How Kankatala, the 78-year-old South Indian brand of Saree, finally expanded north, bringing a new line of fusion style

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What builds a brand such that it lasts forever and continues to grow over the ages is no small task. Kankatala is one of those saree brands that has been able to reach such heights. The company is proud to have a loyal customer base from generation to generation who return to its stores at every opportunity.

Despite having a long-time player in the fashion retail industry, the 78-year-old brand has only opened a few outlets here in India. The company attributes its conservative and traditional approach as the reason it has taken so long to develop in North India.

“So as a family we are very conservative in our business and careful in how we grow – we want to develop in a very sustainable way,” said Anirudh Kankatala, director of Kankatala Sarees. “We are very well planned and well calculated in our expansion. We had our second store expansion only in 2000 and since then we have opened in Rajahmundry, Vijayawada and Kakinada. And, only 3 years ago, we opened in Hyderabad – it was our first expansion outside of Andhra Pradesh, ”he added.

Anirudh Kankatala, Director, Kankatala Saris

Founded in 1943 by the late Kankatala Appalaraju, the company now has 11 stores in Andhra Pradesh, several other cities, and has a strong online presence. In 1982, Kankatala Mallikharjuna Rao, Anirudh’s father, known as Mallik, the second generation of Kankatala, joined the company. There was a major turnaround, with the opening of the first Kankatala plush store, which was Vishakhapatnam’s first air-conditioned store.

Retail Strategy

The company has a very one-dimensional approach in terms of retail strategy. Anirudh said, “So as a retail strategy we are not trying to differentiate ourselves based on stores, we are trying to maintain our USP and not change the product depending on the city. “

It is indeed true that when a brand comes to Delhi, it is assumed that people will expect to go there for Banarasis (popular North Indian sari made in Varanasi) more than Kanjirvaram (silk saree made in Kanchipuram region). in Tamil Nadu) because it is in the north of India.

“However, as a brand, we think a lot of people know Kankatala for Kanjivaram – people shopped in Kankatala because they like Kanjivaram. We decided not to change the brand strategy to satisfy our customers. Added Anirudh.

The company plans to open more stores in the north, in (Mumbai) Maharashtra, one in Ahmedabad in Gujarat and in Kolkata.

Build an online presence

In this technology-driven age, much of the competition relies on the strength of the brand’s online presence. Being deeply traditional in its approach, the brand obviously had to face difficult challenges to upgrade.

Anirudh said, “We had a lot of challenges to start a traditional online business. For us, it’s 1,000 products, that’s just a quantity, and once it’s sold, it’s gone. Then we have to take the new photos and upload them. So I have to train my team to understand e-commerce and to go online. “And we’re from Vishakhapatnam, so finding talent to go digital was also a challenge. The family support was there to help us grow online, ”added Anirudh.

It took almost a year (in 2017) for the brand to launch the online website and since then it has reportedly been growing at 30% year-on-year. In fact, the company credits its online explorations as the reason for its growth.

“One of the main reasons for the growth is that we started online, social media and shipping. Then we realized that there was so much potential for our brand in Hyderabad and Bangalore. Then we realized the potential to bring the looms to the state capitals, then after Hyderabad we had a vision and my father’s dream to be in the capital of India and finally since the three last, we are looking for a place, ”Anirudh said.

The company is also said to be very particular about Vastu. Anirudh said: “For us, finding a place in the south of the ex which is an almost 50 year old market was very difficult. Finally we were able to find accommodation and our owner was very supportive and we finally opened in New Delhi.

How Kankatala, the 78-year-old South Indian brand of Saree, finally expanded north, bringing a new line of fusion style

Fusion is a new trend

The brand is dedicated to bringing compositions that are a fusion of South and North in their new compositions. “Kanjivaram is a South Indian sari and Bandhini is a North Indian technique from Gujarat and Rajasthan; so we took Kanjivaram sarees and made Bandhini on them, ”Anirudh said. “Then we got Petni from the north and hand painted Kalamkari (southern painting style) on it”

However, the brand is also aware that while the fusion style is new and on-trend, classics like Kanjivaram, Banarasi will never go out of style.

Technological Adoptions Needed

Given the new trends that the brand is adopting, it is important to address the right audience that desires them, and for that, the brand must adopt the technologies to handle this successfully.

“We use an ARP system to help us understand which weaving group is most in demand, which colors are moving, therefore we are using the technology. And we use Google analytics and website heat map analysis to figure out what people are interested in – what colors, ”Anirudh added.

Even though the traction the brand gets online is a small fraction online – but more than the revenue, the online brand has helped us grow. So initially when you went online we thought online as a business was separate and offline separately, but we realized the strategy had to be common. Branding online has helped us as the brand has grown and has helped expand to new physical stores and would not have been possible through an online presence.

It is also true that the arrival of Kankatala in the North will ruffle some feathers in the saree segment. Anirudh’s however said, “As a brand, we believe that competition is the best thing that can happen to a business. Because Kankatala here, it’s going to attract a lot of people to the South Ex market, which isn’t just going to benefit me, it’s going to benefit South Ex as a whole.

The company is currently working to further expand its online presence and consider international expansion, starting with launching collectible shows in America and then eventually a physical store in America.

In North India, the Kankatala brand opened its outlet in the Sud Ex region, inaugurated by Bollywood actress Karisma Kapoor.


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