A Candid Conversation with Raghav Mittal, The Visionary Behind The House of Surya
Welcome to an exclusive interview with the visionary mind behind the thriving fashion empire of The House of Surya – Raghav Mittal, MD & Creative Director.
With an exceptional degree from the esteemed London College of Fashion, UAL, Raghav has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the Indian fashion industry.
With a passion for luxury, an eye for detail, and a deep commitment to ethical practices, Raghav’s journey from old Delhi to leading one of India’s most sought-after fashion labels has been nothing short of inspiring.
In this candid conversation, we delve into his creative process, his dedication to promoting sustainability in fashion, and his unwavering pursuit of excellence.
Raghav Mittal, the driving force behind India’s highly coveted fashion labels, Surya and Raagwaas, is making waves in the industry with his innovative approach and commitment to ethical practices.
Armed with a degree from the prestigious London College of Fashion, UAL, Raghav combines his keen eye for detail with a passion for luxury and sustainability.
Hailing from the vibrant streets of old Delhi, India, Raghav’s deep understanding of the Indian fashion landscape has played a pivotal role in building his fashion empire.
With expertise in business processes, marketing, branding, and customer experience, he has successfully elevated his family enterprise to new heights.
As an advocate for luxury and ethical fashion, Raghav is concerned about the global impact of the industry.
He encourages support for brands that prioritize fine craftsmanship and the use of the finest materials, aiming to set a new standard in the world of fashion.
Drawing inspiration from the heritage and rich culture of old Delhi, Raghav leads Surya, a label that blends the opulent lifestyle of London with the essence of Indian heritage.
Starting from humble beginnings in counter sales at Surya, he quickly advanced to marketing before gaining a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of the business.
Beyond fashion, Raghav’s passion for music and art led him to create Raagwaas. The label’s core objective is to convey the love and affection that craftsmen invest in each masterpiece, resulting in divine creations that reflect his unique vision.
Raghav’s unconventional approach to fashion allows him to express his creativity and individuality, making his labels stand out among enthusiasts.
With a dedicated fan base and a niche carved in the market, he has become the most sought-after expert in the Indian fashion industry.
Through Surya and Raagwaas, Raghav Mittal continues to lead the way, shaping the future of fashion with luxury, ethics, and unmatched craftsmanship.
Tell us a little about yourself
Raghav Mittal: I’m Raghav Mittal- MD and Chief Creative Director for House of Surya. I am taking care of operations, sales, and marketing.
I am a graduate of the London College of Fashion. I’ve done my MA in fashion retail management, and, as an undergraduate, I pursued a bachelor’s in business administration from Christ University Bangalore.
Most of my schooling has been in Delhi. My educational background in London has really helped me understand, the retail market and the scope of the retail market, how to set different aspirations through retail experiences in retail spaces, and manage those spaces in creative ways so that customers’ experience can be optimized.
House of Surya is essentially a homegrown brand and the business started in 1960. My great-grandfather started this and I am currently the fourth generation working in this industry, along with five others of my family members.
It’s a family-run, family-managed business, we all work dedicatedly in different departments and product segments.
Each of the product segments is handled by one of the family members, which brings expertise to that. We collectively take care of manufacturing, wholesaling, export, as well as retail operations of women’s ethnic wear ranging from the commercial as well as to the high-end and premium segment.
The House of Surya is a homegrown Indian fashion brand. How do you infuse Indian culture and traditions into your designs, while also appealing to a global audience?
Raghav Mittal: The biggest thing in our culture is ethnic fashion. The silhouette in itself is very unique to the culture. So, when we talk about saris, lehengas, or the Anarkali suits, these silhouettes are very Indian.
One cannot really experience these silhouettes in any other fashion or any other culture globally. I would say fundamentally our product is very culturally driven towards the Indian market.
And also, because we deal with a lot of handicraft and handwoven textiles, and we also do a lot of hand embellishments and embroideries on that.
If you really understand Indian handicrafts, they’re all very unique to the region that they belong to. For example, Kashmiri embroidery will only happen in Kashmir, so when we look at those, that kind of embroidery, it gives an automatic look for Kashmiri handicraft.
I would say that each product that we make, it’s in itself a representation of Indian culture and the diversity that we source it from.
What sets The House of Surya apart from other fashion brands, and what do you believe is the brand’s unique selling proposition?
Raghav Mittal: One of the biggest things is that we very closely work with the roots of textile creation and where these products are really being born from.
So, one of our USPs would be that while doing business, we try to promote handicrafts and handweavers, artisans.
Any of our products we try and have as much as a hand touch it can have. And at the same time, we are also creating a social cause.
We try to market our products in a way that they create that appeal and communicate the message of hand creation. We have developed a model that promotes social entrepreneurship.
Fashion is an ever-changing industry. How do you stay ahead of trends and ensure that The House of Surya’s collections remain fresh and relevant?
Raghav Mittal: Fashion is not the only thing that changes; people and their mindsets evolve as well. We strive to be in tune with how individuals perceive themselves during their special occasions or any event they need attire for.
Through keen observation, we witness various social situations and encounters with many brides. For instance, on their wedding day, a lot of brides still prefer sticking to classic styles.
Thus, we don’t need to completely overhaul our designs; instead, we focus on adding subtle modern touches to the classics.
However, we also recognize that there are spaces and silhouettes where new and emerging trends are taking shape.
We diligently research and analyze both macro and micro lifestyle trends to anticipate the direction consumers will move towards.
Moreover, we draw inspiration from the works of designers operating in our local market and the international fashion scene.
There’s always much to learn from the diverse players in the industry. By understanding how people envision themselves and being receptive to the ever-changing fashion landscape, we continue to create designs that resonate with our customers while incorporating the latest trends and styles.
Sustainability and ethical practices are gaining prominence in the fashion world. How does The House of Surya incorporate sustainable principles into its manufacturing and design processes?
Raghav Mittal: Sustainability is a multifaceted concept, often misunderstood by many. At our organization, we approach sustainability through two key elements: the human impact and the environmental or social impact.
When it comes to the human and social aspects, our focus lies in treating our weavers and craftsmen with utmost respect and care.
Providing them with appropriate working conditions and uplifting their quality of life is a priority. By doing so, we aim to break the cycle of poverty that often leads these artisans to abandon their craft.
Concerning the environmental impact, our preference is to incorporate organic materials and those that cause minimal harm to the environment.
While complete harmlessness may be difficult to achieve, we prioritize the use of natural dyes, which produce fewer harmful effluents compared to chemical dyes. Additionally, we seek out fabrics and yarns that are produced in a socially responsible manner.
We are proactive in sourcing yarns and fabrics from suppliers who share our commitment to sustainability.
We also engage in educating our partners on waste reduction and ways to minimize their negative impact on the environment and society.
Sustainability is an ongoing journey for us, and we have been diligently working towards this goal for the past three to five years.
It is a deeply ingrained value in our organization, driving us to continuously improve and contribute to a better, more sustainable future.
The House of Surya caters to a diverse customer base. How do you ensure your designs resonate with various age groups and style preferences?
Raghav Mittal: Our customer base is diverse, encompassing all immediate family members involved in weddings, ranging from teenagers like younger sisters to elder ladies like Dadi Mas in their 65s or 70s.
Understanding the varying age groups, we tailor our approach to cater to their unique comfort levels and aspirations.
Surprisingly, people from different age groups often share similar mindsets, making our marketing strategies more effective.
To appeal to different demographics, our marketing campaigns showcase our fashion through photoshoots featuring young models donning Saris in social situations that resonate with younger lifestyles.
This balanced approach ensures we connect with a wide audience. A shining example of our inclusivity is our recent campaign “Inayat” conducted in 2021.
It beautifully represented women from diverse age groups within a single setting, featuring 10 to 12 different models.
This portrayal celebrated the various characters involved in weddings and highlighted the essence of family unity.
At House of Surya, we embrace the richness of generations, aiming to provide fashion that caters to the unique tastes and desires of every family member, making their special occasions truly memorable.
Brand identity and storytelling are essential aspects of any successful fashion brand. How does The House of Surya convey its brand story to customers, and what emotions or values do you aim to evoke through your designs?
Raghav Mittal: For brides, the most significant aspect we focus on is an aspiration – the desire to make them feel that their wedding day is the most special moment in their entire life.
We achieve this by carefully curating our bridal collections to evoke that special feeling. Ensuring our brides feel cherished and valued, we offer exceptional hospitality, a seamless trial experience, and a smooth delivery process.
House of Surya takes pride in creating a warm and welcoming family shopping environment, given the diverse range of products we offer.
We understand that bridal shopping is often a cherished family experience, and our space reflects that sentiment.
This family-friendly setting adds to the joy and celebratory atmosphere, which aligns perfectly with the essence of Indian weddings.
Our mission is to provide more than just exquisite dresses; we strive to be a part of our brides’ precious memories and their journey toward a lifetime of happiness.
By infusing every aspect of our service with care and attention to detail, we make sure that our brides feel truly special and cherished on their big day.
Customer experience plays a vital role in brand loyalty. How does The House of Surya prioritize customer satisfaction and engagement throughout the shopping journey?
Raghav Mittal: As mentioned earlier, hospitality is our foremost priority. Indian families, and Indians in general, place significant value on the level of hospitality provided.
This extends from the way we offer food and extend greetings to ensuring a comfortable and inviting space for our customers to relax.
In contrast to many modern retail experiences that are more display-driven and encourage customers to shop independently, we focus on one-on-one attention.
Our aim is to create a more personal shopping experience, where our dedicated staff provides individualized assistance.
Instead of customers picking items on their own, our team suggests and guides them through the selection process, ensuring they feel cared for and well-supported.
This personalized approach is one of the key elements that set us apart. We believe that building a strong rapport with our customers and offering tailored recommendations enhances their overall shopping journey and fosters a sense of trust and connection.
At House of Surya, we strive to make every visit a special and memorable experience for our valued customers.
The House of Surya has both offline and online retail channels. How do you integrate these channels to provide a seamless and consistent brand experience to customers?
Raghav Mittal: As a brand, we deeply understand our customers’ preferences when it comes to shopping.
We recognize that offline experiences cater to those seeking higher-value purchases, as they find value in the tactile experience and are willing to make the effort to visit our stores. This is particularly important for our handicrafts, as they truly come to life when touched and felt.
To provide the right offline experience, we ensure our physical stores are well-equipped to cater to these discerning customers.
On the other hand, our online presence is equally crucial. Through our various social media platforms and website, we engage with customers digitally, offering a seamless shopping experience at specific price points and product categories.
To facilitate a smooth customer journey, we have a fully functioning e-commerce website, SuryaSaris.com, and a WhatsApp channel for easy communication.
It’s not uncommon for customers to video call us when they wish to make a purchase or interact through this channel, sometimes even booking appointments for offline store visits. This integration of different channels allows for seamless cross-channel interactions.
Our ultimate goal is to be accessible to our customers on their preferred platforms, whether it’s through a physical store or a digital interaction.
By understanding their needs and adapting to their preferences, we ensure a delightful and convenient shopping experience, thereby fostering strong and lasting connections with our valued customers.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities for Indian fashion brands in the current market?
Raghav Mittal: The Indian fashion market presents tremendous opportunities for brands as the country embraces the habit of buying branded products.
Consumers’ aspirations are on the rise, and more people seek fulfillment through brand purchases. This growing trend indicates a promising space for brands to emerge across various product categories and market segments.
Looking ahead, it is anticipated that a significant portion, approximately 60-70%, of the high street in urban cities, tier one, and tier two locations will be covered by brands.
This shift will extend to both ethnic and casual wear segments, paving the way for the emergence of numerous niche brands.
House of Surya aims to actively participate in this dynamic market, seizing the opportunities and staying relevant in the action-packed industry.
However, like any business, challenges also lie ahead. One such challenge revolves around the declining production capacity of handicrafts due to the scarcity of the next generation of craftsmen.
Brands operating in this space will need to strategize and adapt to overcome this limitation. Furthermore, entering the market as a new player, especially in the raw manufacturing space, poses difficulties.
With numerous emerging brands, finding the right format, size, and market to operate in becomes crucial.
Thorough analysis and strategic planning are essential in tackling this challenge effectively. Despite these challenges, the Indian fashion market holds great potential for brands to flourish.
By understanding consumer desires, staying innovative, and making well-informed decisions, brands can thrive in this dynamic and ever-evolving landscape.
As we draw this exclusive interview to a close, it becomes evident that Raghav Mittal’s journey as the MD & Creative Director of The House of Surya is a testament to the power of creativity, innovation, and ethical values.
From his humble beginnings to becoming a driving force in the industry, Raghav’s unwavering commitment to luxury and ethical fashion has transformed his family enterprise into a respected name in the world of fashion.
His passion for crafting divine creations, inspired by the charm of old Delhi’s heritage and culture, is a reminder that fashion can be a force for good.
As we eagerly anticipate the future of The House of Surya under Raghav’s guidance, one thing is certain – his unique vision and dedication will continue to shape the landscape of Indian fashion, leaving an indelible mark for generations to come.
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