chain disruptions of COVID-19. “We’ve worked closely with the vendors – if there’s a seamlessly connected supply chain where the vendor has regular work, the supply chain is not overburdened with stock,” he says. “It took us 10 months to do this, but it’s been worth it.”
Nitin is looking forward to the future in this post-pandemic New Era. “We have a vision, and we are certain that demand will bounce back,” he says. “With celebrations right around the corner, we see people living their lives with a renewed sense of vigour. They will be excited to celebrate life, which will in turn spark an increased demand for our products. That’s the reason we are investing in our culture, this building and our leadership funnel. These are the steps that will help our company and brand grow.”
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