Fabindia: Transforming the Indian Handicraft Sector

Chayanika Goswami Chayanika Goswami
Dec 18, 2020 9 min read
Fabindia: Transforming the Indian Handicraft Sector

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by the organization it is based on.

India is rich in art and culture and this richness reflects in the hand loom and handicraft products made by Indian artisans. With the boom in e-commerce, Indian handicrafts have found a great marketing platform. But this wasn't always the case. From the steep decline in demand for handicraft during the British colonial rule, to the inability of artisans to find a proper marketing channel, the Indian handicraft sector suffered a lot. However, the situation was about to change.

In 1960, John Bissell, an American gentleman, realized the potential of Indian handicrafts and decided to start 'Fabindia'. Today, Fabindia has 327 stores in 118 cities of India. The brand also has 14 international stores.

This StartupTalky post gives you a glimpse into the fabulous journey of Fabindia, a lifestyle brand that has gained repute in both India and abroad. Know more about Fabindia's competitors, founders, business model, history, funding, revenue, parent company, and growth.

Fabindia - Company Highlights

Company Name Fabindia
Headquarters New Delhi
Founder John Bissell
Sector Lifestyle & Retail
Founded 1960
Parent Organization Fabindia Overseas Private Limited
Website www.fabindia.com

About Fabindia
Fabindia - Founders and Team
Fabindia - History
Fabindia - Name, Tagline, and Logo
Fabindia - Growth and Revenue
Fabindia - Funding and Investors
Fabindia - Business Model
Fabindia - Competitors
Fabindia - Awards and Achievements
Fabindia - Future Plans

About Fabindia

Fabindia claims to be the largest private platform in India for the sale of handicraft goods and deals in clothing, accessories, home furnishing, beauty, and organic food products. It links over 55,000 rural artisans to urban markets, preserving the Indian traditional skill sets while promoting sustainable rural development. Garments sold by Fabindia are handwoven and manufactured from hand-printed fabrics; the company gives an aesthetic appeal to customers through its products. The products sold by Fabindia are classified as fully organic, ‘in conversion’, and natural.

In 2009, Fabindia acquired a 25% stake in 'EAST' a UK-based women ethnic wear retailer. In 2013, Fabindia bought a 40% stake in ' India Organic', a Lucknow-based organic food and supplement company.

In 2014, it launched its western wear segment called “Fables”. Fabindia claims to be a social enterprise as it renders employment to rural workers for various projects. The "Fabindia School", located in Rajasthan, is an eminent initiative taken by the company. It was started in the year 1992 and aims to provide quality education.


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Fabindia - Founders and Team

Fabindia was founded by John Bissell in the year 1960.

Owner Fabindia
 John Bissell - Founder, Fabindia

A resident of Hartford (USA), John came to India in 1958 when he was given a 2 year grant from the Ford Foundation. He was required to guide and advise the Central Cottage Industries Corporation (run by Government of India) in making goods for export. John had affection for India as he grew up hearing stories about the nation from his father who was in India during World War II. During his stay in India, his love only grew further. John realized that the Indian textile industry was capable of reaching unforeseen heights. After the end of his project with Ford Foundation, John decided to stay back in India and started Fabindia. Fabindia was launched as an export company for exporting home furnishing. In 1993, John suffered from a heart attack which resulted in his son William Bissell taking over the management of Fabindia. John Bissell passed away in 1998.

William Bissell

William Bissell was the managing director of Fabindia until 2018 and then assumed the responsibilities of the chairman. He graduated in 1988 from Wesleyan University in the United States. Bissell has investments in various sectors; some of them are ‘Wow! Momo’ and Juggernaut Books.

Viney Singh is the CEO of Fabindia. The company has around 2000 employees along with 55,000 rural workers. The main directors of Fabindia are Madhukar Khera, Monsoon Bissell, Vijai Kumar Kapoor, William Sean Sovak, Charu Sharma, Monika Uppal, Prakash Parthasarathy, Rahul Garg, Tekkethalakal Kurien, Vinita Bali, and Yoav Lev. Yoav Lev was recently appointed as a director in August 2018. Fabindia is associated with 29 different companies through its directors.


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Fabindia - History

Fabindia started out as an exporter of home furnishing goods. Fabindia founder John Bissell began the business from his flat in Golf Links (New Delhi). The company was incorporated as 'Fabindia Inc.' in Canton (USA).

Bissell traveled through many villages and towns in India in search of artisans and craftsman who would produce goods for the company. He then started exporting the products to USA. However, Fabindia's entry into retailing stemmed from a crisis. During 1975-1976 when the state of emergency was declared in India by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a rule was passed whereby commercial establishments were barred from operating in residential premises.

Fabindia had a secondary premise at that time which was a residential house in Mathura Road, and owing to the new regulation, John could no longer operate from there. To tackle this, John opened Fabindia's first retail store in Greater Kailash, New Delhi. And this was the beginning of a new journey. Till 1994, the company did not open any new retail store. New outlets were then launched gradually in different parts of India and in other countries.

The name ‘Fabindia’ is representative of the fact that the company retails only Indian fabrics and other Indian products. The tagline of Fabindia was “Celebrate India”; it has now been changed to “Serving India” and highlights the company's focus on the welfare of Indian artisans and on making traditional Indian handicraft products an essential part of people's lives.

Fabindia Logo
Fabindia Logo

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Fabindia - Growth and Revenue

Fabindia's operating revenue was around INR 500 crore in the fiscal year of 2019; there was an increase of 14.49% in net worth and a raise of 11.66% in EBITDA from the previous year.

The flagship store of Fabindia was established at Greater Kailash in the year 1976, which was the only retail store till 1994. Fabindia's presence expanded to 141 stores by the year 2011. The company currently operates 327 stores in 118 different cities of India along with 14 international stores. It has around 2000 employees, including contracted staff. The company offers equal job opportunities for men and women.

Fabindia - Funding and Investors

Fabindia founder John Bissell's grandmother left him $20,000 as a legacy before her death, and this money was used by John as the initial capital to start his business.

As far as funding is concerned, Fabindia has raised a total of $14.6 million in funding with its latest Private Equity round in May 2019 from Lighthouse Funds. The company also got private equity investments from Ajim Premji's 'Premji Invest'. L Capital had an 8% stake in Fabindia, which it sold to Premji Invest in 2016.

In 2007, Fabindia also sold a 6% stake for approximately $11 million to Wolfensohn Capital Partners, a private equity firm founded by former World Bank president James Wolfensohn.

Fabindia - Business Model

Fabindia focuses on Direct Supply Chain Management, which also forms the base of its business model. The company not only sources its products directly from the artisans but has also taken those artisans on-board as shareholders of the company. As mentioned in some case studies, no goods are returned to the suppliers even if the goods are not exactly as per the brief given to the artisans.

Over the years, the company has been successful in creating goodwill among the rural artisans. It also arranges micro-finance for these artisans. Interestingly, as found in one case study, not all customer feedback is passed down to the artisans in order to ensure that they continue producing authentic goods.

Fabindia introduced the SRC (supply-region companies) model. As per reports, more than 12 Fabindia SRCs were operational in various regions in mid 2009. SRCs were community-owned enterprises formed in collaboration with artisans. SRCs maintained the coordination between the company (Fabindia) and the artisans of different regions. All Fabindia artisans that worked under any specific SRC, collectively owned 26% of the equity of that particular SRC. 49% of the equity was held by Artisans Micro Finance (managed by Fabindia), while the rest was held by employees and private investors. SRCs also provided access to certain common facilities, artisan training, ensured that standard systems of production and delivery were followed in the region, and consolidated supplies from the clusters falling under them.

However, according to some reports, the SRC model has now been diluted and the company is now focusing more on cluster development.


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Fabindia - Competitors

The top competitors of Fabindia are GoodEarth, Stylebaaj, Cotton Emporium, Khadi Gram Udyog, Patanjali Ayurved, and Cbazaar. Though it competes with the leading retailers of India, Fabindia stands out from the crowd with the largest network of exceptional artisans.

Fabindia - Awards and Achievements

Year Awards/Achievements
2011 ‘Outstanding Achievement in Promotion of Cotton by a Brand’ Award – Cotton Council of India
2011 Rated amongst “India’s best companies to work for” – Economic Times
2010 One of the Most Innovative Models – Recognized by Monitor- Business Today survey led across industries
2010 Excellence in Supply Chain Management – TIE Retail Innovation Award
2009 Featured as an example of Game-Changers by Business Week magazine
2008 Designated as one of India’s top marketers by Business Today magazine
2004 ‘Best Retail Brand’ Award – Economic Times

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Fabindia - Future Plans

Fabindia plans to expand its business by opening 40 more retail stores in India by 2020. The company also aims to intensify its sector of organic products by endorsing potential merits, and plans to develop its international stores in near future.

The company's vision is to promote the rich cultural heritage of India all over the world through its products while working for the upliftment of the community of farmers, designers, and artisans associated with Fabindia.

“In addition to making profits, our aims are constant development of new hand-woven products, a fair, equitable and helpful relationship with our producers, and the maintenance of quality on which our reputation rests,” says William Bissell, MD of Fabindia.

Fabindia - FAQs

What is Fabindia Tagline?

The tagline of Fabindia was “Celebrate India” and has now been changed to “Serving India”.

Who are the Competitors of Fabindia?

The top competitors of Fabindia are GoodEarth, Stylebaaj, Cotton Emporium, Khadi Gram Udyog, Patanjali Ayurved, and Cbazaar.

How much is the revenue of Fabindia?

The operating revenue was around INR 500 Cr in the fiscal year 2019, with an increase of 14.49% in net worth and a raise of 11.66% in EBITDA from the previous year

Who is the founder of Fabindia?

Fabindia was founded by John Bissell in the year 1960.

Who is the CEO of Fabindia?

Viney Singh is the Director & CEO of Fabindia.

Who is Fabindia's Parent Company?

Fabindia Overseas Private Limited.

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