William Bissell is the Managing Director of Fabindia, an Indian chain store retailing garments, furnishings, fabrics and ethnic products handmade by craftspeople across rural India.
When Bissell took over Fabindia, following in his father’s footsteps, he immediately refocused the group away from exports to India’s domestic market. Over the next three decades Bissell grew Fabindia from an unlisted Indian ethnic wear chain, from just two retail locations in Delhi, to over 117 stores.
As well as dramatically expanding the company’s retail locations, Bissell added a non-textile range in 2000 and organic foods in 2004, personal care products in 2006 and handcrafted jewellery in 2008.
In 1992 William Bissell and his father, John Bissell, established the Fabindia School. The recognised the need for a model school to empower young people in rural Rajasthan where literacy rates are extremely low, especially amongst women. The school started with just 11 students and now has over 500. The school views primary education as a major stepping stone towards social mobility and is a non-religious, non-profit school.
Following his graduation from Wesleyan University in the US in 1988, William Bissell spent several years in Jodhpur working with local artisans and assisting in the formation of various weavers cooperatives. When Bissell took over Fabindia he introduced an artisan shareholder system through supply-region companies, incorporated as subsidiaries, to address the imbalance between artisan pay and retail profits. The craftspeople collectively own 26 percent of the equity in each company, with Artisans Micro Finance, a Fabindia arm holding 49 percent and employees and other private investors holding the balance.
In 2009 the company acquired a 25 percent stake in UK based ethnic womenswear retailer East.
In 2012, L Capital, the private equity arm of LVMH, bought an 8 percent stake in Fabindia from Wolfensohn Partners.
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