Launched with Rs 10K in 1988, Gwalior-based Dennison is using e-commerce to thrive in the new normal

Years before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed online retail outlets, men’s ready-to-wear brand Dennison Garments was gradually expanding its online presence.

The Gwalior-based company’s digital investment paid off in 2020. Dennison India, the online arm of the garment business, was growing between 2014 and 2020. However, Dennison saw an increase in sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic as revenue doubled from Rs 2.06 crore in FY20 to Rs 4.65 crore in FY21 .

Dennison’s digital journey began in 2014, when Ashwini Seth joined his family business. With an MBA, Ashwini was convinced that sitting in his father’s shop waiting for customers to arrive was not his cup of tea. He had been following the trend of e-commerce since 2011 and knew the space had growth potential.

Ashwini’s father, Rajendra Seth, settles down Dennison Clothing, who sell men’s shirts and pants, in 1988. In three decades of existence, the company has undergone several changes. However, nothing could have prepared him for a pandemic. Almost overnight, businesses had to rethink their operations to accommodate the new normal. For Dennison, who was early in the ecommerce game, the change was relatively easier to manage.

The story of Dennison’s creation

In the 1980s, Rajendra ran a clothing company that made uniforms for the Indian Army. Ashwini said her father would buy fabric in Mumbai (then Bombay) and Gujarat and have it made locally.

While running the uniform business, Rajendra discovered a gap in the Indian menswear market. Ashwini says several people in her father’s social circle pointed out that there aren’t many brands selling men’s ready-to-wear shirts. Those available in the market were expensive and getting a shirt sewn was both time consuming and expensive.

Meanwhile, India was also witnessing a rapid transformation in consumer behavior.

“The vision of making shirts at affordable prices would help reach the masses my dad sort of clicked on,” Ashwini told SMBStory.

Rajendra sold his scooter to launch Dennison with an investment of Rs 10,000. Initially, the company had four sewing machines in a small unit in Gwalior. The first shirts were rolled out in 1988 and were priced at Rs 98. This range was called Double EX shirts.

Ready-to-wear shirts found success and within a year Rajendra opened another store.

Make your own way

Although Dennison got off to a good start, his journey has not been smooth. In 1997, Rajendra left the company and handed over operations to his family (made up of five brothers). Ashwini says this uncle didn’t have his father’s vision for Dennison. Rajendra then decides to take over the reins in 2008.

Today Rajendra and Harsh Seth (Ashwini’s brother) run the retail business which has expanded to two outlets in Gwalior. The e-commerce business, led by Ashwini, was separated from the retail business in 2017 due to accounting issues.

Ashwin declined to release revenue figures for the retail unit.

When Ashwini entered the e-commerce vertical, he had several challenges to overcome. Additionally, Gwalior lacked the infrastructure to support e-commerce businesses in 2010.

He says the first step was to register on the e-commerce platform Snapdeal. The company, according to Ashwini, gained popularity after being listed on Amazon in India in 2016.

It was later listed on platforms like Myntra and even launched its own website in 2018, but that business was quickly shut down due to lack of content creation.

Over the past two years, however, the focus on creating content on Instagram and Facebook has helped the company engage with customers and improve brand value, Ashwini said.

Business in COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ashwini, has democratized e-commerce and helped businesses improve sales.

“Initially, not everyone had access to the Internet or e-commerce. Only a certain part of the people ordered online has changed. Today, it has become a necessity that has led to the growth of the sector, ”he says.

Ashwini is also confident that in a market as crowded as men’s ready-to-wear, Dennison will stand out in both quality and affordability. The menswear space is valued at $ 23,336 million according to a report by research platform Statista, and currently has several players such as Peter England, Allen Solly, Monte Carlo, Flying Machines, Raymond, among others.

Dennison shirts are priced from Rs 700. According to Ashwini, the company does not compete with the biggest brands and “they have a lot going on.”

In addition, the brand is also improving its game with more emphasis on sustainability.

Going forward, Dennison is harnessing sustainability. Among other initiatives, she plans to sell hemp shirts. “We want to make clothes that have the least carbon footprint,” he says.

In the next fiscal year, Dennison also wants to add a category of women’s clothing and footwear to its product line.

While Dennison has failed to catch the direct-to-consumer (D2C) wave in India, Ashwini is confident the company will continue to innovate to stay relevant. For now, Ashwini is focused on a redesign of her website.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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