Nahata, the son of Mahendra Nahata, promoter of telecom equipment maker HFCL, got his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked as an investment banker with Credit Suisse for a couple of years.
Anant Nahata had to take a tough decision, and fast. Koovs, an online group buying company in which Nahata's family had a 44 per cent stake, had hit a dead end, as sales had tapered. An easy way out was to close down. But Nahata chose the harder path - he decided to revive the company by transforming Koovs into a high-street fashion website.
"We started looking at fashion as an option... we had to differentiate ourselves," says Nahata. There were already broad-based companies such as Amazon and Flipkart. The company had already burnt its fingers trying to be broad-based with group buying. Nahata decided to make it a niche company.
Group-buying sites were a rage in India in 2010. Koovs was one of more than 50 companies that mushroomed then. Incidentally, so was Snapdeal, which is now transformed into a broad-based seller.
Nahata knew that it wouldn't be easy to switch to his chosen niche, as online sellers of apparel were many. He decided to take help from people who knew the business better than him. So in April last year, he got Waheed Alli on board as Chairman of Koovs, and Robert Bready as Director of Creative and Retail.
Alli is a British politician and the former chairman of Asos.com, a UK-based online fashion retail giant. Under Alli, the company grew 750 times in 12 years, and has revenues of $3 billion today. Bready was the product and training head of Asos.com. Nahata's wife Neha, who is a fashion designer, assists him in curating the latest designs.
Nahata, the son of Mahendra Nahata, promoter of telecom equipment maker HFCL, got his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked as an investment banker with Credit Suisse for a couple of years. He then returned to India to join his family business. He became the managing director of Exicom Tele-Systems and Koovs.
Exicom makes equipment for various industries, including telecom and solar power.
In the year and a half since Nahata took over at Koovs - the company was founded by Rajesh Kamra, Manish Tewari, Kanishk Shukla and Amit Shukla - he has transformed it into a high-street online retail company. Around half the products on the website are private labels, to offer consumers affordable fashion apparel. Nahata has a design team that is divided between London and India. He wants to replicate the offline model of the profitable Spanish brand Zara.
This year, Nahata is investing in technology, primarily mobile. The reason is simple. Rachna Nath, Executive Director and Leader of Retail & Consumer at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has said in an earlier interview that "40 per cent of e-commerce transactions are happening on mobile phones". The online retail industry is worth about US $1 billion, and is expected to become a $60-billion industry in the next decade. Apparel is one of the top three categories.
Apart from private labels, Nahata has added international fashion brands to Koovs's catalogue, including Emporio Armani, French Connection, Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein.
He says it is early days yet, but he is optimistic. He says: "Only one per cent of India shops online, while in China, the number is six per cent."