Neetu Agarwal, Co-founder and CEO, Canberg Global Sourcing

Canberg Global Souring company is today India’s leading clothing & fashion solutions company with a high focus on industrial workwear with manufacturing facilities in India & Sri Lanka.

Co-founded by Neetu Agarwal, a first-generation entrepreneur, with her sheer hard work and determination has put the business in the global platform servicing customer spread across the world with key concentration being in the European market.

Based out of Kolkata, Neetu Agarwal from an early age showed leadership qualities and had always been passionate about starting her own business enterprise. An apparel unit was an obvious choice because of her post-graduation from National Institute of Fashion Technology. She knew with just a post-graduation, it was not enough and hence joined a leading manufacturing company in Kolkata which was into manufacturing industrial workwear, eco-friendly bags, and sustainable fashion accessories to gain hands-on experience in running the business. “I worked there for over seven years before setting up my own business together with friends. In 2008, we founded Canberg Global Sourcing to engage in responsible manufacturing and sourcing based in India as well as other Asian countries defying the challenges of the unstable economy at the time” recounts Neetu.

Becoming a Leader

If females choose to lead – they will do wonders, and the world would be a better place. “I think I have let that influence me a lot growing up,” says Neetu. With her life, Neetu has proven that if you love what you do, success will follow. She adds, “if you want to become an expert in a field, you should choose a work that you love to do. The mantra for success for me is Commitment, Innovation and Dedication.”

Today Canberg Global Sourcing employs 85% of its workforce as women with the vision of being a socially ethically and environmentally conscious organization with a key redress to women empowerment. “Canberg strives to bring about a change in society with inclusive growth and generating employment for different strata of people and helping them grow. “Neetu and her team have endlessly worked in ethical and responsible sourcing and providing quality products and service to the world at large. She adds “we believe in the maxim that ‘Goods well bought are half sold’ and it is our endeavour to match the best supply to the suitable market.”

Though making any journey as the head of an organization is not much different irrespective of gender. She affirms, “It is the mental prowess – dexterity and agility that features predominantly on how you succeed. Of course, as a woman, I have handled things with more compassion and heart rather than ruthless calculation and analysis over the years. This is usually dominant in my dealings” Canberg Global Sourcing is an equal opportunity workplace and merit where intellect and commitment feature as major factors rather than degrees and certificates. Neetu pinpoints, “I am more of a believer of management by guidance. I prefer to let my team work with their ideas and in their unique way as long as they can deliver the desired results within schedule.”

Canberg Global Sourcing started operations during a time when running a business was considered difficult due to the unfavourable economic situation around the world. The Great Recession—sometimes referred to as the 2008 Recession – was on. The companies of all sizes were struggling. However, Neetu could steer the ship rather smoothly owing to the connections she had managed to make while working in the previous company. Still, the problems were aplenty. “In India, the major challenge was what most of the new businesses face – too much of Governance,” recalls Neetu. Indeed, the archaic rules and norms, as well as the fangled bureaucracy frustrate most of the young entrepreneurs within the first few years to close shop. There were considerable challenges in the banking and financial areas too. “India, despite its massive economy, was in its nascent stages when we talk about the commercial environment conducive to business,” states Neetu.

The company had a very lucrative venture of merchanting trade through their subsidiary and other manufacturers in Asia to earn Forex for the country. However, the whole banking system in India was out of its depths so much about the mechanisms of the same. This frustrated Neetu, and she decided to further reduce CANBERG ‘S exporting footprints in India and work directly more through the subsidiary. Soon after settling business in India, Neetu diversified and expanded manufacturing operations in Sri Lanka. “The uncertain scenario in India at the time and the hostile business environment pushed us to look for production options outside India and more so as it worked with our vision of business continuity and growth strategy,” explains Neetu.

Although Sri Lanka did welcome Canberg Global Sourcing with open arms, the country had its own set of challenges to offer. One of the significant advantages of being in Sri Lanka was majorly zero duties for exports to the EU. Unfortunately for Canberg, it was revoked within a few months of her investing there, rendering the whole operation much less viable. The bureaucratic blow resulted in long term losses while the Canberg Global Sourcing tried to settle in a country that was recovering from the devastation of long-term civil war and growing by leaps and bounds. Neetu shares, “This was making all the other products and services in the country much expensive month on month. It took us a few years and sustained pouring in of resources to get out of that cycle. But we handled it with grit and determination to come out of it at the other side smiling.”

Chartering unknown territories unabashedly and fearlessly for over 12 years, Neetu has scripted her own success story in today’s new age world. Canberg Global Sourcing is now specialized in sourcing a wide range of products from different corners of Asia and catering to a clientele stretching across the globe. The company has a variety of products from Fashion Clothing, Workwear and Uniform, Fashion Accessories, Textile based furnishing and Lifestyle Products. With a network of buyers and vendors spanning the globe, the company works diligently to ensure fitting and timely matchmaking. “We work with our supply chain vendors who are accredited to all social, ethical, safety and quality compliances and norms as required by the different global organizations and complete with SA 8000, ISO 14000, OEKOTEX and C-TPAT requirements and compliances,” claims Neetu.

Managing the Uncertain Times

COVI-19 has taken the world by surprise and had an unprecedented and far-reaching impact on global businesses. “These are difficult times for anyone especially an SME like ours where we do not have unlimited resources but still the responsibility to cater to the needs of the people and workforce associated with us,” says Neetu. Canberg Global Sourcing has been prudent and responsible in their spending to ensure that everyone has been able to sustain during the lockdown and closures of the manufacturing plants for nearly two months and while limping towards normalcy in the following weeks.

“This is something that no business school or crisis management handbook has ever prepared anyone for,” Neetu adds. The company has been gearing up for business continuity with developing and combining the alternative products in their line in the emerging scenario. “Going online would be a part of the business strategy to make the products and services available to the B2B as well as B2C market. We have been working from home during this time as most of the world, but it is really not much to do when everything revolves around manufacturing and logistics, and those are closed,” explains Neetu.

In Canberg Global Sourcing, Neetu and her team believe in inclusive growth and commitment. They have been able to manage the pandemic and its fallout without significant setbacks and hope that they can follow this trend in the coming months. “It has been tough to keep up the morale of the people and get them motivated. However, we have worked on it, and I would give kudos to my team for working diligently on keeping everyone upbeat. Now the factories are back to work with almost 80 per cent of capacity before lockdown,” shares Neetu.

Despite the roadblocks, Canberg Global Sourcing has managed to keep most of their orders. Neetu says, “Though some have been on hold but not cancelled. This gives us a positive outlook for the future. But we can only estimate a continuation of this. The trickle-down has started in many verticals, and it might catch up with most of the industry soon.” Neetu believes that with a robust foundation and some corrective measures, she might be able to tide through this too. The company is also gearing up for partnering with other system solutions providers to make themselves more adept for off-site working as well as carving a new market for their products and services altogether.

Today, the plan for the Canberg Global Sourcing is two-fold.  One is to be a name to reckon with in the fashion and lifestyle industry in the international arena – mainly for CANBERG ‘S sourcing and vendors management services. Other, to become a major player in the contemporary workwear in the emerging economies, including India. “We are also working on the blueprint to create about 10,000 jobs and engaging many more than that number directly or indirectly in gainful employment by the end of the decade,” concludes Neetu. “I have always wanted to live as a person who made a difference – a positive difference. I hope that I would be able to achieve that by the time I am ready to hang my boots.”

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