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Dolling up the kids

By Soumik Sen in New Delhi
August 11, 2004 10:26 IST

Films are a passion with him, yet, Shivanand Shetty, the part-time producer of Govind Nihalani's Ardh Satya, does not want to dabble in the medium any longer.

His last film, Purush, was released in 1992 when the Babri Masjid demolition took place. And when he tried re-releasing it next year, the Mumbai blasts convinced him that the film wasn't lucky for him. So, for the time being, garment exporter and the chairman of The Shirt Company, has decided to consolidate his clothings business.

For starters, Shetty wants to make the Barbie brand of girls' clothing a household name in India. For Barbie's kidswear brand, he is Mattel's (that owns the doll brand) exclusive licensee in India.

Four months ago, he set up the first exclusive Barbie concept storeĀ  -- The Barbie Shop -- at Inorbit in Malad, Mumbai. Today, it is already selling nearly 1,500 garments on weekends. Priced between Rs 299 and Rs 1,200, the garments are aimed at the 2 to 12 years age group.

Shetty expects Barbie kidswear to become a Rs 20-crore (Rs 200 million) brand soon. Currently, the size of the business is under Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) but Shetty intends to open more exclusive outlets: one each in Mumbai, Thane , Pune, Indore and Delhi.

The new outlets are expected to come up by next year. Shetty also retails Barbie clothes through major chains like Shopper's Stop, Westside, Lifestyle and Pantaloons.

Interestingly, The Shirt Company, which is dressing up young girls in Barbie attires, also dresses up grown up men and women in brands like Esprit, Otto Versand, Tom Tailor in Germany, Macey's and Sean Jaun in the US.

The company has been the garment supplier to these brands for some years and expects to double its turnover to Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) in the next two years.

Shetty's company may grow, but he has not forgotten his humble beginnings when he started out as a parcel boy at Liberty Shirts in 1962. A sixth standard drop out, he worked his way up to the post of the general manager in an export house in 1982. Soon after, he quit and decided to work for himself.

"Initially, I worked for different garment houses," he says. When the textile industry was on a downswing, Shetty moved his production base down south. He set up the Best Sellers Mill in Manipal in 2000. Today, the mill produces more than 100,000 garments a month. Best Sellers was followed by a sweater manufacturing facility -- Strawberrys India.

Today, it is a 100 per cent export-oriented unit, making 1,500 sweaters a day. More recently, Shetty acquired the Nine AM and Nine PM brands of mass-market shirts. The brands were owned by his former employer, a company called KMC International. After driving Barbie sales, Shetty will focus on the shirt brands.
Soumik Sen in New Delhi