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the French handbag label that supports the professional integration of women in India

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Nov 21, 2023

The French handbag brand, Hindbag, is set to open its new boutique on Tuesday at 53 Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, located in Paris’ 9th arrondissement. “The opening of this first flagship store, replacing the previous one near our offices in the 5th arrondissement, comes during a year of significant growth for the brand,” explained Pierre Monnier, the 32-year-old founder of Hindbag, an ethical and socially responsible handbag brand.

Fanny pack by Hindbag priced at 42 euros – DR

Monnier’s venture began during his business school studies when, for a project, he partnered with the Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute (SSMI), an NGO based in Delhi that has been working for over fifty years to educate underprivileged children and empower women in slums through textile manufacturing jobs. Collaborating with SSMI in 2012, Monnier initiated the production of cotton bags for corporate entities, helping the NGO transition from dependence on donations and enabling them to offer steady incomes to female seamstresses.
In 2017, recognizing the demand for higher-value products and responding to the seamstresses’ requests, Monnier recruited a designer, thus birthing the Hindbag brand.

Hindbag’s success story only took off in 2020, largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with a cessation of corporate orders, the brand opted to continue supporting the NGO by selling bags at cost price, a strategy that proved remarkably successful.

Today, SSMI employs 200 women and educates 400 students, having recently inaugurated a new building to accommodate an additional 450 students soon. The majority of the workshop’s production, comprising 98%, focuses on Hindbag-branded backpacks, fanny packs, and colorful pouches. The remaining 2% involves local textile manufacturing techniques, such as the Indian block print.

Thanks to Hindbag’s investments, the workshop has significantly expanded to meet the increasing demand. Monnier elaborated, “In 2022, the workshop produced around 400 pieces per week, but today, it’s handling 20,000 pieces.”

The company still generates 20% of its revenue through B2B channels, which aids in providing employment to less skilled women and yields significant production volumes.

Hindbag’s colorful GOTS-certified cotton bags now constitute 80% of the company’s sales, distributed across 600 retail points, accounting for half of the brand’s revenue through physical retail and online sales equally.

Pierre Monnier with seamstresses from the SSMI NGO workshop in India – DR

Venturing into the fashion industry and international expansion

Although the independent company maintains discretion regarding its turnover, it has been profitable since 2017, enabling ample room for reinvestment. However, this success didn’t come without challenges, as its founder refrained from drawing a salary for five years. “We’ve learned to achieve much with very little, experiencing a slower growth trajectory than if we had sought funding. However, we’re fortunate to have the support of our bank,” shared Monnier, highlighting the need for independence when building an ethical and socially responsible business model. Heading a team of 10 individuals, the entrepreneur is considering external investment for future expansion plans.

The venture is brimming with initiatives: an inaugural collection of jackets and overshirts set to launch in April, potential openings of new stores, and, most importantly, a concerted effort to bolster the brand’s presence in international markets.

The brand’s primary focus is on Germany, where it presently boasts 60 resellers out of its 200 international retail partners, followed by a broader emphasis on the Benelux region. Furthermore, the brand aims to expand its global online sales, given that France currently represents 80% of its web-based purchases.

Sourcing cotton from an Indian spinner and dyeing it within the country through a GOTS-certified entity, Hindbag intends to continue offering reasonably priced products. “Our average basket is 45 euros. I’ve always wanted to make ethnic wear accessible to everyone, as it’s currently somewhat limited to higher income brackets, though the landscape is gradually changing,” concluded Monnier.

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