Why I wanted Azrim to be recognised for innovation?
This last month has been the craziest in the best of ways for me and my growing made-to-measure business Azrim and having only just won the Excellence in Innovation Award at the prestigious WSABE (Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence), I have been asked by tens of my friends, connections and clients – what’s the connection between innovation and your business?
I thought it best to write this article to explain how it all connects, and why I put Azrim specifically under this highly-competitive tech-sector heavy category.
To me, innovation isn’t just a single idea – but a continuation of small ideas that morph into one, that is not easy to achieve on its own, or replicate by competition. An innovative business is always two steps ahead of everyone else, and are leaders in their journey that set the rules by their own standards.
The journey of a 12-yr old business started even earlier, when I was completing my report on Entrepreneurship and Innovation for my MBA at Auckland University of Technology (AUT New Zealand). As part of my research, I focused on looking at the leading manufacturers in the world that adopted personalisation, with Nike and Apple being at the forefront.
I then prepared a fully operation process map of how I could adopt this into a custom-made clothing manufacturing just-in-time process. As I got heavily involved in this, I asked for an extension of 4 weeks, and an allowance of 100,000 words (from the supposed 10,000) to complete this report. The lecturer sensing my enthusiasm granted this, as she was interested to see what I could come up with. The end result was the early stages of Azrim 5-Step Process for which I scored A+ (and I still have that report at my home office in Auckland, if anyone has time to browse through 500 pages with full appendix).
That 5-Step Process over the past many years, has gone through changes, minor and major, and is now a just-in-time fully operational process that enables us to make custom-made clothing for men and women, from concept to completion within 3 weeks, at approx. 98% accuracy (only 2 garments out of 100 need to be altered or remade). This is the fastest, smartest, most accurate tailoring system that I am aware of. Even the world’s leading menswear and womens’ wear brands operate at 60% accuracy at best.
Step 1: Book Appointment
Using a simple request form on our website, and book now button on our Facebook page is the easiest way to book an appointment. We have on purpose chosen this, as we want to make it simple. I don’t want my clients to spend half-a-day trying to go through loops just to get in touch with us. Also, we avoid taking orders online as we want everything to begin with a face-to-face interaction, at a time suitable to them and at their preferred location.
Step 2: Measure & Quote
In this appointment, we take over 30 measurements on the body so we get a clear understanding of the shape and body profile of the client. We also take pics and make notes in our specially designed order sheet (another innovation that has been trademarked and possibly patented soon).
At this same time, we do go through the different choice of fabrics (over 5000 shirting suiting and lining) and quote accordingly so the client is well-aware of their spend. This helps us keep the choices unlimited to start with, and narrow it down based on the budget and personal preference of the person being measured.
Being able to create garments superior to what’s available in the market, at prices that are cheaper than the lower quality options is another innovation, and possibly our biggest USP. Rarely do we meet clients who are not surprised at how much they get for how little they pay.
Step 3: Choose Style
This is where we really create a big gap between our competitors. Where most tailors offer limited styling options, we leave it up to the client to decide what’s their preference, and where needed we give our input. Henceforth, the tagline az designer az you or “as designed by you with us” or “as designer in style as you like”.
For both men and women, we do offer subtle variations within reason, and this make us preferred suppliers for corporate wear and uniform to leading companies in AU – NZ, for the variety in choices at their disposal for no bigger cost.
We also pride ourselves in being able to make fully-functional working buttons, which only very few manufacturers in the world provide. Your local tailor or overseas fly-by-tailor will not be able to make that, as most garments are custom-fit, not bespoke / made-to-measure quality. To achieve this, is true craftsmanship and cannot be easily copied.
Step 4: Free Delivery
Once we have the measurements and the orders complete, the garments can be made and shipped to any location world-wide for FREE. We don’t charge additional for this, as we appreciate the business from our clients. We use DHL or its equivalent (when DHL is not available) to ship securely with full tracking.
In Sydney and Auckland, we offer a fitting check in person as part of the service, and deliver the garments steam pressed with a complimentary suit travel bag.
Step 5: Satisfied Customer
When we deliver, the most important answer is YES to our question, “Are you happy with what you’ve purchased?” We strive for this, as without a satisfied client, we will not get repeat business or even referrals. This is backed by our best-fit guarantee, as in we will never deliver a garment to you that is not perfectly fitted (with exceptions of people losing or gaining weight within the 3 to 4 week period). We then, alter those items, for no extra cost for the client as well.
Occasionally, we do get clients who are never going to be happy, and we do offer Refund, if they’re within our Terms & Conditions standards. We can’t please everyone, but are always fair and honest.
Most of our clients give us good feedback and referrals, and we utilize their suggestions to make changes in our process so we can get better at what we do. Once the sizing is confirmed, then its very easy for our clients to order garments without worrying about fit or comfort.
As a business owner, clothier, suit-architect and designer, it is very important for me that my business adds value to my clients. Innovation leads to improvements in customer service, marketing, logistics, customer engagement, and all other aspects of the business. And then feeds back into a closed loop of continuous improvement (kaizen).
What else lies ahead?
We are currently working on developing a website and mobile app that will enable all our clients, located anywhere in the world, to be measured by us (within 30 mins) and have their garments made and delivered within 3 weeks. It has been under development for the past 12 months, and is possibly another 6 months away. We expect future versions to fully realize the potential of internet and technology, and position us as the best in the world.
Another personal achievement that I am proud of, is that we donate 10% of our annual turnover to charities in India, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East and Africa. My goal is to reach a turnover of $20m by 2020 so I can give away at least $2m to set up schools, clinics and libraries for kids and women in disadvantaged locations around the world.
PS. Azrim is Mirza (my surname) spelt backwards and was inspired by Harpo Productions (owned by Oprah Winfrey who is one of my idols).