Kolkata-headquartered Skipper Furnishings’ founder Kamlesh Agarwal’s family bought the furnishings store ‘Skipper’ in 1986 in order to start a saree retail shop as a family business organisation.
However, as things panned out, Agarwal instead developed a deep interest in the home furnishings sector and decided to consolidate the Skipper name in the segment. Ten years hence, he opened a second store in Gariahat in Kolkata to offer products in the mid-price segment. By the end of 2002, he had set up seven stores in four different cities, including four in Kolkata and one each in Vizag, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Skipper currently has 11 stores in eight cities of India.
“During the initial phase I had tried my hand at various other ventures, including export of tea and garments, being a Sony franchisee, manufacturing carpets, wholesale of furnishing products, manufacturing disposable glasses and so on, but Skipper Furnishings has always been our flagship business,” Agarwal says.
“The home furnishing retail business is highly personalised,’ he adds. “It is highly service-oriented and I felt it would not be easy to operate too many stores. The franchise model allows us to expand with limited investments.
Building scalability is important in retailing, Agarwal notes, pointing out that retailers benefit immensely from economies of scale as far as sourcing is concerned. “We have multiple stores in multiple cities, and that increases our purchasing power. This allows us to purchase in a way that we get products at lower prices as well as exclusively for our stores.”
In a category now replete with national chains and domestic favourites, what does he think is Skipper’s USP? “Well, the speed at which we are growing is the USP of our brand. We offer a wide range of interior products, including curtain fabrics, upholstery fabrics , venetian blinds, wooden blinds, wooden flooring, carpets, rugs, bed and bathroom linen, wallpapers, etc.”
Going forward, in the next five years, Agarwal sees Skipper Furnishing developing into a household name in furnishing fabrics, with a robust retail network in most of the cities and towns across India. And technology is going to be the biggest enabler of this growth, he notes. “To achieve full potential, all Indian retailers must deploy intelligent IT systems both at the front- and back-end,” he says.