The Financial Express
Full Transcript: A jute handbag for the wife’s birthday? No, this isn’t a poor joke – its high-quality stuff made by a company that’s already made its mark with nylon and polyester stuff. Plus, its got an unbeatable stamp: the jute handbags have been a success in export markets. The fiber is already being mixed with denim and the owner of luggage maker Clubb International Tarun Mullick, thinks that the jute bag is aq million rupee idea. The “Clubb” logo is a common sight at upmarket luggage stores in the city. The company also manufactures nylon., leather and polyester based luggages.
Mullick is now into “jute diversified products” and has for the past seven months been manufacturing ladies’ bags made of “100 per cent jute”. It was one of the innovations of Mullick for the export market. So far Clubb has recorded Rs 50 lakhs worth of exports.
While the export market is responding well. Mullick found that customers in the south and west (read, well-heeled ladies of Bangalore and Delhi) were smitten by the “golden fibre” and being a man driven by customers’ needs. Mullick is all set to woo them with more products down the line. Already his export catalogue shows 42 varieties of jute products starting from wallets and caps to waist pouches and large carry-alls.
Tarun Mullick has come a long way from 17-year old who setup shop in a small cubicle, equipped with a welding machine and around Rs 2500, producing plastic folders and files. Now at 37, he is providing stiff competition to the bigger names such as VIP which dominate the luggage market in the country in all segments. However Mullick has chosen to focus on the soft luggage niche, where he feels he can stretch himself to the limit.
He himself is brutally realistic about his achievements – “I am still a small businessman” and “I have not yet ‘made money’ as they say”. He has certainly made a name for his company while running five factories.
Mullick is unique in the sense that he is the only registered SSI unit – his turnover is less than Rs 3 crores – with a well-known branded product in the market. As he says, most SSI units are content to hitch their wagon on to some large manufacturer by doing job-work for them.
His USP is innovation. Like model Mehr Jessia who experimented with her looks frequently and stayed at the top for nearly a decade – Mullick believes that his product designs have to keep changing in order to keep the customers’ hooked. He introduces innovations in his bags almost every three/four months. “I am always thinking of ways to improve a particular model or make some new additions to an existing item.”
Right now he is in the process of “thinking-up” a school bag for teenage girls. “It will be out in another couple of months,” he says. “These school girls will queue up to buy the bag while their younger sisters will insists on being bought one too”.
Also on the anvil is a man’s range of wallets. All his products are targeted at the upper end “for those who have money to buy.” His school bags are priced between Rs. 200 to 400. Sports bags go upwards to Rs. 800 each, while airbags with wheels are available at Rs. 1000-plus upto Rs. 1500.
Mullick is cagey about revealing financial details but says that he produces around 4000 to 4500 bags- of all varieties – per week. He also produces suitcases but in much smaller quantities and only to register his presence in the segment. A logical extrapolation has been raincoats, where he has started to give traditional raincoats, where he has started to give traditional raincoat maker – Duck – back – a tough fight. Recently he got a prestigious order to supply the commandos of Rapid Action Force with the ‘Easy Rider’ brand of rainwear. These are made of polyvinyl as opposed to the rubber ones manufactured by Duckback. He is expecting more orders of a similar kind. “I am proud that the Indian army personnel are wearing my products. Here, I am not bothered about the money but the prestige involved.”
His last catalogue for export market, titled “The European Collection” contains an impressive 51 models of bags and three models of rainwear. The blurb on the plain, businesslike folders reads “whether you are in the Seychelles or in a crowded New York subway. Clubb innovations help you to adapt to the challenges of travel.” And Mullick’s innovations go out to Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the neighbouring countries such as Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
But what about quality? Mullick is ready with the answer. All his products have to be passed by the checking division where a “constant watch” is maintained on the quality of the bags. Mullick himself makes daily round of his five manufacturing units in order to inspect the bags in their various statges of production. His visits also keep the factory workers alert.
Mullick is now seriously considering a ISO 9000 accreditation. “Some people had come to us enquiring about it. I have told them to come early next year and we will plan out something,” he said. Translated, this means that he will be upgrading his factory premises in order to meet the specification standards.
Tarun Mullick is a busy man. A man who wants to be the best in the business he is in. But he is also a family man. His might have been a loss to the world of sports – he was the Bengal table tennis junior champion in 1975-76 – but he is undoubtedly a gain to Indian entrepreneurship.
Interviewed by Janaki Krishnan at Kolkata. Published on 2nd January 1998.