Leaping from Telecom to Fashion: Bijay Gautam’s story

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Leaping from Telecom to Fashion: Bijay Gautam’s story

 

Bijay Gautam is the talk of tinsel town in Nepal. He is an example to anyone wanting to quit his job and follow his passion to embark on an entrepreneurial journey. Bijay left the telecom world to launch his own fashion house. He has released two fashion lines under Be Labels Pvt. Ltd. with his head-turning designs, and has a lot more to offer in the years to come. Here’s the story of mass communication graduate ending up in the fashion industry.

 

Fashion was never in the plan

Born in Tehrathum and raised in Kathmandu, Bijay was always intrigued by journalism. He idolized a female TV presenter (name not disclosed), and graduated in mass communication with a plan to become like her. After his studies, Bijay went on a personal trip that opened up career prospects. He started working as a TV reporter in a media house (name not disclosed) where he got to meet his idol. 

But Bijay experienced a reality shock when he realized journalism was not as great as he had anticipated. So he took a break from work.

Then Bijay had set on new corporate adventures. He worked as a management intern in a bank for a year and half, after which he joined Vodafone India in 2008. Bijay was new to the telecom sector and gained management experience working in different departments including human resource, marketing, branding, and customer service including customer excellence, human resources - training, branding and product designing. However, five years of job rotation in the telecom company was enough to bore him.

 

 

Discovering true passion

Bijay was often complimented for his fashion sense and his passion for fashion changed his course of life. During his final years at Vodafone, his friends in the fashion and film line advised him to join the industry. This triggered the thought for Bijay to become a fashion designer. 

 With utmost support from friends and family, Bijay joined AND Designs in India to work as a training manager for fashion designer Anita Dongre. This was the perfect transition for Bijay as he had found his inner calling. 

At the age of 27, he thought of giving it a go, but he had plenty of things to consider. Bijay had not been to fashion school and had no knowledge of designing or sketching. A friend’s advice that “design is not about the sketch but about the creativity” heeded Bijay to try his hand in the fashion industry. With utmost support from friends and family, Bijay joined AND Designs in India to work as a training manager for fashion designer Anita Dongre. This was the perfect transition for Bijay as he had found his inner calling.

 

His new found motivation to start something on his own rather than work to make money for someone else got him thinking for a long period of time. Bijay was sceptic about starting his own business and sought advice from friends and family. His family of civil servants were unsure about him leaving an established career and a stable income. Bijay was in a dilemma whether to go back to his old job or take a leap of faith. His friends imparted a great deal of advice, guidance, management book suggestions to him, and that support made him decide to return to Nepal. 

 

Starting Be Labels

Before arriving to Nepal, Bijay had done his paperwork. He discerned that his fashion label would be called ‘Be labels’, which comes from his initial syllable ‘Be’ and represents being futuristic. He knew his forte of fashion and that he had to build on it. 

He began his venture journey that was full of backlashes, cynical criticisms, making mistakes and learning from them. People would discourage his idea saying that existing boutiques were not running profitably. He was reminded of the tremendous competition in the market as there are plenty of boutiques and clothing stores. Criticisms from people around him left Bijay jittered and made him question his actions, but he stood by his dream. He went through a personal transformation of learning to take the criticisms constructively rather than personally, which he considers as one of the factors that aided him to sustain in the industry.

Criticisms from people around him left Bijay jittered and made him question his actions, but he stood by his dream. He went through a personal transformation of learning to take the criticisms constructively rather than personally, which he considers as one of the factors that aided him to sustain in the industry.

Bijay had the creativity, passion and inspiration to become a fashion designer, but he was yet to find the money to set up his business. He knew he couldn’t depend on his parents for everything. He shared his ongoing struggle with his best friend and biggest critic Rupesh Prasad Shrestha, an entrepreneur and trained commercial pilot who, impressed by Bijay’s ideas, is now an investor of Be Labels. With his best friend backing him up, Bijay turned his passion to profession. Be Labels was incorporated in 2014 and launched officially in February 2015, and the fashion industry has embraced it warmly ever since. 

Headquartered in Kathmandu, Be labels has global offices in New York, London and Melbourne.

 

Stitching elegance

Bijay, since his childhood, felt captivated every time his mom would drape a sari around her and would transform into a gorgeous being in a matter of minutes.  Influenced by the use of sari in the Indian sub-continent, he wanted to make it a core aspect of his product line. 

Bijay understood the stagnancy of the clothing industry and the need to have unique offerings for customers rather than follow an ongoing trend.  He also knew that he had to constantly be on his toes to take advantage of any opportunity in the market. Seeing that silk saris were mostly worn by older women, he launched his first collection ‘The silk story’, which comprised of quirky looking silk saris that enticed the younger crowd.

 

 

Entrepreneurial blood flows throughout Bijay. When his sisters and cousins gossiped about purchasing expensive saris from Asan or from the recently booming boutique business, he was overwhelmed by how women were ready to pay thousands of rupees for a piece of low quality polyester cloth. He deduced the need of affordable and quality products in the Nepali market. This brought ‘Drape Democracy’, his second collection, into picture.  Women no longer needed to splurge twenty thousand for a fine piece of sari. Bijay collaborated with various manufacturers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even as far as Lebanon, to make his aesthetic designs available at a range of affordable to high-end prices, that are a hit among customers. As a result, his business has reached heights within a short span of its operation. 

 

Revamping business

The experience of working in branding and marketing space at Vodafone largely helped Bijay to survive the business with customer focused operations. For an instance, he shared that at Vodafone, they never used asterisk (*) in their offers to customers, meaning ‘no conditions applied’. Learning from this, he has kept his product offerings honest, with no hidden conditions. 

In the first year of operating his business, Bijay received intimate feedback from customers, and also through social media. He noticed that the label name ‘Bijay Gautam’ was not working out well. People were confused between himself and Bishow Gautam, another established designer in Nepali fashion industry with whom he shares his initials and last name. 

 

This was a setback in business which steered Bijay to revamp his label to simply ‘Gautam’, the rest remaining unchanged. ‘Be labels’ will remain the corporate identity, under which different brands will be added according to customer demographics. As it has just been a year since inception, this change seems feasible.

 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Bijay is a strong advocate of empowerment and sustainability.  Be Labels has been part of various social initiatives in the field of gender equality, LGBT and awareness on HIV-AIDS.  In 2015 they worked with Dristi Nepal. Be Labels has also started a new project “Himalayan Cashmere Project” which is based on the principles of fair trade and providing opportunities to support weavers and artisans across different parts of Nepal with the aim to take these crafts to international runways and also reward them with assured life of income, education, medical facility.

 

Future plans

To keep up with people’s expectations and to give international flavour to his products, Bijay desires to learn the technical skills set to understand the nuances of fashion. For this, he is currently pursuing a fashion course with Institute of Design in Milan, Italy.  

In response to customers’ need for men’s wear option in Nepal, Be labels is launching another product line focused for men by September 2016. Bijay also has plans to introduce pashmina and cashmere products in his collections, along with owning a stand-alone store in near future, and having trainee fashion designers when the market is settled and his business setup is ready.

 

Words of advice

“Be honest to yourself. Staying honest is purely about knowing who you are, and what you want to do. Stop listening to too many people. It’s not going to help. You can’t validate your dreams through somebody else. It’s wrong. You need to validate your dreams yourself, and just do it.” 

Bijay Gautam is a simple man with prodigious passion for his work. Sustaining as an entrepreneur, Bijay recommends on staying humble and doing your homework to keep your base strong in business. His advice for anyone waiting to take their leap of faith in entrepreneurship is: 

“Be honest to yourself. Staying honest is purely about knowing who you are, and what you want to do. Stop listening to too many people. It’s not going to help. You can’t validate your dreams through somebody else. It’s wrong. You need to validate your dreams yourself, and just do it.” 

Comments

  • Guest
    Ranjeet Singh Tuesday, 17 May 2016

    "You can't validate your dreams through somebody else". The magical lines for those who want to do that they want not what others, creatively written and picturised, thanks for article and wish u best for your dreams and for bijay "Be labels".

  • Juliana Shrestha
    Juliana Shrestha Thursday, 09 June 2016

    Glad you liked it :)

  • Guest
    Niranjan Wednesday, 26 October 2016

    Best of luck sathi hope one day u made proud for all

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Guest Saturday, 20 October 2018