The biggest obstacle was inadequate funds, which blocked our way to success. In 1991, me and my brother-in-law started with a very small capital of Rs 2 lakh. To stand up against the financial crisis, I even used my wife’s jewellery as collateral for bank
Subhro Prakash Ghosh(SPG): What inspired you to start your apparel venture?
DPS Kohli (DPSK): I studied to be a mechanical engineer. But my inclination towards business lead me to set up my first business venture in 1980. It started doing well, but the 1984 riots destroyed everything. I had an acumen for doing business and was looking for some exciting business in fashion. In 1991, we started our business under the brand name ‘Charlie Jeanswear’. In 1997, we were awarded the ‘Best Menswear (Casual) Collection’ by Apparel Exporters and Manufacturers’ Association. We launched the most comprehensive brand ‘Koutons’, focussing on casual wear. In 2002, we opened the first EBO under the brand name ‘Koutons’ in Delhi.
SPG: What obstacles you faced while establishing your business and how did you overcome them?
DPSK: The biggest obstacle was inadequate funds, which blocked our way to success. In 1991, me and my brother-in-law started with a very small capital of Rs 2 lakh. To stand up against the financial crisis, I even used my wife’s jewellery as collateral for bank loan. We started by distributing our products to the distributors and wholesalers to have a mark in the MBOs. But payments were not cleared before four to six months of delivery. This prompted us to distribute the products and concentrate on the EBO model. Thereafter, we expanded through franchise model.
SPG: When your business started flourishing?
DPSK: In 2004-05, the real break-even point came in with the increase in the number the stores from 250 to 507. In 2006, the company got converted into a Public Limited Company under the name ‘Koutons Retail India Ltd.’ Then in the same year, on October 5, we reinstated the ‘Charlie Outlaw’ brand with the opening of 104 brand’s EBOs on a single day, marking a Limca Book of Records.
SPG: What is the scope for new entrepreneurs who want to launch their own apparel brand? Is it necessary to have prior knowledge or any kind of formal training about the business?
DPSK: Retail sector is one of the most profitable sectors in the entire business arena. The sector has enormous potential. From my experience, I can suggest the budding entrepreneurs to take up a unique path, not treaded by anyone before, rather than emulating a stalwart. I would like to remind them of the poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’, written by Robert Frost as an inspiration. Nobody needs any kind of training. All you have to do is to remain dedicated to your business. If you have the confidence, you can easily compete in the field. We’re facing challenges till today.
SPG: How do you handle the stiff competition?
DPSK: The volume of our business is huge, which makes it easy to countenance the challenges. Starting from the manufacturing and sourcing the products to the customer services, we are becoming adequately equipped everyday. My two brothers are also strongly focusing on the business since the inception.
SPG: What made Koutons stand apart from the other apparel brands in the market?
DPSK: Our USP is to bring superior, fashionable and quality product at an affordable price and the fact that we have stuck to it, has made us stronger.
SPG: What are your future plans?
DPSK: We have a target to open around 2,000 ‘Charlie Outlaw’, 1,100 Koutons and 250 family stores till 2009. We are also deciding on having a presence in the middle-east, but have not finalised on the Master Franchise Agreement for setting up EBOs. Personally, as an entrepreneur, I want to be as big as India can permit. Area of operation: Nationwide, to expand in Middle East soon Store: 2,000 Charlie Outlaw, 1,100 Koutons and 250 family stores by 2009