Finding right market and right space to expand is the key: Ummeaiman Khorakiwala

Retailer Media caught up with Ummeaiman Khorakiwala to know more about the company's mushroomed manoeuvre to tap the new-age consumers, keeping in mind its audacity and trademark.
Ummeaiman Khorakiwala, Director, Akbarallys

Transforming the definition of fashion, when it comes to men, the oldest departmental store of Mumbai, Akbarallys, is now aiming to disrupt the growing men’s fashion vertical. As today shopping has become a part of our day-to-day lives and consumerism is drifting back towards departmental stores, this retro-retailer is all set to tap the millennial consumers with its ‘new-gen’ approach.

Retailer Media caught up with Ummeaiman Khorakiwala, Director, Akbarallys to know more about the company’s mushroomed manoeuvre to tap the new-age consumers, keeping in mind its audacity and trademark.

Share about your background and whether entrepreneurship was something you always wanted to do?
My primary and secondary education was from Mumbai; High school in Switzerland and graduation in USA with a degree in Genetics. I returned to Mumbai in 2004 and joined a start-up business of production and distribution of hybrid seeds throughout India.

After 7 years, I took a sabbatical while my children were small. When I was ready to re-start my career, the Akbarallys opportunity was up for grabs. Retail seemed exciting to me, although I knew I had to learn the business from scratch. This prospect was even more exciting. And so the journey began!

How was the idea of your Start-up conceptualized? What is the need you are addressing in the market?
Akbarallys is located in South Mumbai’s financial district- Fountain. The area is dominated by banks and law firms, hence many professionals and working men in the area. I saw the dearth in a 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 revamping, rebranding and launching it as Akbarallys Men- in line with the need of having an entire store for men only in the city in Fountain, South Mumbai. Akbarallys Men is the sole multi-branded menswear store in South Mumbai.

Is there a story behind the name you have given to your business?
Akbarally Ebrahim was the name of my great grandfather who 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. And so far, everyone will agree, it’s been a good decision! Given the brand equity the name has earned over the last century, and the legacy the names holds, even with the re-vamping and re-branding, we thought it prudent to keep the name.

Who is your target consumer? Could you please share how you have detailed your consumer?
Our store has over 50 domestic & international renowned men’s brands- there’s casual wear, formals, ethnic wear, accessories, and so on. Our store caters to the male audience – from age 17 and above. Professionals looking at formal wear for daily work, casuals for men, ethnic wear for occasions and parties. We also have an in house barber shop that helps with styling and grooming needs. Off late we have introduced an entire section for boys- Akbarallys Boys which has brands for kids from ages 2 onward.

What is your current distribution in Brick and Mortar space? What are your future distribution plans?
We plan on opening at least one more store this year and then quickly expand to other cities.

What has been your A-ha Moment in the business? (The high point)
Every time a customer checks out at the cashier’s desk and comments that they have had a good experience with either of the products and services or with staff members is A-ha for us!

What has been your biggest challenge so far in scaling -up? How are you addressing it? 
Biggest challenge is finding the right market and the right space in that market to expand. We are currently in the process of conducting recess in 3 cities to determine the market potential for a store like ours as well as zeroing in on properties for the same.

How do you see growth scenario is this business? What are your future scale-up plans?
The business is very promising even when u see industry growth projections which are at 9% CAGR expected over the next 5 years in organised men’s wear brands, despite the slow economy.  Our plan is to tap into potential markets in the country and replicate what we are doing at our flagship store at Fort, Mumbai.

Ummeaiman Khorakiwala