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How brands can build sustainable business models that make sense for profitability: A Sunoh Studio Study

Consumer behaviour has changed in the last few years, since the pandemic hit. It pushed people to rethink how they have lived so far. Communities became more aware of the importance of utilizing resources prudently, and individuals started prioritizing health and wellness over material gains.

Staying indoors also impacted consumer behaviour. When the lockdown was lifted, brands observed a major change in consumer behaviour. They became more present, proactive and aware, wanting brands to be more transparent and engaging. They started seeking out brands that communicated their practices and initiatives in a transparent fashion. Gone were the days of marketing gimmicks. What was inside a package and how it was sourced / manufactured mattered more than clever and flashy packaging.

Sustainable Business Models

The new-age consumer is all about prioritizing ethical and sustainable products over luxury. It is justified to assume that with changing times, the consumer’s mindset has shifted towards a more sustainable and mindful approach while purchasing and selecting the brands they want to be associated with. S/he is an active part of a brand’s ecosystem and is not shy of sharing feedback to help the brand improve instead of just consuming their products out of some sense of loyalty.

So, what how can brands build sustainable business models that make sense for profitability?

Several business models have been opted for by the brands which help not just the brand profit, but also benefit both the consumer and the environment in the long run. Some points to keep in mind while adopting a sustainable model include:

  • A business should be economically profitable. No brand will flourish if it can’t attract customers after some time. The primary target customers should be decided during the initial process.
  • Any business built on trends, or which relies on limited resources or resources that won’t be available in the future is already a lost cause.
  • Businesses must opt for a circular model of sustainability by using renewable resources. Pre-existing linear models which promoted consumerism and were based on a brand’s profitability without considering the planet’s consequences are an outmoded way to function.
  • A strong sustainable strategy for the brand at both micro and macro levels is highly essential. Businesses must keep in mind the following questions before launching any brand

What is the reason for building the brand?

Are they solving any problems in particular?

How will they benefit the environment and society?

  • Using sustainability as a selling point is completely acceptable, but the brands must be transparent about their practices and have better consumer relations to then holistically commercialize the business.

Sustainability or Guilty of Greenwashing?

While RTW brands have in the past been usually accused of overproduction and exploiting the raw materials, today the scenario has drastically evolved. Fashion brands in India are successfully inculcating varied practices to minimize the negative impacts of manufacturing and consumerism in the country, while bolstering flailing communities.

  • Many brands have given a boost to Indian handicrafts by opting for slow handcrafted products in the accessories, apparel, and jewellery segments. This has reduced the use of machinery as well as pollution caused by machinery. This not only makes the production process more eco-friendly but increases employment for dying handicraft artists, and ensures that end products are much more durable.
  • On the other hand, some brands have successfully included advanced technologies and Artificial Intelligence in their processes to ensure manufacturing is as green as possible.

However, it is also true that many RTW brands opt for mill-produced raw materials which are cheaply available. They do this because they feel that any product which is 100 percent sustainable will have a higher price margin and thus try and use terms like sustainability / handcrafted products as a selling point for mill-produced raw materials.

Sunoh, as a brand, has made it its priority to choose quality over quantity at any step of its production process. The brand ethically produces its garments as far as possible and retails them at an affordable rate. This gives the consumers the luxury of opting for high quality, long lasting, sustainable garments.

The most important steps in sourcing the raw materials and making sure that the product doesn’t harm the environment are-

  • Understand your raw materials needs.
  • Analyse the raw materials and shortlist the ones which are renewable/reusable. Also, consider a sustainable alternative for it. This will help the brand to avoid any kind of resource abuse in the long run.
  • Understand how your raw materials are produced. Are the practices ethical towards the workers and the environment?
  • Understand your raw materials’ source and how they are delivered to you.
  • Is the raw material biodegradable? If not, how can it be reused or recycled by the brand and customer both?

What is Sunoh Doing towards Sustainability?

The basic vision behind starting Sunoh Studio was to cater to a larger population with a sustainable and affordable range of ethnic wear. The brand is a strong believer in using sustainable practices instead of just using the word sustainability as a marketing gimmick.

Sunoh follows a vertically integrated model where it has complete control over the supply chain, raw materials, sourcing methods and labour conditions. The brand employs local artisans and goes above and beyond for its workers, taking care of their living and food situation. The brand also pays its workers higher than the present industry wage standard.

For the brand, sustainability is a multi-step process. It ensures to use ethical ways for garment production. Raw materials sourced are handloom and both cotton and chanderi are locally sourced.

The brand is working towards adopting all-natural dyes for the apparel they produce. They also don’t overproduce any designs. While stocking and bulk production is a great solution for any RTW brand as it helps in promoting quicker customer service, Sunoh avoids this practice so as to produce less raw material waste and also prevent labour burnout.

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