Meet brothers Akram and Khalid: successful entrepreneurs taking their brand YourLibaas to people’s homes

Khalid Raza Khan and Akram Tariq Khan

By Nikhat Fatima,

As students, brothers Khalid and Akram, bubbling with enthusiasm would dream of building a business of their own. They would experiment with entrepreneurship and were raring to do something.

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After several small ventures such as zamber,  a social networking site, – an online e-store for dorm supplies and others –  they finally succeeded in establishing

In 2014, Khalid – then 24 years-old, was in Pune Institute of Computer Technology (PICT) while his younger brother Akram, 19-years old then, had just joined Engineering in Aligarh Muslim Univsersity, the duo established, which is an online store for designer ethnic apparel bringing the best of Pakistani fashion to India. Their site has now gone global with top Pakistani and UAE Designers, including Sana Safinaz, Maria.B, Gul Ahmed, Sapphire, Zara Shahjahan, Élan, Faraz Manan, Charizma, Baroque, and Motifz, among others.

“When we began in 2014, ecommerce was in a nascent stage with the market being fragmented and multiple small players existing. Amazon and Flipkart were yet to emerge as market leaders. We now have an office in Noida but after the lockdown we have shifted to Jasola Vihar, New Delhi” said Akram while talking about their early days.

YourLibaas is an Urdu word that means your “garment or attire”. Today, the brothers claim that their online store is the market leader within the lawn suit market in India (by total revenue and market share).

“What began as a small start-up in New Delhi quickly transformed into a strong brand with an international presence. If you search for all related terms for apparel, we rank on the top position at Google. Today we have 23 employees on our payroll,” said Khalid Raza Khan, the founder and CEO of YourLibaas.

But it was not so easy to achieve success. Managing a business with college was difficult. There were several obstacles when they began.

They started off with inadequate capital pooling in their savings from the pocket-money they received from parents. Initially, they contacted small retailers and listed the suits on their site. When an order came in, they bought it from them and shipped it.

Khalid used to ship packages daily and often missed college because the courier offices and post-office closed by evening and packages would be delayed. In order to not miss college, he began sending the parcels from a post office that was 25 kmts from where he lived. This particular post office was open for 24 hours which was a good thing for the boys. During the nights, he would go on his scooty and send the parcels. And to save on costs, the duo delivered local orders themselves searching out the addresses while roaming on their two wheelers.

But missing classes had an adverse effect. Khalid could not cope with the lessons and failed in his exams due to which he had to repeat a year. The university in which he studied had different rules known as ATKT system wherein you have to repeat a year upon failing in a subject (unlike other colleges where you are promoted).

Akram who was pursuing engineering at AMU, handled digital marketing and technical development. And his studies also went downslide and he had a backlog of 14 papers.

As if that was not enough, they also suffered another set-back when they were duped by a wholesaler who didn’t send the products even after receiving full advanced payment of around Rs. 1.2 Lakh from them. This was a major setback and it took some time for them to bounce back.

They did the sourcing and packing themselves travelling in an auto rickshaw to the wholesaler bringing in heavy ‘katta bags’. As they slowly grew and as profits increased, they hired their first full-time staff named Sarfaraz for packing and logistics and 3 interns from Aligarh Muslim University for customer support and content writing.

However, they still were not in a position to pay handsome salaries due to which the staff left and they were back to looking after the packing and logistics till they could find replacements. In this way – slowly and bit by bit and through sheer perseverance, the brothers kept going.

With time as the business grew, so did their team.

“I remember how we generated enough profit to buy our own catalogue for around Rs. 60000. And we slowly moved to an inventory-model. Now, we completely own all the inventory displayed at the portal. It is imported from UAE as the majority of the dress designers are headquartered there” said Akram Tariq Khan, co-founder of YourLibaas.

Apart from these glitches they also had market regulations and compliance to overcome.

In 2015 they set up a basement office-cum-warehouse in Sector 50, Noida. The products arrived in Delhi and inter-state logistics was proving to be difficult. The brothers shifted to Jasola Vihar, Delhi.

Another major problem was dead stock or unsold items lying in their warehouse. This blocked their capital. To deal with the unsold stock, they started attending trade fairs and managed to sell the stocked clothes.

But after 2018, they stopped attending the fairs when Akram moved to Jamshedpur to pursue MBA.

Some of the staff of YourLibaas who are on Linkdin

Why specific focus on Lawn apparels and Pakistani suits?

Lawn fabric is purest form of cotton and is lightweight. It is produced in bulk in Pakistan as 90% of the lawn producing centres were located in Pakistan at the time of partition. Lawn suits have gained huge popularity due to it being lightweight, wrinkle free and soft. Mostly due its suitability to the hot Indian climate.

“Awareness regarding lawn suits primarily developed through Pakistani TV serials that were aired on  Zee Zindagi in 2017,” feels Khalid.

“Pakistani suits were a rare commodity in India back then. The demand was high and supply limited. It wasn’t sold on marketplaces (and still isn’t) like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, and so on,” he added.

“Pakistani brands had tried entering the market through official partnerships that failed to materialize (like Sana Safinaz partnering with OCM Fabrics), and they chose Indian actresses to model for the latest collections (like Kareena Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandes, Madhuri Dixit, and so on). We realized how a niche store specializing in Pakistani suits could be set up and that is what inspired YourLibaas” explained Akram.

Despite logistical hurdles and a rather negative connotation attached with Pakistani suits, the market size in India of Pakistani apparel is estimated at over INR 400 Crore.

Even though they set up YourLibaas and sell genuine Pakistani brands, they have competition from imitators. Many fashion houses and sites have replicas of the Pakistani designs selling at a lesser price.

But YourLibaas stuck to the originals even though they were expensive. Customers who preferred authentic designs from the original designers continued to buy from YourLibaas.

We have at least 40% repeat buyers, disclosed Akram.

“Designers and their team put in a lot of efforts and months of planning to launch a collection which the replica makers imitate thereby stealing the credit. Fortunately seasoned customers can easily make out an original from a replica. Moreover, selling replicas alongside originals hurts the brand equity. Replicas are a nuisance in India as these are manufactured by registered Indian companies and sold openly. A first time online buyer who is unaware of this would buy a replica since both display the same picture, but a replica is priced at 20-25% of the original cost. This leaves a bad impression of “Pakistani Suits” and the consumer never returns back to buying lawn suits. Further it creates trust issues especially if you’re selling online. We have maintained our reputation and people largely buy from us since local shops and sellers usually sell replicas and fool buyers especially new customers, ” elaborated Akram Khan.

Due to international demand, the duo made inroads into the global market by establishing a Dubai, UAE subsidiary and setting up a Freezone company. They have plans to also establish a physical office in Dubai.

Leveraging technology to their advantage

Being from a technical background proved to be an advantage and the duo used their technological skills to thwart competition wherever possible and establish a strong market presence.

For instance – they introduced cash on delivery as many of their customers where women who were non-working. They took this risk despite knowing that there could be cancellations and also non acceptance of goods when they arrived at their door step. They also offered no-questions asked returns. All this bolstered confidence amongst the customers.

Next was introducing ‘Order on WhatsApp’ & ‘Order on Phone’ options which made it easier for the women to order instead of logging on to websites. The YourLibaas WhatsApp commerce at YourLibaas employs AI-based NLP chatbots with human agents who answer the queries of the customers guiding them to successful shopping.

Why do people prefer buying from YourLibaas rather than the brand itself?

“We provide multiple brands with easy accessibility, free shipping and easy returns on a single platform. Most of the consumers aren’t comfortable with buying online, so we have WhatsApp chatbots alongside human agents that assist them making the ordering process seamless. Secondly, buying from brands directly isn’t a feasible option – the shipment might get stuck at customs, or it could end up being delayed otherwise. Even in a normal scenario, the delivery timelines will be longer than what a domestic player can offer,” concluded Khalid Raza Khan.

Today, Khalid is totally dedicated to YourLibaas while Akram has his fingers in several pies. He writes for a business magazine and has developed an online browser game called  ‘Bhag Corona’ and is also part of entrepreneur’s leadership network in which he delivers lectures based on his experiences.

His game ‘Bhag Corona’ has received millions of hits and this game was hosted on ShareChat, a social network site.

Akram continues to explore new venues while his brother, now married, is steadily managing YourLibaas which they had begun as students.