On Tuesday, Universal Sportzbiz Pvt Ltd (USPL), a celebrity fashion lines firm backed by Sachin Tendulkar, has raised $7.5 million in its Series B round of funding led by its existing investor Accel Partners.
Founded in 2012 by Anjana Reddy, who belongs to the family that once controlled media firm Deccan Chronicle, USPL includes Wrogn, a Virat Kohli inspired brand (launched in 2014) and Imara, a modern women’s ethic fashion brand with Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor apart from the first product Collectabillia that sells sports and entertainment-related fashion accessories online.
“Universal Sportzbiz has developed an interesting model bring together celebrities, fans and fashion in a distinct manner. The progress of the company has been impressive and I’m sure that the future plans will be pursued aggressively by Anjana and her team with the latest round of funding,” said Tendulkar, who owns a minority stake in the company.
The venture capital firm Accel Partners had invested $2.7 million in the company three years back, which Tendulkar had taken a significant minority stake in it for an undisclosed amount. With the new investment in this round of funding, the company’s valuation has increased to $35.4 million.
With the new funds, the startup aims to increase the presence for its two fashion labels – from 30 stores to more than 75 stores for Imara and from 38 stores to 70 stores for Wrogn. “We have a hybrid model where we use both offline and online sales for these brands,” Reddy said. In the offline space, Imara retails at Shoppers Stop, Central and Ethinicity while Wrogn sells exclusively at Shopper Stop. Online, Imara is sold at various shopping sites while Wrogn is sold in Myntra, exclusively. It also has plans to start standalone stores around the country.
With regard to Collectabillia, there are plans to expand its range of fashion accessories building partnership with more than 10 iconic celebrities. As a part of the initiative, it will look to find and engage untapped talent for developing and sourcing designs for its line of fashion accessories. “The capital will accelerate our expansion plans for foraying into new markets and newer segments, consolidating our position in the celebrity fashion line industry,” said Reddy.
When asked about Tendulkar’s contribution, she said, “He is an integral part of the company. More than investment, getting a person like Sachin on board is invaluable. It’s something you can’t measure with money. Sachin does not need introduction.” She also said how Lionel Messi was excited to sign for Collectabillia when he heard Tendulkar was part of the company. Apart from Messi and Tendulakar, it works with other sport celebrities like Viswanathan Anand, Viv Richards, Harbhajan Singh, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal.
“The next phase in the evolution of fashion e-commerce would be dominated by brands. As the pressure to improve margins in horizontal commerce and marketplaces increase, good brands will provide the answer. USPL has an online and offline strategy for distribution. It has done an excellent job in building three great brands and have global aspiration in the near future,” said Mahendran Balachandran, partner at VC firm Accel Partners India. Accel Ventures had earlier invested in Myntra and Flipkart.