“ Entrepreneurship is about being able to understand the relationship between risk and nurturing.”- Lubeina Shahpurwala co-director of Mustang Socks
Mustang Socks and Accessories was founded by Naazneen Katrak in 1987. She understood the need for quality cotton socks, which compelled her to single handedly set-up Mustang. In 2004, Naazneen collaborated with Lubeina Shahpurwala, who teamed up with her as co-partner at Mustang and took it to a new level as a brand; a sector which was almost untouched by Fashion in India. Together with Adi Katrak who streamlined the company’s operations and administration they achieved their goal of delivering superior value to their customers, employees and society at large. It started with providing good quality cotton socks extending to delivering that inimitable value and peerless comfort which anyone would love to experience at any time of the day, no matter what they are doing. Naazneen, amongst the pioneers in this industry combined various elements together for a garment given the least attention, i.e. socks, and fused it innovatively with perfect cotton quality, extraordinary and novel design concepts as well as latest technology.
Lubeina Shahpurwala on the other hand works with a thought of bringing spirit and passion to one of the intimate and neglected parts of one’s wardrobe. Naazneen and Lubeina have together grown Mustang to Market leader status with years of dedication. Lubeina Shahpurwala is a women entrepreneur who has broken away from the beaten track and is exploring new avenues of economic participation. Lubeina was awarded as the Entrepreneur of the Year in Manufacturing Business at the 5th Entrepreneur India Awards 2015. Among the reasons for her to run Mustang Socks and Accessories are her skills, knowledge and talents, abilities and creativity in business and a compelling desire of wanting to do something different. Mustang Socks are one of the biggest manufacturers of socks in India and hold a huge market share in the organized sector in India itself. Naazneen Katrak is the thought leader of this sector through the continuous innovation and advancement which she has brought in the industry which is so fragmented and un-organized. Lubeina Shahpurwala and Naazneen Katrak have paved their path to success, as Mustang today manufactures more than 1 million pairs of socks, and has 36 distributors across India. They have tie-ups with some of the largest International Brands and Retailers and are trusted partners.
Lubeina Shahpurwala, is a graduate in Commerce from Sydenham Institute of Management Studies and Research Entrepreneurship Education. After completing her graduation and working with a top apparel brand for a short stint, out of curiosity and chance, she met her now business partner Naazneen Katrak, Co-Founder, Mustang Socks & Accessories, who was single handedly on a mission to provide good quality socks, to the Indian consumers. Naazneen realized all the way in the 1980’s, that were no good quality cotton sock’s that were made in India. The only way to get good quality cotton socks in India, was through shops which sold imported goods. Her own need for quality cotton socks made Naazneen start Mustang. Mustang Socks was founded in 1987 by Naazneen Katrak, and in the year 1997 Lubeina Shahpurwala joined Mustang, by 2004 they collaborated to take the Mustang as a brand to greater heights. An entrepreneur and fashion enthusiast, she broke away from the trodden path to boost Mustang Socks to new heights. Drawing from her natural love for fashion and keen sense of business, Lubeina has been instrumental in making Mustang an aspirational brand in fashion apparel in India. With a combination of sharp business acumen, a hands-on approach in Mustang and a compelling desire to grow, Lubeina complements Naazneen’s passion perfectly. Her need to keep up with the latest trends has ensured that Mustang stays ahead in terms of product design and technology – whether it be their character range, vibrant seasonal collections, their health socks or the classy footlets.
The journey, since then has been extremely exciting. Her focus has been to establish Mustang Socks on a global footprint, and extend the scope of opportunities for the company.
Behind the Business
Socks are something that many ignore – but both Naazneen and Lubeina were bound by their love for the humble sock, as an important part of the wardrobe. Mustang manufactures and distributes its products. Mustang caters to men, women and kids in all ages and socks’ being an everyday essential; their target audience is anyone who loves wearing and experimenting with colorful socks. Professionals, fashion savvy individuals and majorly the regular consumer’s who wear socks everyday. Being a home-grown brand have understood the changing trends and tastes in the socks segment and have successfully been able to fill a void in the market for affordable yet stylish and colorful socks. The market has potential and is different than before with the increasing acceptance of colorful, trendy and patterned socks amongst the consumers.
They currently have 36 distributors across India and are manufacturing over 1 million socks a month. In terms of store presence, Mustang Socks are available in Amazon, Hopscotch, First Cry and Mustang flagship e-commerce platform. Mustang also exports to the Middle East—UAE, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, England and Italy. They are also aiming at expanding in US currently.
Over the years Mustang Socks has completed an entire journey. They had their share of losses for the first few years, which was a challenge as socks was not an established industry. Changing consumer’s mind-set towards socks wasn’t easy as back in 80’s and 90’s socks was a just a mere utility product, and a much neglected part of one’s wardrobe. Therefore, their challenge was to transform that positioning of socks in the market and consumer’s mind-set from a utility element to a lifestyle statement accessory. Apart from that, there also several business challenges like sizing, pricing of lycra and direct marketing to retailers. Today, consumers have matured in terms of their buying behavior; they now understand the need of a brand and its services. People are keeping pace with the fashion trends, helping products to elevate their share in the market.
How would you define true entrepreneurship? What has made you so successful as an entrepreneur?
Lubeina Shahpurwala: According to me, As a leader, it is all about being able to identify and adapt to the changes, hence, leading to a company’s innovation and operational excellence. The dynamic business environment calls for revising of outlook towards the thought process. We, at Mustang, believe in nurturing our team’s growth and development. Our team member’s play’s a very important role in decision-making, which helps us in the theory of constant innovation and also fosters teamwork.
Tell us about your average day?
L.S: A typical day at work, especially at the factory, is crazy! Once the paperwork is wrapped up, a lot of time is spent with the design team. With our products, we have to be one step ahead of the trends of next season, we have to keep innovating on our styles and quality. We then proceed to inspect the actual manufacturing of the products – and this is my favorite part. Interacting with the team and actually seeing the socks being made is just the most amazing feeling. The thing that separates us from other brands is the fact that we manufacture the products in house and have great control on the product. So a lot of time is spent on floor, ensuring that whatever leaves our dispatch center is nothing short of perfect
What advice would you give to women who want to start a business?
L.S: Today, women are extremely goal oriented and to me that is the most essential element for success. If there is focus towards their vision and approach, the rest falls in place. Basically, all you need is to manage your resources well. For women, specifically, managing their personal and professional life simultaneously comes as a bigger challenge and an advantage. Challenge because they need to manage both the roles with equal importance, and benefit because it makes them great at multi-tasking, goal-oriented and a good support system. Beyond all of this is to love what you do is the most imperative to sustain.
Is starting business being a woman as big a challenge as is spoken about?
L.S: According to me, if an entrepreneur believes in their business ideas, then they will seek any means to move forward and commercialize their concepts. The only challenge I have observed has been most spoken about is the balance of home and work which do defer many women, to plunge into starting on their ventures. Every entrepreneur has to face challenges, all you need is to believe in your ideas and keep working.
What is your greatest achievement?
- Entrepreneur of the Year in Manufacturing Business at the 5th Entrepreneur India Awards 2015,
- MSME Award 2015,
- Rotary BSE-SME National Award 2014,
- Best Stall at CBME 2014
Many new e-commerce ventures have started operations in the recent past there by swelling the number of players significantly. In your opinion, is consolidation imperative as the industry matures or is the Indian market capable of accommodating several players?
L.S: There is enough opportunity for more players, but I feel there is a need for consolidation in terms of targeting and the service model. With every brand and product considering online as the only sales platform may be a stretch. It would be ideal to elevate the supply chain channels, focused targeting of consumers, and standardization of laws and methods of retailing. As still major portions of India, are still dependent on an offline distribution model.
What makes your product different from other companies that are in the same space?
L.S: The journey of Mustang has evolved to establish various small and industry specific systems and processes, which have been the biggest challenge to work in an un-organized sector such as ours. We are working consistently towards initiatives for getting some sanity to the un-organized sector, also acceptance of cotton socks and ensuring delivery of quality products from the date of inception. While, the core product has always remained socks, recently we expanded to the kid’s innerwear segment especially with our licensed products and tights. Mustang has also contributed immensely to the social development of the people working with them and hence is a household name among various families. Mustang is SA 8000 compliant (a certification for social environment) and SEDEX (social & technical health safety) which are internationally recognized.
How closely involved are you with the design of your products?
L.S: Design has been one of the key differentiators for our product. We have been known for our designs. Apart from that, it really explores our creativity which keeps us excited and fun. It’s endearing to have a great design on your socks and see the acceptance of it in the market, constantly makes us to do better.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
L.S: Every entrepreneur has a business idea, that they want to showcase and translate. To start with, they need to believe in their idea and seek any means to move forward and commercialize their concept.
- One should focus towards the vision and approach of the idea
- Manage your resources from day one, because in today’s competitive business environment, there are several ups and down.
- Every entrepreneur has to face and overcome challenges, all you need is to believe in your ideas and keep working.
What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured that point of difference?
L.S: Our key USP’s are our innovative styles, fresh design concepts, vibrant colours and shades, and most importantly our fusion of all these concepts are perfect quality products. We are constantly like to offer our customers unique styles and variants, so that they can keep pace with the current market trends.
What is your market sector like for new entrants? What are your future plans?
L.S: The Socks and Accessories industry is still very niche niche, and is waiting to be explored. But over the past 6 years, the market has shown tremendous growth and in a small but significant way contributing to the Indian economy. The market has opened many opportunities for us, to offer our customers products that are not just a utility product, but a necessity and can become a lifestyle statement. Today, we see lots of other un-conventional accessory products such as tie, scarfs, purses and jeweler’s are making a fashion statement and have their own stand-alone stores. We as sock’s manufactures, are also increasingly experimenting with fabric, color, patterns and innovative designs and are confident that in no time the socks will be used as a sophisticated product. We are planning our offline presence soon, at this point in time we have a showroom at Dadar in Mumbai.