The leaders of supplier Rhombus Canvas, LLC, are experts at taking a crisis and redesigning it as an opportunity for growth.
When family-owned canvas bag manufacturer Stitchman felt the effects of the financial recession of 2008-2009, Nissin Shah shifted its focus from exclusively selling bags to promotional suppliers in the U.S. to open manufacturing for retail companies and Asian markets.
“We were producing between 100,000 and 200,000 bags before the crisis, and afterward the volume went down so we started focusing on markets in Japan and on OEM manufacturing for companies like Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma,” says Nissin Shah, founder of Rhombus Canvas LLC and COO of Stitchman.
Nissin says the company leveraged its strength as a manufacturer to open U.S.-based supplier company Rhombus Canvas LLC by Stitchman, capitalizing on its prior knowledge of the promotional products industry to serve as a more direct conduit for distributors seeking high-quality, customizable canvas bag options.
“Distributors are looking for smaller quantities with more customization options. We can do any quantity, whether it’s 25 or 100 bags, in our factory, and deliver within two to three weeks,” he says. “And we don’t charge international freight.”
One of Rhombus’s biggest strengths is its ability to produce bags using heavy 18- to 24-ounce canvas, “similar to Land’s End and L.L. Bean-type bags,” Nissin explains.
Nissin says Rhombus is a standout canvas bag maker because of the consistency in the quality of the product. “As a manufacturer, we can guarantee the weight of the canvas,” he explains. “When someone says a product is 15, 18, or 24 ounces, when you feel it you can tell if it is [that weight or not].”
“For customization, we offer a minimum quantity volume at a competitive price. With customization, usually, if you want to make minor changes on a particular bag, [it’s difficult], but we can do it for as low as 500 pieces.”
Rhombus’s manufacturer/supplier capabilities provide distributor clients with the added benefit of collaborating on product design. The designers on his office staff of 55 help customers create bespoke items that are a perfect fit for their end-users.
Nissin says his company’s expertise with heavyweight material brings Rhombus yet another advantage: ensuring quality product from the mill to the buyer. “We work directly with the mill, the cotton that we buy is virgin cotton, and we follow Japanese quality inspection standards,” he says.
“Before the material enters our factory, it has been inspected, and we have an in-house needle detector [to ensure no needles are in the finished product] prior to packing finished products.”
Rhombus’s mission statement points to its desire to produce eco-friendly products in a manner that respects and preserves the environment while serving the needs of a diverse, global customer base:
“We work towards balancing the ecological balance of nature by replacing plastic bags with bags made of biodegradable natural fiber. We are reaching the world market including the U.S., Japan, and Europe. Our customers are wholesalers, importers, promotional industries, boutique stores, and many more. Our products are made keeping in mind the customer’s demand and requirement. Customer satisfaction is our utmost goal.”
Nissin says that, in the coming months, the company plans to increase its automation by four times to continue to increase efficiency and be more competitive in the market. Additionally, they are seeking organic certification and are working towards carbon-free manufacturing by as early as mid-summer.
Rhombus is also seeking product expansion opportunities, including a foray into the pet products industry, apron manufacturing, high-quality slippers, and producing with new materials such as polyester and nylons.
Nissin says in addition to producing custom products outside the bag market, such as custom patio furniture covers, Rhombus is exploring new types of material for its bag customers.
“Our product development team is working on products specifically for the bag industry, and our focus will be on quality technical fabrics with features like ‘odor-free,” Nissin explains.
The importance of family continues to be the driving force behind the innovation at Rhombus. The canvas manufacturing company was originally founded by Nissin’s father Vijay in 1996, and both father and son continue to work closely in all aspects of the business today. In addition, Rutu Shah, Nissin’s wife, assists with their backend operations. And yet still, the company is built on an even older family operation: Stitchman was founded in the 1980s in the Indian state of Gujarat as a commercial sewing machine dealer, where the Shah family began their decades-long commitment to their craft.
“I’m the second generation in this business,” Nissin says. “One of the challenges I faced when I joined the business in 2010 was the generational difference with the employees who had been working with my father, but I respected and learned from their experience and it got me to where I am today.”
Nissin says he and his team have taken a great deal of inspiration from Dallas, Texas-based Southwest Airlines for its approach to workforce development.
The employee base has been nurtured by the owners and is made up of workers who have been with the company for more than a decade. The majority of India’s soft goods workforce is female, and Rhombus’s staff are no exception—Nissin says 90 percent of the manufacturer’s sewing staff are female.
“This is not a commodity product. We train our sewing operators (we have around 200 sewing operators) and more than 60 percent have been with us for more than 10 years,” Nissin said.
He adds that while t-shirt manufacturing is a more popular choice for India’s skilled sewing workforce, and more training is required to sew canvas, Rhombus helps support its current and future labor force by providing education support to local schools. “This helps differentiate us from our competitors,” Shah says.
“We always tell people that, in good times and bad times, our labor force has stuck with us. We have nurtured the company, so our employees treat us as their family members. That’s always an achievement.”
For more information about Rhombus Canvas visit www.rhombuscanvas.com.