Ghaus Siwani/New Delhi
Omar Akhtar was in school when his father, Saifullah Akhtar’s business nearly collapsed. He was a small-time sari trader in Kolar town in Karnataka.
"We lived in a small house and our father did business from home because we didn't have a shop. He used to go to the market carrying a big bundle on his back for the retailers,” says Omer who is now owner of South India’s major apparel brand Koski.
At this stage the 16-year-old Omer had to give up his studies. Being the eldest of his six siblings, the responsibility of supporting the family fell on his shoulders.
Finally, his father took loan from friends and family and rented a shop and made Omer in charge of this business this shop at Kolar. He was then in 11th class.
The same Omar is today a multi-millionaire and owner of Koski, the high-end apparel brand. Koski is famous for lehengas, sarees, dresses, gowns and other garments.
After eight years of continuous growth, the company achieved revenue of Rs. 35 crores in 2019.
Omar's business journey began in 1991. Under him, the family business was picking up.
Meanwhile, he continued his studies online and through distance education. He would visit the school just to write the examination. He had to travel around the country because of his business responsibilities.
He recalls, "When we rented the shop, we renamed it Mina Bazaar. The journey started slowly, but in a few months, we started earning a thousand rupees a day. Over the next few years, he cleared his debts and then Omar joined the college, becoming the first member of his family to graduate.
Omar decided to pursue an MBA to further his business. However, Kolar was a small town, did not have a college for MBA and the nearest option was Bangalore. But, since he could not leave the shop, he gave up the idea and sat for the Masters of Commerce instead. The results of the post-graduation stunned Omar's family. He was a topper in his institute.
Meanwhile, Omar's grandfather called him and said that he wanted to expand his retail business to Dubai. Omar says, "I never set foot outside India and the idea of flying was like a dream. I immediately agreed and I left for Dubai."
However, Omar soon returned from there; he had to return because as he faced legal barriers to doing business in Dubai.
He realized that he could not set up an independent business there and had to partner with a local.
On his return to India, Omar decided to continue his education with the help of his grandfather. Once he returned to India, Omar joined an institute to pursue diplomas in Oracle and Java. After completing the course, he got a job as a software developer in a small company in Mysore.
He worked for 10 years. In the meantime, he traveled to 52 countries.
"However, I still had a businessman inside me who would never die," says Omar. "In 2009, while he was in the United States, he heard about the sale of a shop in Shivaji Nagar, Bangalore." He bought the store with all his savings and named it Mina Bazaar. And, he never looked back.
The Shivaji Nagar store received a great response from customers raising Omar's hopes of taking his business to the next level. However, in 2011, while he was in India, he met with a road accident and doctors amputated his both legs.
In spite of this Omer didn’t give up on his dreams and ambition. From the hospital bed he found online that the store on Kamraj Road was available for rent. The day he was discharged from hospital, Omer asked his brother to take him to the shop owner so he could finalise the deal. He was moving on crutches.
"I managed to persuade the landlord to reduce the rent but my father could not believe it. My whole family did not support my decision."
"They though it was too much of a risk. I was determined to move forward," he said.
In 2013, Omar opened another store in Chakpet, which was exclusively for the people of old Bangalore. Omar's father and brother also joined the store. "It was getting harder to manage alone," says Omar.
“Thankfully my brother joined me and stood by me in every decision I made, but I wanted my father to oversee everything.” In 2014, Omar set up another store on a commercial street. After that, he decided it was time to become a full-time entrepreneur. "I started promoting my brand in a variety of advertising ways, including radio," says Omar.
In 2016, Omar opened another store in Jaynagar, branding all his existing stores as "Koski". Next year, Koski expanded to Phoenix Mall, Mantri Square Mall, and Kamaraj Road, Bangalore.
Koski is famous for lehengas, sarees, dresses, gowns and other garments. After eight years of continuous growth, the company achieved revenue of Rs. 35 crore in 2019.
Koski is a well-known brand in South India. It procures goods from all over the country especially from Jaipur, Kolkata, Surat, Mumbai etc. The store embroiders on many clothes. Some work is done by hand and some by machine.
The store employs hundreds of people. Talking about the future, Omar says his vision is to make Koski a national brand.