It has always been assumed that social and business interests are antithetical to each other. Fabindia has proved quite conclusively that this need not be the case.


How has your journey with Fabindia been so far? How has it been different from the roles you have led in your career?

Fabindia is a unique organization with a vision to bring all that we love about India, to the world. It’s a complex job of balancing the available craft with what the customer would accept. There is scope to grow the business manifold by leveraging the strengths of Fabindia. As a business manager, used to growing businesses in rapid strides, I see this as a great place for me to apply my skills while enjoying myself learning new things.

Given its business model, as Fabindia grows in scale will it be difficult to balance the social and business interests of the company? How is the brand tackling this issue?

For some reason, it has always been assumed that social and business interests are antithetical to each other. Fabindia has proved quite conclusively that this need not be the case – that profit and purpose can indeed pull in the same direction and this is what has made Fabindia a case study at Harvard and a number of global business

Unlike most companies, Fabindia’s social commitment is intrinsic to its business model, and not merely an external interest, or CSR initiative. What is now understood as the ‘social aspect’ has been part of the company’s DNA from the very start – the entire sourcing model is based on promoting and nurturing an equitable relationship with the artisans and craftpersons who are suppliers to the company.This intricate web of relationships reaches into the rural heartland of this country, providing access to markets to the crafts and hand based skills that form the cultural heritage of our country.

With the ‘social aspect’ being a non-negotiable business constituent of the company, as the company scales, we necessarily take the supply chain with us. To this end, one of the strongest initiatives at Fabindia is centered around the supply base, training and the building of capacity at the grass roots and what has been called the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ – which incidentally for us is a very vibrant and knowledge-based space.

For us, scaling the social commitment is a business necessity, and a commitment on which the company has been built over the last 54 years.

Fabindia recently introduced its western wear line – Fabels? How has it fared?

Fabels is a very interesting concept – it builds on Fabindia’s strength and knowledge of traditionally crafted textiles and hand based skills, and structures it a contemporary, truly western idiom.

It also responds to needs of the customer for whom western-wear has become an essential part of the wardrobe.

As you are aware the initial offering was designed by Alistair Blair, a designer of international repute and was very well received. We are now set to extend our offering further, and are very confident that with Fabels we are establishing the first truly distinctive offering of western garments, out of India.

What is the current focus area for Fabindia and how do you see the brand growing in the next 3-5 years?

Fabindia is recognized as an iconic Indian brand – our focus is on increasing the outreach and making the brand more accessible. The three areas that we have identified for the next 3-5 years are Marketing, E-commerce and Franchising.

Traditionally, Fabindia has grown largely through word-of-mouth. We are now looking at a more focused communication with all our stake-holders.

E-commerce and omni-channel is definitely an area that we will be actively investing in. Retail is at a very exciting juncture, especially in India. We feel this is the right time to make our retail presence in the online space as a single brand entity. We will be working towards from the learnings of the west, and leapfrogging into seamless integration of online and brick and mortar.

Franchising is the other area that we definitely view as a growth driver – this has enabled us to leverage local knowledge and relationships, especially in the smaller Tier 3 and 4 towns where company run stores do not typically prove viable.

Ecommerce is the new buzz word. Do you see ecommerce contributing to Fabindia in a big way?

We expect E-commerce to contribute 5% of our turnover, 2yrs from now and 10% of our turnover 5yrs from now. The future would lie in a combination of E-commerce and brick & mortar and we are enabling the business to be able to cater to the new age customer appropriately.

There has been a lot of debate recently between the brick and mortar retailers and the ecommerce companies regarding the future of retailing? What is your take on this?

Developments not only across the world, but also in India have clearly established that the time for debate is well past. E-commerce has established itself as an important and integral part of retail. The sort of growth and reach this sector has witnessed has underlined its ability to completely revolutionize the way business will be transacted. The ideal scenario is of course to use the strengths of each of these to build a holistic retail experience based on great product and equally exciting customer service. For us e-commerce is a very useful means of providing customer convenience and delight and not by any means a way to discount the brand and thereby degrade the brand value.

What is your leadership style? What aspects do you look for in an individual when hiring for leadership positions?

Action oriented person who believes if action is taken in a planned way we can achieve goals and get good results.
I would like to hire a person who is good at execution and rest can be moulded as required by the organization. He should be honest and reliable. Person who is ready to take initiatives and achieve the goals in a balanced way.

Finally on an informal note, what does Subrata do when he is not working?

I love travelling – on work, for leisure and for no reason at all. And I do love reading and also penning down my thoughts through short essays.

Mr. Subrata DattaSubrata Datta is currently the CEO at Fabindia and is responsible for its strategic and operational leadership. Prior to Fabindia he was the CEO for Samsonite India and was responsible for the business in India, Middle East and East Africa including the exclusive retail business.

An engineer from IIT Kanpur and an MBA from IIM B, Dutta started his career at CESC Limited.. In 1990 he joined Lakme Lever straight from campus and after a decade at Lakme he moved to Pepsi as Vice President – Fountain Business. One year later he moved to Elbee Services Limited, the courier and logistics company, as Vice President Marketing. Post Elbee he moved to WIMCO as Vice President Sales and Marketing for the match business in India. He was with Wimco for 3 years before taking over as Business Head at the Himalaya Drug Co. in 2002 where he was responsible for consumer products (Herbal Cosmetics and Healthcare) business in India and Russia. In 2007 he moved to Samsonite as the Managing Director.

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