Forget Hot Wheels, check out Simba

13th Dec 2012
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The time was early 2008 when Amit Chaudhary, an IIT-IIM alumni who had worked for some of the biggest names in the industry like KPMG and FedEx, decided to venture out on his own. The internet was on a boom and all the factors were conducive to build the next big technology product company. But Chaudhary and his partner in crime Prasar Sharma (who was Amit's batchmate at IIM Bangalore back in 2003) had their eyes set on something else. Most entrepreneurs take the plunge with the motive to solve a particular pain point but this wasn’t exactly the case with this duo. They looked around, conducted the typical ‘MBA market survey’ and found a hole which they set out to plug.

They decided to roll-out a chain of retail stores selling toys for kids. It is a Rs 10,000 crore market with no clear market leader, explains Chaudhary. “The biggest thing I saw was that there was no winner in the space. Stores are there but the fight for margins has led to sale of unsafe toys. The need for a reliable name was a must.” The idea was to come up with “the neighbourhood toy store” for kids and thus The Simba Store was born.

Chaudhary and Sharma have already setup four stores under the name, 'The Simba Store'. Simba is the world’s third largest toy manufacturer based in Germany and this is the first time they’ve associated themselves with anyone for setting up a store. Chaudhary and Sharma’s venture is called Exelixi and they want to build a portfolio of retail brands over the next few years. Simba is their current endeavor of bringing an international toy chain to India. “The capital requirement is huge but you have to take the risk,” says Chaudhary. Currently they are a team of nine members and setting up stores is already giving them sleepless nights. “We didn’t sleep a wink when the construction work was on and it is always a race against time,” he adds. Simba Shop has two stores in Bangalore, one in Mumbai and one in Ghaziabad and plans to setup 400 stores in the coming three years.

Toys at Simba Shop are priced from Rs 39 to Rs 70,000 and will cater to every segment of the society. “We have something for everyone but our research has pointed out some key areas that we should target and we’ll try to execute that,” says Chaudhary. Details of which are a 'secret sauce'. Simba stores works with a clear mandate: maintain safety and therefore all toys are compliant with German regulations which Chaudhary says are the most stringent in the world.

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Completely boostrapped so far, Chaudhary, Sharma and team may look for funding in the months to come. There are plans to come up with an online channel to open up more revenue streams and thus improve Simba’s reach. The climb is steep when it comes to retail in India but we wish Exelixi all the best!

Check out the Simba Store in Bangalore. 

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