Venkatesh Rajagopal joined the civil services as an IPS officer in 1979. After 10 years of service he finally couldn’t ignore his inner calling to be an entrepreneur. He resigned in 1988 to start his own export-manufacturing outfit called Celebrity Fashions. “Start-ups were nowhere in the picture those days but being an entrepreneur was definitely a thrill for me,” says the chairman and managing director of Indian Terrain. As an exporter, client visits often took Rajagopal overseas. “I could see the huge difference between products in international markets and domestic markets. There was a definite gap waiting to be filled, which I knew we could. Plus manufacturing for exports is an anonymous business. Once the product is on the ship, it is no longer yours. But I wanted to experience the complete product cycle for manufacturing to owning a brand and it was also becoming clear that consumption was going to take off in India. So we decided to launch Indian Terrain in 2000,” he says.
Indian Terrain was launched as a premium work-wear and smart casual clothing brand for men. At that time, it was a division of the Madras based Celebrity Fashions, which was into manufacturing, and exporting of apparels to leading international brands such as Timberland, Diesel, Tommy Hilfiger, LL Bean and Nautica. “Indian Terrain was just a cold start but the confidence to take on the big boys came from the fact that we had tremendous understanding and expertise of sportswear manufacturing, supplying to these global brands over the years. We knew we could manufacture a world-class product,” says Rajagopal. His company is known for its trademark khakis and offers a range of garments including shirts, trousers, T-shirts, shorts, sweaters, jackets, and denims.
The company began with two company-owned outlets in Madras and Bangalore and slowly began to widen its franchisee network in the South. They got their first big break with Shoppers Stop in 2003, which gave the company the much needed shelf space across outlets, kicking off their distribution, nation wide. “It was a bet I took on