Customized product, digital platforms define future
of Indian music group
In the 27 years since the Sara-Trans Group first pledged to become “Bag Crafters to the World,” the Indian manufacturer has turned out a vast range of bag and cover options, not only for the music industry but for sporting goods, firearms, shopping, travel, and more. What might be the next product to come down from Sara-Trans? How about: whatever the customer asks for. From a new factory equipped with state-of-the-art machinery and systems, the Sara-Trans Group has made a push toward customization—and as founder and CEO Jasbeer Siingh points out, it’s never been more doable. Just as advanced machinery makes it possible to craft new designs to precise specifications, web and social media platforms are making it easier than ever to glean customer feedback and process custom orders, opening up new possibilities for both the manufacturer and its customers.
“For years we’ve been rethinking the bag and covers category,” says Siingh. “We’ve brought together fresh concepts from young enthusiasts and musicians and given many new ideas to the industry. Now our focus is on customization. It’s highly motivating to work on new designs and be challenged to innovate and take ownership of our work while making our customers happy.”
At today’s Sara-Trans Group, though, bags and covers are only one side of a much larger operation. Established in 1989 as an offshoot of the Siingh family’s industrial conglomerate, Sara-Trans is based in greater New Delhi’s “Noida” district, short for New Ohkla Industrial Development Authority. Set up as a hub for technology and higher education, the district made an ideal setting for Sara-Trans’ modern manufacturing operation—which grew with each passing year, earning seven straight annual awards from the Ministry of Commerce (Government of India) for highest product turns. From there, the company has used its music industry connections to build an expansive network in distribution and retail, beginning with its Reemal distribution branch in 1991. With offices strategically located in Mumbai, Bhiwandi, Kolkata, Noida, Pune, Kochi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Delhi, Reemal has linked customers with products never before sold within India’s borders. Among the brands it represents are Fender, Charvel, Gator, Vic Firth, Gretsch, Line 6, Sabian, Akai, Alesis, Numark, and many more.
In 1996, Sara-Trans established the OnStage retail chain, bringing modern, well-stocked music stores to every major Indian city and many smaller ones. Besides continually broadening that network, it’s now looking to expand across India through a series of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships. The latest additions have taken the company into the southern part of the nation, where alliances with small regional businesses, familiar with the culture and commerce of the area, have expanded its footprint. “Our goals focus on bringing music into some of the more out-of-the-way places in India,” says Siingh. “We’re aggressively looking into more mergers and acquisitions that would help us recognize underserved pockets. We’re keen to bridge that gap in the years to come. Having seamless operations of manufacturing, distribution and retail has helped us to gain a strong understanding of the music industry.”
Siingh, an influential figure in the Indian music industry, is president of the Indian Music Merchants Association and a member for the past six years on the exclusive Export Promotion Council. Also well known on the Bollywood music scene, he’s used his many connections to help musicians overcome the challenges of the Indian market: poverty, high import duties, complex laws, and extreme variations in culture. Through its OnStage Music Foundation, Sara-Trans has established opportunities for young musicians to connect with celebrated artists. A series of “roadshows” sponsored by OnStage have provided a forum for young talent to perform for an audience. The company also supports an initiative to set up music schools in major Indian cities. “OnStage has become a link between musicians and the tools of the trade,” says Siingh.
To the list of India’s problems, however, you can now add inflation, market instability, and currency headaches. Rupee/dollar fluctuations have instilled uncertainty in the market, leaving consumers reluctant to spend on discretionary items. In a recent bombshell, the government announced that as part of a crackdown on corruption and tax evasion, 500 and 1000 Rupee notes would no longer be accepted as legal tender. “This has set the markets in a frenzy,” says Siingh. “People and businesses are unsure how this will pan out and affect them on a long-term basis.”
Despite the rocky climate, Sara-Trans has not been timid about pushing forward with plans for the growth of its businesses. From a large new office in Bombay, it’s taken on a major expansion of its digital side—part of what Siingh refers to as an “omni-channel approach.” Building on its OnStage Online e-commerce platform, it’s partnered with a handful of online sales startups to push its products into new sales portals. It’s also begun collaborating with major international online companies looking to gain a larger footprint in India. Social media marketing, a growing force in India, has allowed the company to interact with customers through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and others. These outlets have also helped pave the way for Sara-Trans’ new emphasis on customized product, opening new channels for customers to place orders or express their preferences.
“Our uncensored feedback from customers is a great way to learn and move forward,” says Siingh. “They not only give us ideas but also a huge rush of inspiration. We are happy we could reach out to customers who wanted custom bags. Coming to work is now a passion.”
Subscribe to The Music Trades today!