Baggit: The handbag firm begun 'by mistake'

Baggit founder Nina Lekhi says she started her firm "by mistake"

Starting a business isn't always the result of a concrete plan. For some it happens just by chance.

But for Nina Lekhi, building it into a successful enterprise was no accident.

Today, Baggit is one of India's most well-known women's handbag brands; its products are available in more than 60 cities and it has just started selling in the UK.

But according to its founder this $15m (£8.8m) company started "by mistake".

"I failed in my first year of university, and I was completely distraught," says Ms Lekhi.

"I didn't know what had happened because I was used to being a good girl in class, being the head girl, always being the teacher's best student, and suddenly this whole thing came upon me that I've failed. It was for me as if I'd failed in life."

a Baggit bag Baggit is one of the most well-known handbags brands in India

To keep herself occupied during her year at home she did a short-term design and screen printing course, while also getting a job as a part-time sales assistant in a Mumbai shop.

She started making bags using canvas, with colourful patterns on them, and convinced the storeowner to keep her creations in the shop. Her products slowly became popular, but it took a while for Ms Lekhi to take it seriously.

"I kept having exhibitions and then people across the street wanted it more, stores wanted it and all the time at home everybody kept saying, 'What is this you're doing, you're just making bags for vegetables,'" she says.

In fact even the brand name came from a joke she had shared with a friend who had helped her start up the business.

"My friend and I were in a changing room after we'd gone for a swim. At that time Michael Jackson's song Beat It was very popular.

"So we were singing it aloud and then because we were also talking about the bags, we started singing, 'Bag it, bag it' and that's where the name came from."

a Baggit shop The firm's first store failed, but it now has several shops

By then though, she had identified a gap in the Indian market - realising there was growing demand for trendy, yet functional handbags.

She experimented with different materials and employed skilled workers to stitch the bags.

But she hit a big obstacle when she tried to set up the firm's first store in 2000.

"It was a complete failure again. More than 100% of the money we put in we lost," she says. "But somewhere that made us a brand. That gave us the kick and the taste of being a brand."

As the Indian economy grew, and the middle classes began to expand, the business also grew as people had money for more than just the basic necessities.

Employees meditating The firm organises a weekly yoga and exercise session on its rooftop

"Earlier everyone was at home taking care of the house and kids," Ms Lekhi says. "Now because they were going out they wanted to be as well dressed as the women next to them. They became more and more fashionable."

At Baggit, the number of employees grew to more than 500 and Ms Lekhi realised there was a lot more to running a business than just being creative.

New Entrepreneurs


  • HQ: Mumbai, India
  • Year founded: 1990
  • Number of employees: 500
  • Ownership: Private

"I had serious problems with cash flows, so I had to figure out how to manage that. I started paying more attention to accounts and processes," she says. "I hired professionals who could help the company achieve its targets."

Perhaps unusually for a business person, she also credits yoga and meditation for her success - even insisting her employees practise it, because she thinks that it makes people better at their work.

So every week the company holds a one-hour yoga and exercise session on the rooftop of its office building for its entire staff.

But above all of that, Ms Lekhi says, it's passion that has kept her going.

"I think what is most important for anybody who wants to be an entrepreneur is that there's going to be a lot of hard work ahead of you, so you better love what you're doing. If you don't love it, don't get into it, I would say."

More Business stories


BBC Business Live

    A Homebase store in Stanford near Lincolnshire.

    Despite talking up the prospects for its full year profits, Home Retail is also closing 25% of its 323 Homebase stores over the next four years. That's as it lets leases expire on some properties. Homebase managing director Paul Loft is also stepping down, although he will continue on in his role until a successor is found.


    Homebase and Argos owner Home Retail Group has reported a 5% fall in half-year pre-tax profit to £13.5m. But like-for-like sales were up 2.9% at Argos, and 4.1% at Homebase. Chief executive, John Walden said the group expects to meet City expectations for its full year profit. But he added: "as always, the full-year outcome will depend upon the important Argos Christmas trading period".

    Cigarettes in their package

    Cigarette-pedlar BAT has said revenue for the nine months to the end of September grew by 2.4%. "Industry volume has declined at a lower rate than last year, but is being impacted by large excise-driven price increases," it said.

    SUPERGROUP Via Twitter James Quinn Executive Business Editor, Telegraph

    tweets: "Strong comeback from Sutherland who fell victim to all he tried to achieve at the Co-op Group, and can be credited with rescuing Co-op Bank."

    07:29: SUPERGROUP
    SuperGroup chief executive, Euan Sutherland,

    Former Co-op Group chief executive Euan Sutherland is back having been announced as chief executive of SuperGroup this morning with immediate effect. He was previously CEO of Kingfisher UK, which operates B&Q, Screwfix and TradePoint.

    07:21: GERMAN GROWTH BBC Radio 4

    Germany has very low unemployment, Dr Stephanie Hare, senior analyst for western Europe at Oxford Analytica tells Today. "Making more jobs for Germany isn't the issue here," she says. "We need stimulus and investment in countries that are going to help boost the future of Germany's trading partners in the eurozone. So we can either increase demand in Germany, or Germany could be part of a wider European solution to increase stimulus in its eurozone trading partners." She points out Germany has benefitted from other countries investing and stimulating its economy once or twice in the past century.

    07:11: EUROTUNNEL

    Eurostar results yesterday, Eurotunnel results today. Revenues for the third quarter of 2014 increased 7% to €343.9m (£271.5m).

    06:57: UK BORROWING Radio 5 live

    "The main reason tax receipts aren't as high as you'd like is the increase in personal tax allowance," says Alan Clarke, UK and eurozone economist at Scotiabank on Wake Up to Money. He's talking about yesterday's disappointing figures. There are more people in work, though, which means less spending on benefits, he says. Low-paid jobs mean that doesn't help as much as you may think, points out presenter Mickey Clark.

    06:47: GERMAN GROWTH BBC Radio 4

    Christian Schultz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank, tells the Today programme Germany needs to work on its infrastructure, but even if it started to work on inward investment now the effects would not be felt for several years. This as more political pressure builds on Germany to act to avert another eurozone crisis. But German inward investment doesn't solve the problem, he says. "How does Germany fixing some bridges make French and Italian entrepreneurs invest more?"

    06:34: STORM POWER

    The UK's wind farms generated more power than its nuclear power stations on Tuesday, the National Grid says. The energy network operator said it was caused by a combination of high winds and faults in nuclear plants. Wind made up 14.2% of all generation and nuclear offered 13.2%. As BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin reports, for a 24-hour period yesterday, spinning blades produced more energy than splitting atoms.

    06:24: CITY POWERS Radio 5 live

    On things like transport and education, local government can make better decisions, says Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, which does independent research and policy analysis on UK city economies on 5 live. "Whatever you're doing in a city, you have to balance the books, though, she says. Competitiveness on tax becomes a "race to the bottom" she adds.

    06:13: CITY POWERS Radio 5 live

    "I think there's real momentum... this is the biggest opportunity in decades to transport the relationship with local government," says Mr Wakefield on 5 live. The debate for Scottish independence shows there are a lot of people interested in local powers, he adds.

    06:04: CITY POWERS Radio 5 live

    Allowing UK cities to make their own decisions on tax and spending could boost economic growth by £79bn a year by 2030, a year-long study has concluded. "More people want local powers in Leeds," says Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council on Radio 5 live. He thinks councils can target some spending more efficiently.

    06:01: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! Get in touch via email at or on twitter @BBCBusiness

    06:00: Matthew West Business reporter

    Morning all. We have the latest minutes from the Bank of England's September Monetary Policy Committee meeting at 09:30; Argos and Homebase owner Home Retail Group publishes interim results before that and there are trading updates from GlaxoSmithKline, British American Tobacco and Everything Everywhere. We'll bring you it all as it happens.



From BBC Capital


  • Smart glassesClick Watch

    Smart spectacles go into battle – the prototypes looking to take on Google Glass

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.