From retail to women's ethnic wear, this entrepreneur scaled his family business to see Rs 95 Cr revenue

Koskii, a bootstrapped company with an annual run rate of Rs 100 crore, has spread its wings across major Indian cities, and has left an indelible mark in the ethnic wear space in India.

Wednesday April 05, 2023,

3 min Read

Umar Akhter joined his father’s retail business as a 16-year-old school boy. Today, he is a successful entrepreneur and the Co-founder and CEO Koskii, a women’s ethnic wear brand, based in Bengaluru.

In an interview with SMBStory, Akhter reveals how he and his family surmounted a substantial financial setback in the wholesale saree industry by pivoting to a retail store in Kolar, which eventually evolved into the brand, Koskii. 

Koskii, which has now spread its wings across major Indian cities, including Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, and Delhi, has left an indelible mark in the women’s ethnic wear space, with an annual run rate of Rs 100 crore, all bootstrapped.

From an engineer to an entrepreneur 

Akhter began his entrepreneurial journey in 1991 when his father, Akhtar Saifulla, was unable to repay the loan he had taken to establish his business. Eventually, Saifulla managed to sell the family’s ancestral land to raise funds to rent a shop in Kolar, Karnataka. However, this required Akhter to drop out of school and move to Kolar to run the store.

Akhter and his father set up Mina Bazaar, a retail mart, where people would get all daily essentials, including clothing, household items, etc. Initially, it was a slow start, but soon they were making Rs 1,000 a day, which helped the family get back on track. In the next few years, they cleared their debts, and Akhter even managed to graduate from college. 

Akhter’s exceptional performance in college made his father realise that he could have done a lot better if he had continued his education. Akhter, who was keen on studying IT, took a diploma course in Oracle and Java.

After completing the course, Akhter got placed as a software developer in a small company in Mysuru. While he moved to pursue his career in IT, his younger sibling, Haroon Rashid, joined the father’s business and helped run the business for more than a decade. 

Akhter later joined ThoughtWorks, which allowed him to travel to over 52 countries. However, the entrepreneurial spirit never left him. In 2009, while working in the US, Akhter started thinking of joining back the family business, and this is how things took a turn.

Carrying forward the family legacy

After Akhter returned from the US, he came up with a plan to revamp the existing business and proposed the same to his family. His idea was to enter the women’s ethnic wear space, which also involved moving the family from Kolar to Bengaluru, as the market had more exposure and a good a customer base. 

“At first, our father’s reaction was, aise kaise hoga (how will this happen?), but then, eventually, when I explained, he was in support,” says Akhter.

The road ahead was tough, but Akhter was determined. He decided to bring in his siblings-- brothers Haroon Rashid and Sameen Eajaz, and sister Ayesha Saubia--to weigh in their expertise in the business. 

The second-generation entrepreneurs, who are now the standing pillars of the company, decided to rebrand the family business from Mina Bazaar to Koskii, which is now recognised across the country. 

The transformation of Mina Bazaar to become a successful ethnic wear brand was not an overnight feat. It was a result of years of perseverance, dedication, and relentless efforts. 

Catch the entire episode to witness the incredible journey of how the Akhter family overcame insurmountable challenges to establish themselves in the organised women’s ethnic wear market in India.

Edited by Megha Reddy