Sanjeev Bahl is the founder and chief executive of Saitex, a Vietnam-based jeans manufacturer that counts Everlane, Madewell, J.Crew, Target and G-Star Raw among its clients. Its popularity with major US brands can be pinpointed to the sustainable practices underpinning the manufacturing process.
Named after the guru Shirdi Sai Baba, Saitex began in 2005 as a denim-producing factory with more conventional facilities, but moved towards sustainable manufacturing in 2010. As of 2019, the plant is a zero discharge facility — its plant recycles 98 percent of all its water and evaporates the other 2 percent, slashing its annual water bill of $700,000 in half, and all waste produced in the denim colouring and distressing process are mixed with concrete to form building blocks. The factory is also powered by solar and biomass energy, and jeans are air-dried using the heat that naturally accumulates in the building. The infrastructure for these facilities took a great deal of investment, with the water filtration system alone costing $2 million, but the plant was able to break even on its cost six years later.
Saitex is Blue Sign Approved, Fair Trade, LEED-certified, and in 2019, was awarded B Corp certification. In 2018, Kuala Lumpur-based private equity firm Navis Capital took a stake of an undisclosed size in the company, which until then had been entirely funded by private investors with profits being sunk back into the business. In a 2019 article by Bloomberg, Bahl claimed that Saitex was “very profitable” and free of debt.
Bahl intends to expand Saitex’s factories to the United States, with plans to open one in Los Angeles in 2019 and another in the New York area by the end of 2020. Saitex is also expanding its Vietnam facilities to include an on-site mill and has invested heavily in its own cotton production and upcycling programmes in an aim to become a circular economy business model.