Classmates become business partners: Meet Vandana and Smruti of organic kidswear brand Keebee

We have heard about organic food and farming. But organic clothing! What is that? In 2016, Vandana Kalagara founded Keebee Organics in Hyderabad. Later her classmate Smruti Rao joined the company. Together, they have popularised organic kidswear by selling their products on some popular online platforms such as Firstcry, Myntra, Nestery and many more.

Vandana’s entrepreneurial ambition took off 8 years ago when she started her company to manufacture organic kidswear. She named it Keebee Organics. The idea is to tap into the growing demand for sustainable kidswear. After Smruti joined, the duo took the best route to sell their products. What can be a better idea than selling these things online? They directly reached online buyers through the likes of Myntra, Nestery, Firstcry and a few other popular ecommerce platforms. There is no looking back since then. The rest is history.

Though the company was set up in 2016, their first product was launched in 2017. They have already earned annual revenue of Rs 36 lakh and expect to reach Rs 75 lakh this year.

Keebee Organics

How It Started

Vandana, after graduating from NIFT, started working in the design industry. She also completed her master’s from FIDM in the US. After her daughter was born, she took a break from work.

Vandana always loved designing kidswear. On her break, she got busy with freelance design work. After her daughter’s admission to a nursery school, she asked the little girl what she wanted to do in life. Surprisingly, the girl answered that she would love to stay at home like her mother and grandma.

Her daughter’s answer inspired Vandana to resume working. She started doing research and found the market of sustainable kidswear was still an untapped territory. She decided to enter the almost virgin landscape and Keebee was born in 2016.

Smruti was Bandana’s classmate. She loved Keebee and finally joined the venture in 2018. They borrowed Rs 15 lakh as business loan. Later, they invested their own money in the business.

The Hyderabad-based setup has its manufacturing unit in Global Organic Textile Standard-certified units in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Some of Keebee’s woven styles also come from GOTS-certified units and have the required certification.  

A New Manufacturing Unit

Smruti looks after manufacturing. She says that the company has recently opened its manufacturing unit in Hyderabad. However, it is not GOTS-certified. She has confirmed that they are using GOTS-certified fabrics and still learning the production process while trying to get GOTS certification for their company.

Organic kidswear

Keebee manufactures ethnic wear, casual wear, undergarments and a variety of other kidswear products for boys and girls up to the age of 10. The price of their products ranges from Rs 350 to Rs 4, 000.

Challenges

As a first-gen entrepreneur, Vandana had to face many challenges including finding GOTS-certified manufacturers and organic cotton suppliers. She did everything by herself.

Many GOTS manufacturers used to export their products. Even among those who decided to undertake domestic orders, a few agreed to work with small quantities like theirs. Vandana was determined to find manufacturers and vendors for her startup. She sent hundreds of emails to units across the country but got only a few responses.

“I eventually got in touch with Cotton Eco Fashion, a readymade garments manufacturing unit in Gujarat. The people there were helpful and began production for us. We still work with them as they understand our business,” Vandana says.

The Road Ahead

Indian households now have increasing disposable income, especially those with dual income. It has been contributing to Keebee’s growth. The value of the Indian kidswear market was $16.62 billion in 2020. According to ResearchAndMarkets, the market is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 5. 89 percent and will be valued $22.53 billion by 2026.

“For onesies and nightwear, we have Greendigo as our competitor. For jhablas, we have Love the World Today as a competition. We regularly talk to our customers and use the inputs to improve our product lines. This helps us stay ahead of the competition,” adds Vandana.

Like many companies, Keebee experienced several production challenges due to the first wave of pandemic and then during the second wave.  However, both of them are positive about their brand’s future.

The company plans to go on an expansion drive so that customers always have plenty of options in organic clothing. They have plans to take Keebee to the international market. After the pandemic is over, they are planning to have their brand’s presence in offline stores. Vandana sounds optimistic.