FiBRO is an apparel manufacturer operating in Nepal that started its operation around nine months back. Suraj Raj Pandey, a third-year IT student in Islington college, hadn’t seen any local apparel companies specifically targeting the young smart-casuals wearing crowd in Kathmandu. The idea to start a company that caters to the young office goers of the city, that seek sleek yet comfortable clothing, came to him around a year and a half back. He was introduced to the line of apparel market during his trip to Bangladesh, where he had the opportunity to visit the manufacturing factory his friend was working for. There, he saw how a high-end brand was robbing people by marking the price of its products exorbitantly above the production cost. This made him want to bring a change, at least in his own country. When he returned to Nepal, he decided to propose to one of his college friends, Lubna Banu, to work with him on an apparel company that would soon be called ‘FiBRO’. Suraj and Lubna are now the co-founders of the company that started its operation with not more than five thousand rupees.
Suraj recalls having invested the little pocket money he had into FiBRO’s first collection without really anticipating the company to grow as much as it has today. His first collection consisted of 52 pieces of Winter Jacket collection, that he got manufactured on credit. The first batch of jackets was sold to friends, colleagues and relatives; however, the brand seemed to stick with people because of its design and quality value. After receiving good feedback and having gained confidence on the jackets, he added 100 more wind/rainproof jackets. The rate at which the jackets were being sold was a telltale of the company’s need to expand. Now, FiBRO’s apparels can be found on Daraz and Sastodeal. The company has been operating without a physical retail store and plans to do so for a long time. The company recently launched a new line of men’s chino pants that can be ordered through their website or simply through a call.
A few years back, the local market mostly had brands that were either too expensive or cheap/rip-offs; it lacked a market dedicated to the middle-class mass who wanted to look great and not spend exuberantly at the same time. For Suraj, it felt like the right time to bring in affordable, smart-casual brand to the market that is fitting yet comfortable for regular office wear.
FiBRO has produced four variations of jackets and has recently launched a new line of men’s chino pants. FiBRO sources its raw materials from Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Vietnam; they have been unable to hunt for the high-quality clothing material that provides a decent economy of scale from within the country. Because the founders believe in the lean startup model, the company has outsourced its manufacturing unit to four factories within Kathmandu.
Suraj realizes that FiBRO’s sales are being made beyond personal connections and recommendations; people have started to recognize the brand on their own. FiBRO has exhibited its product in a few of the popular startup festivals – GBG’s Biz Fest and Namaste Eid Festival – through which it gained the necessary traction. For now, their products are mostly being sold through their social media pages and the official website. There are talks to collaborate with retail giants and get their apparel on the physical market soon too. Furthermore, they plan to expand their promotion beyond social media by using all ATL, BTL, and TTL methods. On being asked on why FiBRO is rejecting investment offers, Suraj says, “The day I take someone else’s money, I will be forced to give good returns. FiBRO has not expanded so much to reach there yet and until then, we are not looking for investments”. With its plans on adding a few more lines of garments for both men and women in the future, FiBRO has set a target of ten thousand customers by the end of next year.
Suraj believes that Nepal is a country with endless possibilities if your head is in the right place. He thinks it is futile to complain about the situation of governance and bureaucracy in Nepal, and rather work on the opportunities that exist vastly in the private market. With the prior experience of having boot-strapped two businesses- that had eventually failed- before FiBRO, he somewhat knew what he was getting into. He urges the new generation of problem solvers and employment makers to be solution-centric and not problem-fixated.
Originally covered and published by Supriya Rayamajhi for Startups Nepal on 16/07/2019.