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Arshad Shamim – Kolkata’s ‘Sultan Kurtas’ takes India’s textile industry by storm – GetBengal story

2 May, 2024 17:24:25
Arshad Shamim – Kolkata’s ‘Sultan Kurtas’ takes India’s textile industry by storm – GetBengal story

The Sultan of the Sultan, The King of Kurtas outlet in New Market, Arshad Shamim, is a strategic businessman. He began his venture in the early 2000s, eschewing the common practice of offering discounts favoured by his competitors. Instead, he patiently awaited the right moment to make his move. New Market holds a special place in the hearts of many, evoking nostalgia for a bygone era. Originally known as Hogg Market, it was established by the British for their exclusively white clientele. Over time, it became renowned for its tailors specialising in suits, blazers, and Western attire. Dry fruit shops followed, boasting the finest selections from Afghanistan. Additionally, Anglo and Parsi establishments, along with iconic stores like Nahoum's and Bengal’s Imperial, flourished. The market was a microcosm of Kolkata, blending diverse communities and their goods sourced from around the globe. Today, while it has evolved to primarily offer Indian goods, the essence of New Market remains, showcasing a blend of tradition and modernity. The transformation of New Market is evident, with entrepreneurs like Arshad Shamim introducing innovative retail formats.

Arshad Shamim

In a remarkable move, Arshad offered kurtas for just Rs. 99 as Ramadan approached in 2001, realising the need to attract customers accustomed to the allure of shopping malls and modern retail outlets. His bold advertising campaign, promising high-quality kurtas with a one-year guarantee at an unbeatable price, proved irresistible to shoppers. The response was overwhelming, with customers lining up outside his store in anticipation. Within an hour, all the stock was sold out, leading to chaos outside the store. Despite the challenges, Arshad's strategic move paid off, catapulting his brand to fame and establishing a new standard in ethnic men's wear retailing.

Arshad Shamim's story is truly inspiring. Born into a family immersed in the ethnic wear business, particularly for women, he set his sights on expanding beyond the confines of Chitpur, Kolkata's hub for ethnic wear manufacturers. Despite facing numerous challenges, including starting with a modest capital of only five lakh rupees, Arshad's journey has been defined by hard work, perseverance, and strategic planning. He chose to specialise in men's ethnic wear, a segment he believed had untapped potential compared to the saturated women's clothing market. His commitment to his vision was evident in his hands-on approach, often seen personally promoting Sultan Kurtas on the streets of Zakaria Street before the lockdown.

Arshad's approach to business is pragmatic, recognizing that brands like Manyavar cater to a different clientele, primarily the affluent, while Sultan targets the middle class. This understanding has allowed him to carve out a niche in the market, offering quality ethnic wear at affordable prices. Despite the competition, Arshad remains confident in Sultan's ability to thrive, viewing his brand as the Manyavar equivalent for the middle class. His journey underscores the importance of consistency, determination, and a clear vision in achieving entrepreneurial success.

Arshad Shamim's vision for Sultan Kurtas is to offer the best quality apparel at affordable prices, a vision that has helped the brand make a mark in the industry. Over two decades, his business has expanded not just within Bengal but also across India and internationally. Arshad proudly mentions, "As far as production is concerned, Sultan is the largest kurta producer in the Indian subcontinent."

He chose to specialise in sherwanis and kurtas due to their high cost and his personal fondness for them. By making these traditionally expensive garments more accessible, he strategically positioned his business. Additionally, Bengal's rich culture and its inhabitants' affinity for preserving traditions made kurtas a popular choice, regardless of cultural background, further contributing to Sultan's success. It is this love for ethnic wear and the brand's reputation for value for money that has propelled Sultan Kurtas to rapid growth.

Arshad employs other strategies to enhance the brand's appeal, including clever advertisements and periodic discounts. However, his greatest asset remains his humility. Despite his success, he continues to personally promote his brand on the streets, a practice he has maintained even with over 14 showrooms in Kolkata and many more across India and abroad. This dedication to hands-on involvement and his grounded nature have been pivotal in Sultan Kurtas' success.

Arshad shared an anecdote that reflects his down-to-earth nature. Once, while hawking outside his shop, he noticed a man staring at him for an extended period. Assuming the man was a thief, he remained vigilant. However, the man approached him and asked if he had a brother who drove a Mercedes. Arshad revealed that it was him who drove the Mercedes, not his brother. Despite his achievements, he remains committed to working for three more years before retiring to join the education sector, ensuring that no child in his area sleeps hungry.

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