For anyone who grew up in Bangalore around the 90s, there was but one fantasy land – Big KidsKemp brought to life by Ravi Melwani. This was one place in the country where you could not just wave at Mickey, but shake hands with him, shop with him and get a snapshot clicked. And Mickey brought along with him many of his friends too, even Laurel and Hardy. And as if this wasn’t enough — there were fountains, fish ponds, moving mannequins, chocolates, cold drinks, and ice cream which were on the house – always! It was paradise not just for every child in Bangalore but for several kids across the country.
The business-bug had bit Ravi Melwani way back in his teens. It was as though marketing and advertising were in his blood. RVM started as a marketing consultant but in a few years made his way to the top and took up the family business of garments in his own hands. A shift in family responsibilities forced him to discontinue his formal education, but that hardly deterred him. Ravi Melwani set up Kids Kemp with his father and soon destiny had him to bring to life something as magnificent as “Big KidsKemp”.
What was big about Ravi Melwani’s “Big KidsKemp”?
Well just about everything! Measuring a sprawling 12,000 sq. ft, it was bang in the middle of the city, on M.G. Road. One could not miss it, even if they wanted to. It had garments for all age-groups of children be it toddlers or teenagers. At any given point of time, the store would pride itself of having a minimum of 2 lakh garments on display. Such was the sheer magnitude and scale of Big Kids Kemp!
Having earned himself a good fortune early in life, Ravi Melwani had an edge over many other aspiring businessmen in the country. RVM put his savings to good use – often reaching out to the homeless and destitute on the streets of Bangalore and providing them with an opportunity to sustain themselves with small time business. He also travelled from one country to another he picked up ideas that to set up a retail store that could overshadow even the Harrods of London!
Even to this day, the iconic and glamorous imagery associated with Big KidsKemp and its larger than life cartoon characters are etched in the memory of many Bangaloreans! Think about it, who could ever get over a changing room that was shaped like a car or forget shelves of clothing that looked like train compartments. Leave alone get one’s name printed in a newspaper!
Ravi Melwani made sure he dazzled the city with excess. When asked about his glowing success he would frequently say, “We are manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers all in one. It’s hard to match our price points and volumes!” Also, the word around is that he’d work for 18 hours a day and 7 days a week! And if you’ve just landed into the city’s airport and are greeted by a beautiful red rose, you know there is a Melwani behind it!