Delineating Contemporary Man With Needle And Thread!
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Though it is touted as man’s dominated world but finding rare and stylish fashion attire and accessories for ‘him’, had been a hard nut to crack! There are numerous fashion stores— Virtual and brick and morter, for one and all, but a dedicated store for men, was craved by the fashion aficionado breed amidst the human race. The dearth of this fashion vertical in the trade world proved a small ray of hope that paved way for the business model for a brand solely focusing on men’s wear.
A century old store — Akbarallys, is one of the oldest stores in the business world, but its overhauled version has a new tale to tell.
Entrepreneur India interacted with Aiman Khorakiwala, Director, Akbarallys Men, to know more about the journey till now and the future ahead of the business. Below are the excerpts of the interview.
And the journey began…
After finishing my primary and secondary education from Mumbai I went to Switzerland for High school, followed by graduation degree in Genetics from the USA. After returning to Mumbai in 2004 I joined a start-up business focusing on production and distribution of hybrid seeds throughout India. After 7 years in a profession I took a sabbatical for my children and also to gear up to re-start my career. When I was all set to revive my career, the Akbarallys opportunity was up for grabs and soon I was an entrepreneur all set to re-launch Mumbai’s oldest department store.
Embarking the entrepreneurial arena
After the sabbatical, when I was geared up to resurrect my career, the Akbarallys turned up as the golden opportunity for me. Retail seemed exciting to me, although I knew I had to learn the business from scratch. I had to learn everything about the retail business and the industry which seemed even more exciting. As I took on the responsibility of revamping and relaunching Mumbai’s heritage store, I realized that entrepreneurship is extremely fulfilling. And so the journey began.
South Mumbai’s financial district- Fountain, is dominated by banks and law firms. It is a hub of numerous professionals and working men in the area. I saw the dearth of men’s only dedicated store that addresses all fashion needs of men. Our original department store was in need of a revamp and I thought of overhauling, rebranding and launching it as Akbarallys Men- in line with the need of having an entire store for men. Today, Akbarallys Men is the sole multi-brand menswear store in South Mumbai.
What’s there in the name?
My great grandfather - Akbarally Ebrahim founded the business in 1897. As the family tale goes, many had sincerely advised against a Muslim name, given the communal tension of the period, but the founders remained true to themselves. Given the brand equity, the name has earned over the last century, and the legacy the names holds, even with the revamping and re-branding, we thought it prudent to keep the name.
Always on high spirits
Honestly, it sounds cliché, but I know that this store is something the city’s men badly needed and our feedback book, which is full of positive comments, authenticates my words. Making the experience better for them every time is what keeps me going.
Team says it all!
With a workforce of 30 sales personnel on the floor spread over the 10,000 sq. ft. and about 10 back-office staff, closely linked with the feedback coming from the floor staff, as a retail set-up, our focus on achieving targets is strong besides performance linked incentives.
Standing out in the crowd
The one of a kind 10,000 square feet menswear store located in South Mumbai offering every product and service related to men’s fashion makes us unique and special.
Customer are loving it!
The men are loving it, that They are excited that somebody at least thought of them too!
Filling in the gap
A seven year old boy accompanied his father for shopping but was awfully disappointed that we had nothing for him. He said, “I would like to dress exactly like my father,” by which he intended to say that we had nothing for him in the store. This is when the idea of a ‘Boys’ wear’ section was conceived!
Learning from the mentor
My father has been my mentor ever since who never dismisses a radical idea. His support and confidence made my job, as an entrepreneur, encouraging and reassuring. His extensive experience in the business has helped me to take efficient decisions in this journey. The greatest lesson I’ve learnt is to keep an open mind so you are always ready to change a decision that you have been living with.
Enhancing someone’s shopping experience and turning it into a satisfying one is my business mantra. It not creates more customers but also retains the existing list. Boasting of the best of the services and products is futile if the customer leaves unhappy.
When the going gets tough…
The decision to go from a century-old department store concept to a premium lifestyle only men store was indeed path breaking for us. To revolutionize the minds of Mumbaikars has been a challenge since inception. It also brings along a huge responsibility on me since Akbarallys carries the rich legacy created by my grandfathers. It is not just a name, but a brand, everyone in the city knows about! There is a lot of pressure to make this concept a success is that much greater. I treat Akbarallys Men like a brand new business and aim to sustain the credibility in its name and motto of one satisfied customer at a time.
Growing up with the time
I’ve gained a lot more confidence a propos the future of the business. Despite starting the expedition on shaky feet, one year ago, today, my understanding of the business is more firm and lucid.
Advice for budding entrepreneurs
Hire the right people. Every startup has budget constraints. However, it works out a lot cheaper in the not-so-long run to hire 3 smart people over 6 dumb ones!