“I think something very good is going to come out of Ethik.”
Pankaj Khabiya beams as he sits next to Bharat Ranka, his co-founder. Their excitement when talking about Ethik, the leather free fashion label they started together, is infectious.
Fresh out of university and seeking cruelty free alternatives to leather, Pankaj and Bharat were left wanting. Spurred in part by their Jain values of non-violence, and in part by the gaping hole they found in the market, the two sensed a calling.
And thus Ethik was born.
Co-founders Pankaj Khabiya (L) and Bharat Ranka (R)
Since its launch in 2013, Ethik has been providing premium, cruelty free alternatives to leather in a market that is otherwise permeated by low quality offerings. “It’s a mindset we are fighting,” says Pankaj. “And changing any mindset has its challenges.” It’s a challenge Ethik has navigated well, as the biggest form of validation buoying the brand has been the sheer amount of return customers it attracts.
After all, people who use leather aren’t drawn so much to the material as they are to the idea of it. And so, Bharat explains, if you can provide an experience which matches the premium feel and experience of leather, then people will be more than happy to try it out. And once they try it out, they’re likely to come back.
Ethik first crossed paths with Ycenter during the Humane Entrepreneurship Program we facilitated in conjunction with the Humane Society International. Chosen among six startups out of hundreds that applied, the experience was a turning point for Ethik. In the process of considering the various aspects of their business, Bharat and Pankaj found themselves challenged in unique ways.
“Some questions took us weeks to answer, and always led to crucial discoveries”, recollects Bharat.
The biggest gain, however, lay in the mutual passion for sustainability we share with Ethik. Our stance towards sustainability acted as the perfect sounding board for Ethik, and they attribute this guided mentoring process as something which helped them gain conviction in their idea and what they stood for. This collaborative iteration has helped Ethik gain traction towards a larger vision.
For Bharat and Pankaj, the buck doesn’t just stop at cruelty-free leather. Christening themselves as action activists (activism without action is redundant, reasons Pankaj), they’re driven to use Ethik as their vessel towards creating meaningful impact on a global scale. They believe that if you can provide a sustainable alternative that offers the same quality, it can compel people to find sustainable options in other facets of their lifestyle too. This ripple effect lies at the core of Ethik, and the transformation it wants to create through its products. Bharat and Pankaj aren’t opposed to evolving either. They’re excited to take their message further and explore other segments where they can introduce more sustainable options. A testament to this is their recent foray into creating plant-based products. Ethik is shaping up to be a dynamic, forward thinking brand underlying a simple yet powerful message:
‘Make ethical choices’.