From Raymond to Zara, this Apeejay alumnus manufactures sweaters for top brands
Interview: Shubham Kataria – Katbro Corporation Founder, leading Kids Wear, Ladies Cardigan & Mens Sweater Manufacturer
By Disha Roy Choudhury
Shubham Kataria was in his final year of college when he came up with a startup idea. With some help from his family, he launched his company with his brother in 2017.
His venture Katbro Corporation Private Limited, which manufactures sweaters, turned out to be a successful business.
This year, however, he moved to Uzbekistan to explore further business opportunities in the garment industry.
In an interview, the Apeejay International Greater Noida tells us what got him interested in sweaters, the challenges and success in his business, his work in Uzbekistan, and more. Edited excerpts:
What was your journey at Apeejay International Greater Noida like?
Shubham Kataria: It was a complete roller coaster. I used to be very naughty as a child. But things took a turn in class 10. The then-school principal was like a mother figure in my life.
She motivated and encouraged me a lot and that had a huge role to play in my transformation. I became the Head Boy and even won the Dr Stya Paul Award for Human Values. The school inculcated in me good morals and ethics that have become a part of my life now.
How did the idea of entrepreneurship come to you?
Shubham Kataria: The idea came to me while pursuing my graduation in mechanical engineering from Amity University. In the last year of college, I interned at a sweater manufacturing unit.
I learned a lot in the process about how garments are manufactured. Soon, my brother and I decided to open up a garment factory in Greater Noida.
We set up a sweater factory with some of the finest pieces of machinery in India. I worked with around 80 brands in India and abroad.
Following this, I got an opportunity to move to Uzbekistan. Here, I am setting up Central Asia’s largest sweater manufacturing unit.
What are some of the brands that you collaborated with?
Shubham Kataria: United Colors of Benetton, Blackberrys, Peter England, Simon Carter, Zara, H&M, and more. Abroad, we did boutiques for Italy, and made samples for Dolce & Gabbana.
We have also worked with Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and many more. In 2019-20, we were the only ones to make sweaters with MRP of more than Rs 10,000. We made cashmere sweaters for Raymond which were worth Rs 30,000.
We have now opened up another company where we focus on yarn and garment trading. Due to the pandemic-led crisis which impacted the business of clothing brands, we have shifted our focus from manufacturing to trading.
Where did you get the initial funds and machinery from?
Shubham Kataria: We approached our father with our startup idea. He supported us financially with some capital. Around 70 per cent of the money came from the bank.
We formally launched the company in 2017. We procured the major machines from Germany, Italy, Singapore, etc. We also incorporated indigenous machines.
Since you were collaborating with people across the globe, did you face any challenges?
Shubham Kataria: Running a business in India can be challenging. In Uzbekistan, I have seen that the factories do not release goods without payment.
In India, however, we sometimes got paid three months after dispatch. Eventually, you end up taking money on credit and paying interest without earning much profit.
For a new venture, this becomes a major hurdle, which can be overcome only through effective government policies.
Prior to the pandemic, how many garments were you making in a month?
Shubham Kataria: When we started, we used to manufacture around 4000 pieces. Just before Covid, we hit 7000 and at one point, 15,000. Post-pandemic, we decided to lower the production to 4000.
Take us through the process of how sweaters are made in a factory.
Shubham Kataria: It is a one-year process. First, the brand gives us inspiration for the design. Based on that, we make some fabric.
Once that is approved by the brand, we make the first sample, followed by 10 samples of the same size.
The brand gets franchise owners to come together and see the samples. Based on how many units would be sold, we are given the final number of sweaters that need to be produced.
The dispatch, from the time the yarn is obtained, takes about three months. So, it is quite a lengthy and time-taking process. Right now, I am already working on the autumn/winter’23 collection.
What are some of the latest trends in sweaters that brands are looking at?
Shubham Kataria: The trends vary every year. Every brand follows a different trend. However, what has emerged is that brands, especially kidswear, are now moving towards organic and sustainable garments. Sustainable fashion is the future.
You moved to Uzbekistan in 2020. Why?
Shubham Kataria: My father is already working in Uzbekistan with a textile group. I recently joined that group, and I am heading their garments unit. There are a lot of business opportunities in Uzbekistan.
They have a zero-duty contract with Europe in contrast to 18 per cent in India. The other benefit is that transportation of goods is relatively more convenient.
From India, you will have to send your goods via ship or flight to Europe. From Uzbekistan, however, we send goods via truck, which reaches Europe in just seven days.
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