These entrepreneurs are betting on offline even as COVID-19 rages on

This week, SMBStory curated a list of entrepreneurs who are placing their bets on the offline segment despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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COVID-19 brought innumerable obstacles for businesses that primarily operated in the offline model. Lockdowns and distancing norms led to an inevitable dip in demand in the offline segment, leading to several players rushing to adopt the online model. 

However, despite the burgeoning online segment, several data points and experts argue that the current circumstances will not put an end to the offline market. 

The Retailers Association of India (RAI) in an IBEF report states that the retail industry achieved 93 percent of pre-COVID-19 sales in February 2021 (a period when restrictions were eased and COVID-19 cases were also low); and consumer durables and quick service restaurants (QSR) increased by 15 percent and 18 percent respectively.

The data further indicates that offline retail is poised to steadily grow in post-pandemic times. At the same time, several erstwhile online-only brands have also been exploring and expanding in the offline segment.

This week, SMBStory curated a list of entrepreneurs who are placing their bets on the offline segment despite the pandemic.

Nandani Creation

Anuj Mundhra strongly believes this lull in the offline sector is a blessing in disguise for entrepreneurs. He foresees the offline market gaining traction soon, and believes the time is now ripe to invest.  

Anuj is the Chairman and MD of Nandani Creation, a Jaipur-based textile company. 

Under the banner of Nandani Creation Ltd., Anuj runs ethnic wear brand Jaipur Kurti, which recently opened two new stores in Jaipur, and is planning to expand all across Rajasthan by 2026, followed by Delhi/NCR and other parts of North India. 

“When entrepreneurs want to enter the offline space, they look out for prime locations. When the market is upright, the rent, purchase, or the leasing costs skyrocket. Right now, the commercial real estate market is at a rock bottom due to the pandemic, and so, it is the best time to invest and get appreciation in the next three to five years,” Anuj explains.

Anuj further adds that if not for investment, the time is also ripe for renting a store because commercial spaces in prime locations are available at competitive prices. A trend that real estate companies have noticed across the nation.

Going by this positive outlook, Anuj is planning to invest Rs 10 crore in the next five years to open around 32 offline stores of Jaipur Kurti across India. 

Read the full story here.

Saundh India

Saundh India, founded in 2019 by Sarabjeet Saluja aka Sabby, is an apparel brand that offers tops, kurtis, jackets, kurta sets (both stitched and unstitched), loungewear and more. Items like scarves and masks are priced below Rs 2,000 but the clothes begin from Rs 3,000 onwards. 

It is an off-shoot of the 40-year-old Surat-based apparel brand, Sahiba Limited. 

Saundh opened its first store in Mumbai and a second one in Delhi. Today, it has 10 standalone stores, with the northern market being its focus. It is yet to venture into the southern market. Sabby also emphasises that the brand has had an offline strategy from the beginning and even the COVID-19 pandemic has not played a role in changing it.

“The biggest mistake is to think that ecommerce is the only future,” he says, “Ecommerce is just an experience. Among women, I have observed that they like to get the touch-and-feel of the product before buying, especially if they are priced higher than Rs 5,000.”

Saundh India was operating only through the offline channel in the pre-pandemic era. However, in 2020, when COVID-19 struck and its stores had to be shut down, they launched their website and got listed on ecommerce platforms such as Nykaa, Tata Cliq and Amazon. It also exports to countries like the UK, US, Canada and more.

Read the full story here.

Silly

Twenty-one-year old Karan started Silly in March 2021 in the Khar area of Mumbai. He says that despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the place has been running well. 

“We have been able to recover 45 percent of our investment and are expecting to reach break-even in the next six to eight months,” Karan claims, adding that the plan next is to expand beyond Mumbai. 

Silly has been witnessing customer footfalls in spite of restrictions, a success Karan attributes to the company following all norms and checks in place without compromising on the offerings to the customers. 

His practical lessons have been the mantra for his business survival amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Silly is a pandemic baby,” Karan says, adding that he had started work in April 2021 right before the second wave lockdown and opened the restaurant in June when the restrictions were eased. 

Karan says he plans to open Silly in South Delhi but did not specify the location. Over the next few years, he wants to take Silly to Hyderabad and from there, pan India. 

Read the full story here.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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