Founded in 2006, Noida based buying office T. Merchandising by Kaiser Roka and Tehmina Yadav is today sourcing home products worth US $ 12 million from India. Both the partners before embarking on their dream project were working with Alliance buying office, which has since merged with Li & Fung. TodayT. Merchandising has created a niche for itself, sourcing for US buyers, as both partners feel that their experience of more than 20 years working with the US market has given them insight to judge the buyers’ need. Some of the buyers for which the agency is sourcing home products are Westpoint Home, Bed Bath & Beyond, Company C and Petmate to mention a few prominent ones. In a free flowing interaction with AO, Tehmina shares her success…
Merchandising is just focusing on home décor products and the buying office has three divisions – Textiles, Hard Goods and Rugs. In textiles the company is dealing in quilts, sheets, terry towels, kitchen linen, table and a lot of toss pillows. In hard goods, the buying office is sourcing furniture, metal and wall decoratives. The third division takes care of carpets and rugs. “Sheeting and cushions are quite a big product category for us and for sheetings we are working with bigger mills in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Right now we have fairly large orders for sheeting in 200 TC to 500 TC in prints and a lot of embroidery,” shares Tehmina.
“Eco-friendly products have to be retailed at higher price and a customer who is looking at buying a sheet for US $ 40 would not like to pay an additional US $ 5. There is a market for such niche products, but everyone doesn’t want to buy it.” – Tehmina Yadav Director
The buying office caters to a wide market expanse from low-end buyers to topmost buyers along with up-market boutique buyers. “Eventually we would like to have two separate teams, one for mass merchants and one for niche clients,” says Tehmina who feels that creativity can be nurtured only with top-end boutique buyers. According to her when one works with top-end buyers then definitely one is more creative; there are a lot more options to play around with designs and fabrics, as the consumer which comes to these high-end brands and stores is willing to spend more money; they want new innovative products. “The mass buyers have very basic demand; you have to work on the price points all the time,” adds Tehmina.
A relatively new venture, the timing of the opening of the buying office was hit by the recessionary phase of 2008-09, and though the buying office did feel the impact of recession, its business kept growing slowly. “Thankfully things are picking up and as China is becoming more difficult to work with, buyers are looking towards India; they are not coming with huge quantities but they are willing to buy assortments,” avers Tehmina who eventually would be looking at other markets but as of now feels that her hands are full.
Recently, T. Merchandising has got an enquiry from a US brand which is looking at procuring 100% organic and eco-friendly home furnishing commodities. Tehmina however is not very excited since she feels that the demand for such products is on a decline. “In my view this drive for eco-friendly products was more active about two-three years back, but with changed market conditions the mass end customer doesn’t care. I know it’s very contrary to what one hears, but such products have to be retailed at higher price and a customer who is looking at buying a sheet for US $ 40 would not like to pay an additional US $ 5. There is a market for such niche products, but everyone doesn’t want to buy it,” opines Tehmina.
Though cotton prices have been hitting the textile industry worldwide, but T. Merchandising is not looking for polyester based products and the company’s buyers are also placing orders for cotton and linen products. “Cotton prices didn’t hamper our business as buyers watch the prices on daily basis and are willingly giving the up charge when it’s justified; so no issues on that as they too need products to sell,” asserts Tehmina.
Prefers Working with Vertically Integrated Companies & Where Owners are Involved
T. Merchandising is very fastidious in terms of selecting its vendors. Before visiting the showroom of the manufacturers, the buying office first opts to look at their facilities. The buying agency prefers working with factories which are vertically integrated and where outsourcing is limited as far as possible so that it can have control over quality, pricing and lead times.
Thirdly, the buying office prefers working with those companies where the owners are directly involved. “Personally, I do not like working with the upper management of a company; it’s like working with a Government office as it has to go through so many people, and still you don’t get desired result; it’s a total waste of time. When owners are involved, they exactly know what is going on, you have direct access to them. There has to be a very good partnership between the buying agency and the factory as they both work for same clients and are collectively working to satisfy them,” candidly states Tehmina.
Over the past six years, since its inception, the company’s growth rate has been quite phenomenal. In the next two years, both Tehmina and Roka are looking at streamlining the entire systems of their office, hiring more people and consolidating the business with niche boutique buyers as they feel that there are very few buying agents who are catering to the needs of this market segment. “The biggest challenge for the buying agents today is that the larger retailers prefer to work with more than one agent. The vendor base is also almost the same; it’s the top 20 guys, so as an agent I just have to make sure that my services are so meticulous that the buyer doesn’t need to go anywhere else. We are very easy buying agency to work with though most of the factories believe that the buying agents throw their weight around, but we are not like that, we work as partnership,” states Tehmina who keeps visiting new factories all over India, looking for new innovative products and sending fresh ideas to her buyers.