School uniforms are his bread and butter, says Itteera Kavungal
Every morning, Itteera Kavungal gets up at 4.00 am and devotes two hours to “self learning.” The self-made businessman reads up on a range of subjects, and more specifically about his business: manufacturing school uniforms.
Beginning with one factory in Chalakkudy, Itteera’s business — which began in 2004 — has now spread across West Asia, China and South Africa and has diversified into corporate, hotel, and security uniforms. His latest is manufacturing adaptive clothing. The roots of this success lie in a survey he conducted in 2003, when he realised that there was a space for mass production of school uniforms, which he calls his “bread and butter.”
“I am a learner. I upgrade myself everyday with knowledge,” he explains. “I am just a commerce graduate but my employees are MBA degree holders and fashion designers. I have to deal with them. If one does not upgrade, you cannot survive in the market. You need knowledge to lead and guide.”
The work for school uniforms begins in December and goes on till August. All CBSE schools place their orders in December and their orders are completed by June 15. From then to August, uniforms for government-aided schools are produced and supplied. The last part of the year is for sports uniforms. On an average, Itteera’s Boxer Brand produces 400 uniforms a day at the Chalakkudy factory while the Ajman (UAE) and Hyderabad units produce 150-200 each daily.
“Generally schools provide designs but often my design team develops a pattern from their ideas and we take it forward,” says Itteera who has a pattern maker with 50 years experience on his rolls.
Itteera began with sports uniforms and diversified into sports equipment (for Greets Public School in Kaloor) in partnership with football icon IM Vijayan.
With over 100 dealers in Kerala, Itteera works very fast. Once, he had placed an order for a socks sample with a manufacturer in New Delhi. But the order was being delayed inordinately. So he took a flight to Delhi, met the manufacturers, picked up the sample, and flew back the following day. Not only did he get that order but he also decided to set up a socks manufacturing unit. “I manufacture 2000 school socks a day and have 14 socks making machines.”
The next initiative was to make sling school bags (“200 per day”) and sports kits. “There is no factory in South India that manufactures sports protective clothing, like shin guards, knee caps etc. I am now moving into that.” In 2015, he added another category of uniforms to his list — hospitality uniforms, chef coats, hospital uniforms, corporate clothing, factory wear like overalls and boiler suits.
Itteera scouts for the raw materials from across India. He procures cotton yarn from Tirupur and Erode and polyester yarn and poly-cotton mix from New Delhi. He talks knowledgeably about the complexities of dyes, knits, machines and automation. “I have made many mistakes but I learn from them and correct them,” he says.
Hailing from an agricultural family, Itteera struck out on his own. His wife is a school teacher and one of his sons is learning the trade to join his father.
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