Waheed Alli doesn’t like it when Koovs, the company he chairs, is compared with other online fashion sellers like Myntra and Jabong. “They design the clothes here in India. We design it in London — that is the capital of fashion. We go to fashion runways in Milan, New York and Paris, and bring global fashion to India,” he says.
Alli is no common startup founder. He is a Baron — and at 33, was the youngest member of England’s House of Lords. He was co-founder of TV production house Planet 24, managing director of Carlton Television Productions, and the chairman of British online fashion giant ASOS.com. Under Alli’s chairmanship, ASOS’s market cap grew 60-fold.
Koovs is listed on the London Stock Exhange, but Alli is not its founder. He invested in the company just over three years back, before which it was run by Anant Nahata, son of Mahendra Nahata, of Infotel Broadband, the company that sold 95% of its stake to Reliance Industries to form Reliance Jio. The Nahatas still own 51% in Koovs.
But there is no denial that the company is run by Alli and his team. He got Robert Bready, ASOS’ chief designer to head Koovs design vertical. Bready and Alli have formed a team of 20-odd designers in London. “We don’t make clothing, we make fashion. We are a shopkeeper and we sell dresses,” says Mary Turner, CEO of Koovs.
Koovs is betting big on private labels. It is adding 400-500 private label designs every month, and already has a catalogue of 7,000 designs. “That is the jewel in Koovs’ crown. More than 40% of our revenue comes from private labels,” says Anant. In the first six months of 2015-16, Koovs had a gross merchandise value (GMV) of Rs 36.5 crore, a 208% rise over last year. GMV is the total value of goods sold.
Apart from private labels, Koovs has tie-ups with a host of London-based designers, including Mawi Keivom, Patrick Cox, Melissa Odabash and Henry Holland. “They want to be exposed to India, so they design especially for India,” says Turner.
When the Nahatas invested in Koovs, it sold everything from mobiles to clothes, but lifestyle by default was selling more. There were no private labels. Then one day Anant met Alli through a common friend. He wanted to build an ASOS out of India.
The multi-millionaire Baron doesn’t bother about profits neither do the Nahatas. Koovs reported losses of Rs 57 crore. But, “we have a roadmap towards profitability sometime in the future, which being a listed company, we can’t share,” says Anant.