From selling wares off a bicycle to showcasing silks in a grand exclusive store, the Kankatala brand has grown just as momentously as the city itself. Tracing its roots, Yo! Vizag chronicles its journey dating back to over seven decades.
A self-made, self-taught man, Kankatala Appalaraju was a pioneer who ingeniously tapped unlikely markets and carved out his own destiny. It all began with his father’s untimely demise. The young lad dropped out of school and to support his family took up a job in a cloth shop in his home town Tuni. Born in 1923, he was a resourceful and able salesman and took marketing to the next level. He began sourcing cloth from Bombay (Mumbai) and selling it to the British officers in Vizagapatam Railway station. This was during the World War 2, when everything was at a premium. In 1940 once the war was over, he shifted to Vizag. He bought a bicycle and sold sarees collection that he procured from various other regions of India.
Three years later, he opened the first Kankatala store in the old town area. The 10 by 10 store was one of the first few stores in Vizagapatam and was hugely popular mainly because it showcased a diverse range of sarees from Chennai, Salem, Kanchipuram, Thanjavur, Pochampally, Dharmavaram, and Mumbai. A visionary, he boldly unveiled saris as expensive as Rs 1000, way back in the mid-60s. By 1965, Kankatala Appalaraju & Co, was almost ten times bigger than the original shop.
If the father was an astute businessman, his son was no less. In 1983, Kankatala Mallikharjuna Rao entered the family trade. Describing his early days, he shares, “I used to be involved in the purchasing, tagging, selling, packing and even delivering the saris to customers.” In the early eighties, there was an influx of customers from North India who resettled in Vizag. Adopting innovative business practices, he opened one of the first few air-conditioned showrooms in the city, Kankatala Silks. In 1996, the Kankatala Silk Palace, a 1250-sq. ft. sari showroom started too. Mallikhajuna Rao says, “Since 1983, the market potential has been steadily increasing in terms of purchasing capacity. We however retain a strong relationship with our customers. In fact, many families maintain a sentimental tradition of buying the silk wedding sari from Kankatala.”
It was the opening of the mega flagship store, V-Square in 2007 that firmly established the Kankatala name in the annals of Vizag’s retail history. Candidly admitting that setting up V Square was a challenge he says; “It was a jump from a mere 1250sft to a 30,000sft store. We were not sure if Vizag could handle such a large clothing store but along with my dear friend Late Grandhi Manoj Kumar, we took the risk and have since never looked back.”
Today Kankatala has showrooms in Rajahmundry and Vijayawada while a branch was opened in Gajuwaka and an exclusive cloth store, the Fabric Store was launched in 2016 in the city. As Kankatala gears up to celebrate their 75th year in 2018, stores in Guntur and Hyderabad are on the anvil and an online portal is on the cards too. A true retailer with 500 employees in his various stores, he believes that “Our milestones would be the number of satisfied customers and satisfied employees in the organisation.” And nothing but that can be the measure of true success.