After 3 failed business attempts, this entrepreneur built an ecommerce company for unstitched designer apparel, expanded to UAE

Founded in 2014, YourLibass is an ecommerce company that deals in unstitched designer apparel, primarily in lawn cotton. It rakes Rs 14 crore turnover and has a presence in the UAE.
2.4k CLAPS
0

It is said that failure is not the opposite of success but a part of it, and Khalid Raza Khan is a testimony to that statement. After three failed business attempts, he built an ecommerce company with Rs 14 crore turnover.

YourLibaasis an ecommerce portal that deals in unstitched designer apparel and style bases. Founded in 2014, the Delhi-based company recently shifted its headquarters to Dubai.

Talking to SMBStory, Khalid narrates how he built the company after making false steps and expanded it to the UAE within a little over six years. 

Humble beginnings

A computer engineer from PICT, Pune, Khalid always had an entrepreneurial stint. He started with blogging, which didn’t turn out well for him. Then, he took a shot at magazine writing and edutech business, but couldn’t garner much success. “I tried multiple times but failed,” Khalid says. 

But he didn’t finalise on pursuing a job just yet.

On one of his trips to Lucknow to see his relatives, he found a huge market for Lucknowi chicken embroidery design suits. One of his relatives told him that the demand for such suits is huge but the market was very fragmented. He says,

“I was fascinated by the market dominance of Luknowi chicken suits and I began researching on other designs and embroideries that are in high demand in India. From north to south, east, and west, every region got its own design but one thing was missing — a pure lawn cotton suit.”

While doing research, Khalid found that in India, there are no niche players in the category and the ones present are unorganised. He decided to bring unstitched lawn cotton suits in Pakistani and UAE designs, and joined hands with his friends Akram Tariq Khan and Shahper Khan to start a business. 

“There was an unmet demand in India for lawn designer apparel. Indian tourists would buy it while touring UAE, where it is easily available,” he says. 

YourLibaas began its operations by partnering and importing with major designers like Sana Safinaz, MARIA.B, Saira Shakira, Sana Yasir, Elan by Khadijah Shah, and Gul Ahmed, among others. 

Making a presence

YourLibaas operates in the UAE origin lawn apparel sector with a market size that stands at close to Rs 400 crore. The company sources suit material from the UAE, which often imports it from Pakistan. “We are directly dealing with the artisans from the source, hence the quality is assured,” Khalid says.

“We have around 70,000 customers, out of which 50,000 are Indian,” he adds.

Besides lawn suits, YourLibaas also deals in georgette, chiffon, and net fabrics, and has a presence in Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia through its own website, with FedEx and DHL as logistic partners. In India, the company delivers its orders through FedEX and Delhivery.

The suits start with an average price of Rs 5,000 onwards and the brand competes with the likes of online stores: The Fashion Station, Mirraw, and more. 

Besides selling through its website, the company obtains orders through WhatsApp business API. Its target customers are non-working urban women who have a hard time ordering online. 

“We achieved a 30 percent increase in purchase conversion rate since introducing the ‘Order on WhatsApp’ functionality,” Khalid says, explaining that users found it convenient to send screenshots of products, enquiring about the fabric details, price, delivery timelines, and so on. 

Adding the missing human touch that is typical of a brick-and-mortar store is a trust-building measure. The recent introduction of conversational commerce features on FB messenger and WhatsApp resulted in 2,940 orders, summing up a total revenue of Rs 1.65 crore through WhatsApp over 90  days. 

“Out of a total of 58,800 users who visited the website through WhatsApp broadcast messages during the same period, a significant proportion actually placed orders. We received an average of 260 requests per day for product information, and WhatsApp sales increased by 70 percent,” he adds. 

YourLibaas suit design

Major challenges

One of the major challenges, Khalid says, is the company’s inventory-led model which requires huge investment. However, despite being bootstrapped, there are a few roadblocks to overcome like meeting overhead expenses, logistics cost etc. 

Another challenge is making people aware of the difference between original lawn design suits and copies. 

“There is a huge industry in Surat that is said to be selling Pakistani designer suits in lawn cotton, but that’s not true. Those suits are normal cotton suits with Pakistani designs, as they sell at a lower price and have an underwhelming quality. But unfortunately, customers don’t understand this, which results in the price war,” he explains.

He adds that though YourLibaas has a niche target audience, unorganised players who do not have overhead expenses hamper the market at large. 

COVID-19 also posed a challenge as ecommerce operations were shut. But during the lockdown, YourLibaas partnered with tailors in Delhi-NCR and Navi Mumbai region who had lost their livelihoods as the consumer demand tanked. 

“We had discontinued our in-house stitching service and the idea was to provide them with a sustainable source of income,” Khalid says.

The way ahead

“The future is bright,” says Khalid, explaining that the company has partnered with Dubai Silicon Oasis and has moved its headquarters to Dubai for international expansion. 

“We have a growing number of international clients, and this is a perfect time and opportunity to expand, especially post-COVID-19,” he adds. 

YourLibaas is also setting up its central hub in the UAE, which would include manufacturing and tailoring units, and warehousing which would cater to its international buyers, thereby speeding up transit time and decreasing logistics cost. 

“We’re in talks with Dubai Textile City, UAE for setting up our manufacturing unit, and will partner with upcoming designers and artisans to manufacture their designs and market the same worldwide,” Khalid says.

The company is also planning to expand into more verticals, starting with juttis/khussas, jewellery, handbags, shawls, and more, making YourLibaas a one-stop ethnic shopping destination for women. For Khalid, the key is to excel within a niche, leverage technology, and then diversify vertically.

Edited by Kanishk Singh