Alum Ventures: Camellia Clothing Ltd. – Harish Mittal, PGP 1988
The ability to take risks essentially defines an entrepreneur and even a dead-end becomes a means for a new path. Every word of the sentence suits the personality of Harish Mittal, who has embraced his lows as much as his success. Founder of Camellia Clothing Ltd., he is constantly innovating whether it is branded off-the-shelf School Uniforms or mass production of Custom shirts. Experimenting is his mantra and is never satisfied by ordinary. The sky’s the only possible limit for a person who says ‘entrepreneurship is my blood’.
In an interview with LSquare Harish talks about his entrepreneurial journey, his newly launched state of the art safety masks 3bO and shares his future plans as the newly elected President of IIMBAA.
How and when did Camellia come into being? What are the products available at Camellia?
I started Camellia in 1990, two years after my graduation from IIMB.
Camellia was started by me and a batch-mate of mine from IIMB, who subsequently left to pursue other dreams. We worked at a start-up pace, setting up a greenfield apparel factory and starting production in exactly 6 months from the date of registering the company. Camellia struck a partnership with Madura Garments and became the first outsourced manufacturing partner for any Indian apparel label, and then went on to achieve specialization in dress shirt manufacturing. In our 30-year journey, we have expanded into the manufacture of formal and casual shirts for multiple marquee Indian & international brands, and into the niche area of customized shirts. This division makes and ships out made-to-order shirts for our partners around the globe to reach them within a week – a ‘Made in India – Made for the World’ unique business initiative we are proud of.
You chose to venture into business instead of taking the corporate path, what drove you to do so?
I guess business and entrepreneurship is in my blood… the challenge of starting something new and making it a success on my own was just too sweet to pass up. And I haven’t regretted it.
Recently Camellia has launched a safety mask – 3bO, which is very effective in combating viruses. Can you please tell us more about it?
As soon as Unlock 1.0 was announced in the first week of May, we received an invitation to meet the scientists at CeNS (Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences), which is a Department of Sciences and Technology lab based in Bangalore. The scientists there, as part of the Government’s initiative to battle COVID 19, had developed a unique mask based on the concept of Triboelectricity.
Triboelectricity, a scientific name for an electrostatic charge, has amazing properties of acting as an electric wall to provide advanced antimicrobial filtration, over and above the mechanical filtration offered by most 3-layer fabric masks. A triboelectric charge can effectively destabilize viruses and contact with the electroceutical fabric for one minute can lead to a significant reduction in the electrokinetic property of viral particles.
And the beauty of this application is that the required triboelectric charge is continuously auto-generated by the friction of the peculiar inner layers of this mask and by natural airflow.
We acquired an exclusive license from CeNS to make and market these patented facemasks globally, christened it 3bO™ Deltoid Facemasks and recently launched it on e-commerce marketplaces and on our website, www.3bo.in. We plan to follow this up with domestic retail trade shortly and then launch it internationally.
Incidentally, the name 3bO is inspired by Tribo-electricity, and the Deltoid refers to the shape of the mask (both of which are part of the patent filed by CeNS). The unique Deltoid shape ensures a snug fit that eliminates leakage, ensures zero fogging on spectacles and zero voice distortion. The end result is a mask that is highly breathable, featherweight, easy to wear for long hours – all with scientifically assured protection.
How has your learnings at IIMB helped in your business?
The business management program at IIMB enabled me to analyse and evaluate every problem systematically to reach a solution. The concepts of marketing and finance we learnt helped me plan and improve business models continuously. The insights learnt in organisational behaviour and other soft courses have helped me create an organisation where every member of my company is valued and considers Camellia a family he/she belongs to.
The two years spent at IIMB were the best foundation I could have received for my life. The process of learning from the finest minds amongst the professors and the fellow batch mates at IIMB continues even today, as I learn from my interactions with IIMB and with the community of alums.
You were the convenor of first IIMBue. What made you take that role and how was your experience?
I started working along IIMBAA at the home chapter of Bangalore in 2012, and soon my involvement grew to heading the chapter in 2014. IIMB Alumni Association then started conceptualising a global leadership conclave to energise the organisation. It was a herculean task, and there were no precedents of such large scale efforts by any other B-school AA’s. As home chapter head, I welcomed it as an opportunity and challenge to start something new and pave the way for larger future events.
We reached out to alums, formed teams and worked together over the next year to deliver the event, IIMBue 2015. This was the first ever global leadership conclave by IIMBAA, and I am proud to say it was an immensely successful event, drawing praise from media and community. Not only did IIMBue bring the alums together, it also gave us the opportunity to work with the institute to strengthen the IIMB brand. I am very happy to say that IIMBue, now four editions old, is an established and looked forward to event.
Working with the alums, each a leader, and demanding their time and commitment for a volunteer assignment, was a valuable learning exercise. I can easily count IIMBue as the single most enriching experience of my life.
As the newly elected President of IIMBAA, what are your future plans and goals?
As an office bearer chosen to represent the expectations of the alums, my first priority is to understand these aspirations.
We will start by engaging with all the chapters of the alumni association, both in India and overseas, and by reaching out to alums from all the different programs of IIMB – degree and non-degree. Based on the learnings from these engagements, we will plan future activities.
IIMBue and Anusmaran are the two flagship events of IIMBAA. These will continue to hold centre stage as they evolve in the new normal. The journey has already started with the very successful online Anusmaran organised by Bangalore chapter in June 2020.
On equal priority will be launching fresh initiatives which are relevant to the different strata of alumni. A plethora of ideas have been discussed and debated – from starting an Angel Fund to Recruitment Assistance, from internships to start-ups mentoring, and each one of them has merit. With the Institute nearing 50 years of its existence, our alumni include early stage freshers to well-heeled veterans and retirees. We will engage with each group, understand their priorities, and work on the initiatives that will help our alums achieve their objectives.
Why is strengthening of alumni relations important and how can it help?
I see the alumni relations as a three rung ladder – firstly the relations between the Alums, then the relationship between the Alma Mater and the Alumni, and lastly, the relations between Alumni & Alma Mater and the larger community.
Alumni Association is a body of the alumni, in our case now an independent body managed entirely by the alumni. IIMBAA is the collective framework which can be of tremendous help for us to engage with each other for mutual benefit. This is the fundamental warp, on which myriad tapestries of networks can be woven. If all the alumni of IIMB decide to work together, they can improve their chances of success in every venture manifold. It is to our undisputed benefit to connect, engage and leverage on this platform.
We as alums, and the Alumni Association as a body, are the frontline flag bearers of the IIMB brand. We as business leaders are the face of IIMB in the larger community, and our association’s programs are seen as extension of IIMB’s programs. IIMBue has shown us the power of this association in abundant clarity. I believe IIMBAA has a central role in ensuring that the brand IIMB is continuously strengthened by the initiatives it takes, just as we the alums have the role of upholding the same with our conduct.
Any fond remembrance about the institute you would like to share.
Well there are many moments that are indelible – the nocturnal visits to Auntie’s tea shop, water tank debates, bus rides to J4… The one that stands out most was my trip to Kodi with my gang of nine.Even today, when we meet at our regular ZBG get-togethers (ZBG is the name we nine go by), we talk about the Kodi trip and how it changed us!