When in college, Ankur Mittal, Neha Sachar Mittal and Karina Rajpal had spent many hours discussing startup ideas. However, life after college took the three friends down separate corporate paths. But the startup dream remained and years after passing out of college they joined hands to create Kidology, a luxury kidswear brand.
Ankur a Chartered Accountant and MBA from Georgetown University, USA, has spent the last four years shuttling between New York and London, working as an investment banker for Citigroup and Credit Suisse. During this time, he observed an opportunity in the vacuum that existed between the latent demand and supply of high quality fashionable clothes for infants, kids and expecting mothers in India.
Meanwhile, Karina, after completing her MBA at Georgetown University, was involved in expanding her family's established clothing, accessories and home furnishings business in India.
Neha, a graduate from Xavier Institute of Communication and married to Ankur, had spent eight years with groups like NDTV and TV 18, as an anchor and producer of entertainment shows.
In 2009, Karina decided to start a new venture that would leverage her existing skills in a new dynamic business environment. She joined hands with friends Ankur and Neha and decided to launch a lifestyle store for kids. In 2010, the trio launched Kidology.
“We decided to develop an Indian fashion brand for kids, between the age group 0 and 10 years, and which would appeal to the growing segment of discerning consumers in India and abroad,” says Ankur, 37, Co-Director, Kidology.
He adds that the collection includes Indian, western and fusion-inspired garments and accessories for girls and boys from newborn to pre-teens. In addition to the in-house collection, key Indian designers including Gauri & Nainika, Gaurav Gupta, Siddhartha Tytler and Malini Ramani were approached to design exclusive kids’ collections that would be manufactured and distributed under the Kidology label.
The label was launched with a flagship store at DLF Promenade Mall, New Delhi. Within India, Kidology is sold from multi-designer stores in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ludhiana and Kolkata. Kidology also retails through its own website kidology.in and a number of online stores. Internationally, Kidology has presence in multi-designer stores in Dubai, Singapore, Sydney, London and New York.
“As a team, the co-founders bring together complementary expertise on garment design, production, investment banking, marketing and fashion PR,” says Ankur.
The revenue of the company is based on the manufacturing, distributing and selling of clothes.
“What has changed over the last few months is how we do that. The focus has been on improving gross margin while bringing the average selling price down, overhauling our distribution and consequently our reach,” says Ankur.
In its initial avatar, Kidology was essentially a brick-and-mortar brand selling designer wear through its own stores and through other offline stores within and outside India. However, in the past few months, it has been concentrating on online segment as well.
“Our partnership with Cbazaar, Snapdeal, Flipkart, exclusively.com and other online platforms demonstrated a huge online opportunity amongst NRIs spread across the world and that’s when we started giving online retail the respect it deserves,” says Ankur. However, this transition was not easy. They had to change their product design and price positioning. “We introduced product innovations in our designs that would ultimately reduce the need for size exchange. We are in the process of introducing new price points that will help us reach out to a greater audience while maintaining the style and design that keep our brand image and positioning intact,” adds Ankur. Kidology, at present, caters to the affordable-luxury segment, with prices ranging from Rs 5,000 to 25,000. However, they are planning to bring the starting price down to Rs 3,000 in garments and Rs 500 in accessories.
“We have now partnered with more online portals without sacrificing the brand image by ensuring that the product and the brand are positioned correctly,” says Ankur.
With continuous cost escalation of raw materials and skilled labour, ensuring the quality of products while maintaining the price and margins come as a major challenge for the venture. The company engages in effective raw material procurement and outsourcing fabrication to combat these challenges. Another challenge is the high cost of real estate even in Tier II and Tier III cities, which further magnifies the importance of a strong online presence to achieve reach, scope and scale in our activities.
As per the study by ASSOCHAM, the Indian kidswear market is expected to reach Rs 80,000 crore by the end of this year. It is not just consumers in top metros who are willing to shell out a few thousand rupees for kidswear, tier-II and III cities like Dehradun, Chandigarh, Pune, Nashik, Indore and Varanasi have also become big markets for branded clothes for children. The reasons for children becoming more fashion and brand-conscious, the study states, are increased media exposure, double-income parents and peer pressure.
The Indian kidswear market, which is still in its nascent stage, has witnessed the growth of brands and stores like Mothercare, FirstCry, Mom & Me, Burberry Kids, Armani Junior, Fendi Kids, and Gucci Kids, among others.
This year, baby products retailer FirstCry raised $36 million in fourth round of funding, taking its total fundraising to nearly $70 million. In February 2015, Mahindra Group acquired VC-backed baby products e-tailer Babyoye.
FirstCry and Mom & Me are among the larger survivors in kidswear retail. Though kidswear is a large business, many retailers such as Lilliput Kidswear and Gini and Jony shut most of their stores over the past few years after suffering huge losses.
On the growing market, Ankur says that the organised branded sector, though growing fast currently, still constitutes only a small part of the overall kidswear market. There is plenty of room for growth and room for new entrants, including international brands. Kidology caters to a niche segment in this rapidly growing industry–it has carved a unique position and product proposition.
Ankur expects the company to hit GMV of $1 million in the next twelve months and to cross $20 million in five years. Recently, Saurabh Mittal, Co-founder and former Vice Chairman of Indiabulls, invested in Kidology.
Ankur says, “We are poised to become the leading player in the occasion-wear segment for kids operating in the affordable luxury and bridge-to-luxury price segment.”