Selling something and building the brand are two different things Says Sidhant Keshwani, Founder of Libas.
After finishing his graduation in economics from the University of Manchester, Sidhant Keshwani, took the reins of his family-owned brand, Libas as CEO in 2013.
After he took over, the company’s turnover increased many fold from Rs four crore to Rs 600 crore in 2023.
With no prior experience in ecommerce, he decided to step in to understand the nitty-gritty of business as he was new to the field of ecommerce.
He said, “The only ecommerce business that was happening in our country was actually on marketplaces like Flipkart and Amazon had also just started.”
As the industry was also new, a lot of people didn’t have the required experience in the field of ecommerce. So, Keshwani was very clear on what he wanted to do. “We started with a very simple formula that marketplaces are something that we should start and we wanted to pick a category,” he said.
After deciding on the platform for business, Keshwani did about one year of research before he actually went live to get proof of concept. His first instinct was that he wanted to sell a product that people buy repeatedly, so he invested his time in brainstorming and then he realised that a gender that really buys again and again as women and that’s when he was clear that he wanted to do something in the space of women because they tend to shop slightly more than men.
“After I did my research and found that office wear as a category was really growing and people were moving away from ethnic wear to Western wear at that time. So I realised that we need to come up with a product, which is more office-specific but needs to modernise how people look at Indian wear. So that’s how the journey really started,” Keshwani said.
Initially, Libas experimented with around 100 options in small quantities to see the market reaction, “ To our surprise, within 7 to 10 days, we sold out of our inventory and that gave us the confidence that the product market fit is good.”
The rest is history, Libas scaled up its marketplace business rapidly. Around Covid-19, direct-to-consumer (D2C) became the trend and Keshwani seized this opportunity and launched its D2C platform, since then, Libas has become a more complete end-to-end omni channel brand.
Sharing his personal views on ‘What is success?’, Keshwani explains the difference between selling something and building the brand are two different things and when one is building a brand, they’re known among the masses. “For me, success is when you are known,” he said.
According to Keshwani, even being a part of a competitive market, Libas made a name among the millions of people who are actually searching for the brand organically. He later highlighted, that no matter how much a brand spends on marketing, if the product is not appealing to the consumer, it will not succeed.
While discussing today’s business scenario, Keshwani said that in the last few years, people have gone into more valuation mode, while not making money earlier and thinking that one day they’ll start making money, “I think today, especially now that the hardships are started, money has started drying up, people are realising and that’s what our ethos used to be back in the day as well. We always made sure since day one, that the business has to be profitable,” he said.
On becoming a profitable business, Keshwani shares some metrics that he used to look at while trying to build a profitable business, “I think one of the biggest teething issues for most businesses, especially fashion businesses, we see is inventory is a major problem, right? we have to come up with a number, which is neither less nor more because, at the end of the day, it affects your working capital,” he said.
Keshwani revealed how his company used to face issues regarding tech around ecommerce as it was fairly new. “Today we have solutions like Shopify and all where it’s a plug and play system where overnight within 24 hours, you can go live with the website. But back in the day, this was not the case, as we had to fight hard. We had to build teams and had to find the right solution providers. We had to build everything from scratch ourselves,” he said.
No Plans For Menswear
Everybody thinks that the next product after doing women’s ethnic wear would be men’s ethnic wear, Keshwani stated. “We actually done a lot of research and have thought about it and brainstormed multiple times. But that’s not the case.”
He said that, if the next level of growth has to come, it should come from different categories, not the other gender.
“Today for any brand in the competitive scenario is the biggest challenge to acquire new customers. And when we say, men, you’re asking me to acquire a new set of consumers. Men don’t shop from us, 8 out of 10 women would be aware of us but no men and for that I have to spend money to acquire that set of consumers,” Keshwani underlined.
He stressed, that Libas is certain not to proceed to the men’s category for at least the next 4-5 years.
Being a botstarpepd company Libas clocked revenue of 600 crore in 8 years. Libas aspired to be the largest fashion brand in the country in the next five years.