When her car skidded and crashed alongside the Penang Bridge in August 2017, Lobhini escaped with just 15 thigh stitches. His car, however, did not suffer the same fate since it was destroyed.
The accident took a toll on Lobhini’s mental health and she struggled to return to her then job as an HR operations specialist.
“However, the accident served as a reminder of how there is so much to be grateful for because there is so little time not to run after the things you love,” Lobhini said.
In his time of misfortune, Lobhini was offered art tools by a friend as a means of distraction. Instead of falling into the clutches of despair, she decided to creatively de-stress.
Eventually, her creative outlet became a brand known as The Sambar Incident (TSI) in January 2018, although she didn’t devote her full attention to it until late 2020, when she quit her job. employment in the company.
Today, TSI is an independent streetwear brand inspired by Malaysian Indian culture and heritage.
The brand slogan, “Our Culture, Our Brand”, symbolizes the close-knit Indian community that is bound together by attitudes, values and goals.
As Lobhini explained, “I’m passionate about representing my culture and my heritage. Fashion was a path I chose to visually express my designs that represent my roots.
An example of a collection carrying the pride of Malaysian Indian pop culture can be seen in their collaboration Nityataa, which celebrates traditional Indian music.
The start of a global brand
After leaving her corporate job, she completed a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“My master’s degree has equipped me with a lot of knowledge and skills that have led to one of the biggest wins in my entrepreneurial journey so far, a one-year hire with Kedai KL,” Lobhini said.
With over 50 local brands competing for a retail store in Kedai KL, her business plan and pitch crowned her the overall champion. Apart from a retail store in Kedai KL, TSI products are also available on their website.
By focusing on creating original designs, TSI has developed products that resonate with audiences.
Plus, Lobhini doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. “It touches me from every corner of my daily life,” she said.
For example, TSI’s bestseller “Budak Malaysia” was created during the pandemic, while the store was temporarily closed for four months.
The Meaning Behind Budak Malaysia captures what it is to be a Malaysian at its core, with graphic designs depicting elements of familiar Malaysian culture.
TSI’s classic designs range from RM50 to RM59, while their premium designs start at RM69 and hoodies start at RM119.
While Lobhini runs TSI, another crucial creative half of the brand is Vinoth, their brand designer. Having created art since the age of 15, there’s a lesson that she holds dear and believes all other creatives should too: trust the process.
So far, it has worked, with his designs also attracting the attention and interest of overseas customers over a four-year period.
TSI has now sent its products to Singapore, India, Australia, Canada, USA, UK and Dubai.
According to Lobhini, it wasn’t even an intentional growth plan. It just happened in 2020 and has continued ever since.
Their international expansion first started in Singapore, and then clients from the UK, US, Dubai and India started pouring in.
“My focus over the past two years has been to increase brand awareness here locally, and
[we are] very happy when international audiences appreciate what we bring to the table,” Lobhini said.
Now she thinks they are finally ready to hit the international market with intent.
“I think what appeals to international audiences is how unique and one-of-a-kind our designs are -[they’re] something unusual.”
“We found that the Tamil diaspora in the US and UK shared their love for our designs as it is something not commonly found in their countries. Ultimately, they loved TSI because it also made them feel connected to their roots and culture,” she shared.
Creating opportunities and bringing about change at the same time
Along with running TSI, Lobhini has launched a series of workshops that help aspiring entrepreneurs of all age groups build a brand for themselves.
His workshops are titled “Creating a Strong Brand” and are organized under the aegis of Sambar Fashion Design. She is currently leading these workshops herself as a certified HRDF trainer.
It has come a long way since the early days of TSI, when it received a lot of criticism and skeptical remarks about the brand’s purpose and mission.
But Lobhini understood that it would take some time for people to understand the brand’s vision and the meanings they were trying to convey.
She believes TSI has since paved the way for other similar brands to appear, although she explained: “What’s important at the end of the day as competitors is that we are ethical and respectful of each other’s growth as brands.”
Going forward, the brand plans to participate in pop-up events so that customers in other states have the opportunity to experience their products physically, instead of just browsing online.
In the immediate future, TSI will appear in Seremban and Melaka on July 30 and 31, and August 6 and 7, respectively.
- Read more about the Sambar incident here.
- Discover other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: The Sambar Incident