THE MAN BEHIND
Hemant & Nandita
Over a cup of coffee, we sat down with Our founder Hemant, for a quick tete-a-tete, reflecting on his childhood years, inspirations and dreams, the brand completing a glorious 20 years, and the way ahead.
He envisioned this brand at the age of 21. As a young lad full of dreams, it took more than desire and wishful thinking to shape his dream of a fashion brand which eventually became a globally admired Indian fashion house
Tell us a little bit about your growing up years and your family.
I was born and raised in a small town called Firozabad near Agra, where my father owned a glass manufacturing factory. As in most small towns, life was simple, cocooned, and routine.
Most children in those days were expected to join the family business, But I envisioned a different life for myself. I wanted to build a life for myself, pursue my dreams and make my parents proud. When I left Firozabad, to pursue fashion design, I’d promised myself that there’d be no looking back for me.
Can you recount the initial phase of starting the brand?
I went to NIIFT, Mohali, to study Fashion. I believe it was predestined as that’s where I met Nandita. We graduated in 2003, and right after I started interning with a designer.
But that wasn’t to be. I quit, rented an apartment in Lado Sarai, Delhi, engaged one kaarigar, and with one sewing machine and some fabric, I was ready to give wings to my dreams, my mother supported me unconditionally and invested on my dreams.
Nandita eventually joined this venture in 2004. While that apartment in Lado Sarai was the launchpad for us, it was time to move on to the next level. It was 17th Dec 2003, the day that has gone down in history for us- that’s the day we opened our first-ever retail store at Shahpur Jat, Delhi. Our dream was finally a living concrete reality.
Share the Journey that Shaped the Brand
We knew we had not tapped into our highest potential yet. After 6 years at Shahpur Jat, we had to shift operations to Noida due to some unforeseen circumstances. This was a blessing in disguise for us since that move (of the office and the production unit) made us realize that our strength lay in the wholesale business and not retail.
In the meanwhile, we shifted gears and started participating in international exhibitions right from Bangkok to Jakarta to the Middle East, jet-setting and exploring newer pastures. The hustle was challenging but also exhilarating. In 2009, we finally did our first fashion week in India, showcasing our Western wear line, and got an outstanding response from global buyers.
We further established our global presence, with the ‘Whos Next’ exhibit in Paris in 2010. To our delight, the response again was overwhelming, however, we realized that the consumer was still Middle Eastern buyers.
I could feel my vision shift from what it was when I’d set out in 2003 to then in 2010 it had pivoted from personal accomplishment to brand growth. I wanted Hemant and Nandita to lead as a globally recognized Indian brand. I wanted our brand to be the frontrunner in the global arena, paving the way for Indian designers to carve their place in the international market.
With that in mind, by 2013-14, Nandita and I were clear that we had to have a stronghold in the US market. We made multiple trips to the US, identified marketing agencies, buyers & brands, and slowly but surely, we were championing our way into the hearts of the US consumer, and continue to do so even today.
What was the first thing that inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
I think when people ask me what inspired me to get into design, I feel that the inspiration was always around me. Growing up I was always fond of dressing well. I was fascinated with the world of fashion and kept myself abreast with the latest trends thanks to movies and fashion magazines. My inclination towards fashion just kept growing.
Secondly, my mother was a talented seamstress, and I’d watch her in awe as she stitched clothes. Her skills didn’t go unnoticed and eventually, she started stitching for others as well. So, my mother’s skill and passion for it inspired me.
Who are the real supporters of the brand?
The real supporters of the brand are without a doubt my parents, my children and my entire team at H&N. They have all stood by us like a rock, supported us through the highs and lows, and have always been our biggest cheerleaders. They truly have been our pillars of support & strength.
I’m eternally grateful to my parents, my children and my team – my work family. They have been our pillars of strength, our biggest cheerleaders. Like they say, it takes a village to raise a child, the same applies to any business or brand. When an ‘I’ becomes a ‘we’, mountains can be moved.
Tell us something about Hemant, other than the Brand
For those who don’t know, I can whip up a good meal, I’m a self-taught singer, and the resident Mr. Funnybones. So, when I’m not presiding over design meetings, I’m busy juggling and experimenting with recipes, humming a tune, or making people laugh. And isn’t that what life should be, where you do what your heart desires?
Laugh and make others laugh, sing and dance like no one is watching and enjoy that soul-satisfying meal prepared by you with your loved ones.
HN completes 20 years this year, what do you feel?
It’s been one exhilarating journey! Honestly, it feels surreal at times. There are moments when it feels like yesterday, us dreaming the dream of starting a brand, and yet there are other days when I feel like the brand & I have been one entity since forever. We’re an extension of each other.
My biggest takeaway from the last 20 years has been that there is absolutely no shortcut to success, and any idea or dream is mere wishful thinking if it's not backed by action. Looking back we have so much to be thankful for the Almighty, our parents & kids, and our work team,these 20 years are a testament to our collective resilience and determination.
As we reflect on this insightful journey shared by our founder, it becomes evident the last two decades have not only shaped the brand but inspired a legacy of dedication, commitment, and innovation, marking a milestone in ‘Hemant and Nandita’s’ enduring success story!