Giving personalised touch to the interiors of its customer’s homes is Skipper Furnishings. The brand is growing quite aggressively across India. Kamlesh Agarwal, Founder, Skipper Furnishings shares the future expansion plans of the brand.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the inception, growth and success of ‘Skipper Furnishings’. How has been your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Kamlesh Agarwal (KA): My family had bought the furnishings store ‘Skipper’ in 1986 in order to start a Saree retail shop as a family business organisation. But as the turn of destiny the sale of Skipper the furnishing store took off and interested me to continue trading in furnishing fabrics. 10 years later after gaining enough confidence in the business I opened another store in Gariahat in Kolkata for the medium segment market. By the end of 2002 I had seven stores in four different cities. Four of these are in Kolkata and one each in Vizag, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Now we have eleven stores in eight cities of India. With the ease of modern technology available and centralised warehousing it was easier for us to expand in to various markets. During the initial phase I had tried my hand in various other ventures like export of tea and garments, opening franchisee of Sony, manufacturing of carpets, wholesale of furnishing products, manufacture of disposable glasses, departmental stores and so on but Skipper Furnishings has always been our flagship business. Thus we aim at expanding this business and make it reach newer heights.
AG: What inspired Skipper Furnishings to adopt the franchise route for expansion? Where do you see the brand in the next five years?
KA: Furnishing business is a personalised one and it is more service oriented and I felt it will not be easy to operate so many stores. Thus a good strength of employees and owner’s touch is required in this business. So we decided to go in for both models depending on various factors. Franchise model allows us to expand with limited investments. In the next five years we see Skipper Furnishing as a household name in furnishing fabrics and presence in most of the cities and towns in India.
AG: Do you find competition in the home furnishing industry? What strategies do you adopt to face the competition?
KA: Competition is present in each industry and retail furnishing is no exception. In the furnishing industry most of the retailers have single stores or limited multiple stores in single city. We have multiple stores in multiple cities, and it increases our purchasing power. This allows us to purchase in a way that we get products at a reasonable rate as well as exclusive to our stores. Since we procure products at a reasonable rate we can sell them at a lower price than the single stores. We also focus on providing the best customer service in order to retain our customers and fight competition.
AG: What is the USP of Skipper Furnishings? What all products come as its offering?
KA: Skipper Furnishings has been a household name in the city of Kolkata for several decades and has also designed the homes of many individuals across the country. We have grown faster than any other retailer in the furnishing industry and we aim to grow even faster with the availability of infrastructure and technology. The speed at which we are growing is the USP of our brand. We offer a wide range of interior products namely – curtain fabrics, upholstery fabrics , venetian blinds, wooden blinds, wooden flooring, carpets, rugs, bed and bathroom linen, wallpapers etc.
AG: What according to you is the scope for aspiring franchisees in the business? Is the future of the industry bright in the years to come?
KA: Previously an individual use curtains to block sunlight and dust to penetrate in the house but now the entire perception has changed. Home fashion or home interiors have reached a new level altogether. Every individual wants to live in a well decorated home suited to his comfort and which he can flaunt. Thus, the demands of interior products have arisen and the customer’s tendency to spend on these products has also increased. We can see that there has been an upswing in the number of interior designers in the country this indicates the bright future of all interior decorating related industry.
AG: How many franchisees do you have at the present? What are your future expansion plans?
KA: Currently we have three franchisee owned stores and eight company owned stores. Thus, we have an infrastructure set up to cater the need of franchisees and we plan to expand rapidly by the means of self-own stores, shop-in-shops and franchisees.
AG: What are the qualities and qualification that you seek for your franchisees? How much investment is required by aspiring franchisees?
KA: An individual with a basic knowledge of managing businesses and basic computer knowledge can become a successful franchisee. Knowledge about interior decoration, good relations with local interior decorators and an efficient salesmanship can also help the franchisee to become successful. An initial investment of about Rs 50 Lakh is required to be a franchisee.
AG: How does the company support and train the franchisees?
KA: The company provides its franchisees’ staff training on the operation procedures. A computer professional explains the franchisee on the billing and ordering process of the company. While a couple of salesperson trainers will inform the sales persons about the product and how to convince and satisfy the customers. The company appoints it’s our own professionals for curtain and upholstery job works as well as wallpaper and floor fitting.
AG: What challenges do think your franchisee faces at the initial stage? How can they overcome the challenges?
KA: Retail furnishing is a service oriented line. If the franchisee is able to provide good customer service he will be able to capture the market. The products available under the banner of Skipper Furnishings are the best available in the country so if the franchisee provides apt customer service which includes sales and after sales he can be a successful franchisee.