Innovation, Passion and Agility are the success mantra for retail world


Sanjeev Matharu, Founder and CEO of the MSBM Group, talks to My Startup World about his inspiration, challenges faced and MSBM group’s future plans.

 Please introduce MSBM Group to our readers.
MSBM is a retail group covering multiple Channels namely Brick & Mortar and E-commerce within the GCC. There are 3 divisions which owns, operates and manages different models of business.

a. Franchise model of ‘300 Yen’ stores with brands like Yubiso, Latt Liv and Mievic in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
b. Uniq Kidz – A specialty Kidswear store in Dubai – UAE.
c. Trading on all the top E com portals within the UAE and across GCC on each of their respective marketplace.
d. Managing and operating Basicxx – A Value fashion brand in KSA and UAE.

 What is your inspiration behind initiating the MSBM Group?
I have always dreamt about being an entrepreneur and to be my own boss. My journey had started while I was in Landmark Group towards the fag end of my 27 years tenure. I always felt that there was a curve left in my life that I want to endure and experience in running my own ventures. I just inspired myself, that is all I can say.

 How did you raise the capital to fund this venture and what kind of challenges did you encounter raising those funds?
The entire capital invested is self-funded. I had to dig my hands into my pocket to raise this equity. Initially, I managed but definitely, the journey gets tough as you plan your growths.

Can you share the roadblock’s that you faced initially and how did you overcome them?
The initial roadblock is Funding. One can raise equity by self-funding your ventures in the beginning but as you progress, external help is required to fuel your growth plans. The banks do not help SME’s here which is a huge challenge especially for start-ups, a lot of them are not even able to start because of lack of financial support which is not good for the Economy.

How would you differentiate yourself from the other similar options that are available?
I am more flexible in my thinking and actions. Retail as an industry is an ever-evolving one and for you to get a piece of your pie, you will have to be quick in adapting your business to the market requirements. You got to be flexible, innovative and fast. My main forte is that I diversified myself by being in multi-channel rather than sticking to one type of retailing. You need a very sharp nose to sniff the opportunities that might be available or about to enter and you got to be fast in grabbing them.

How do you rope in brands to work with you and currently how many brands are working with you?
We are working with 3 brands namely Yubiso, Latt Liv and Mievic. It is a simple formula; the brand looks for markets beyond their backyard and we can provide them the opportunity by bringing them to our market to do the front-end retailing.

COVID-19 has been a game-changer for everyone, how did it impact the retail business and what steps have you initiated to sustain and carry forward?
This Covid-19 pandemic is a once in 100 years tragedy for mankind. Every country on earth was affected be it rich or poor, every business and industry got impacted with millions of people losing their livelihood. We were grossly exposed to our weakness which we never expected. The retail industry was impacted very badly as Lockdowns were imposed and the movement of people restricted. Obviously, we as a business house suffered too but immediately, we switched gears and diversified into E-commerce which gave us a new lease of life. With strong sourcing capabilities we started registering ourselves with all the online portals as a supplier and started to sell our products there. That is why I mentioned earlier that for any business to survive, you need to be flexible, innovative and quick in decisions and actions.

With work from home culture gaining pace, how do you see men’s fashion shaping up in the post covid era?
The work of home culture which was prevalent during the lockdown period had changed the Fashion industry by leaps and bounds especially for Men’s. The demand shifted to more relaxed and leisurewear, however, I see that changing soon as the organizations are calling their employees back to the offices. So, the business dressing will pick up eventually and retailers will have to manoeuvre themselves to service the demands of their customers.

Please share with us your plans to expand MSBM Group into new segments, markets?
The first rule of business is that there is no rule. The retail industry is very dynamic in nature, and it evolves frequently and you must be smart enough to gauge yourself and make your moves accordingly. From the franchise business, I am now planning to own brands, I will develop private labels which will be created and owned by me and my company. I want to convert all the external brands; I want to open Brick & Mortar stores of every brand that I own and each one of them will also trade on all the top portals of E-com. Once I reach a certain level of threshold of brand recognition, I will then launch my own website of E-com, which is my ultimate dream from Multichannel to Omni Channel.

Where would you see MSBM Group in the next 12-18 months?
For the next 12-18 months we are going to embark on a very exciting transitional journey. My ‘300 Yen’ stores will move from franchise to private label. This is my top priority. Expand my operations into Saudi & Qatar. Take my business beyond GCC to Middle East, North Africa and perhaps beyond. So, our dream is very boisterous and I hope I can meet our own expectations.

What advice would you like to offer to the budding entrepreneurs and what should they remember always when they are getting ready to take off with their startup?
Have a dream but get out of your bed to work towards achieving your dream. You got to work for it. Take risks in your life, the biggest risk is when you do not take the risk. A lot of people are apprehensive in taking these steps because of the fear of failure. Let me tell everyone that failure is not the opposite of success, it is a part of success. If there is no struggle in your journey, then you will not enjoy the achievements. It is tough no doubt but never give up hope. If you work very hard in your life, then you got very unlucky not to succeed.

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