From humble beginnings in a residential garage to a modern force in e-commerce, online retailer Kogan has come quite a long way in the over sixteen years since its founding.
For founder and CEO Ruslan Kogan, it was ultimately fitting that what would become his legacy would begin in his parent’s home, since it was the influence and example of his parents that sparked the initial determination for the man behind the brand. In speaking about his influences, asked to recall his childhood hero, Kogan is resolute in pointing to his parents as his inspirations.
“They risked everything to come to Australia, restarted their lives with nothing, and did it all so that my sister and I could have an opportunity at a better life. I watched them drop everything they have, take a massive risk, travel into the unknown and work their butt off for a potential benefit that might not even be there,” Kogan tells Power Retail, “It’s very similar to what it takes to be an entrepreneur, so seeing my parents emigrate to Australia with $90 in their pocket was my MBA.”
The embrace of the potential of online retail commencing with Kogan’s inception in 2006 certainly fits the bill of an entrepreneurial venture, with the then-24 year old Ruslan Kogan taking a chance on what he viewed as the future of retail. For the man who wanted to be an Astronaut at five years old, and whose favourite subject at school was “Specialist Mathematics and Information Processing and Management”, the leap to taking a chance in a competitive retail space at a time of uncertainty might have seemed odd at first.
But for Kogan, the beginnings of what would eventually become his very own online retail empire itself came years after he had first recognised the potential of e-commerce.
“Around 2002 I would order gadgets online from overseas every now and then,” says Kogan, “But when I went to study abroad at the University of Miami in 2003, I saw the prevalence and growth of online shopping in an economy that was about a decade ahead of Australia. In Miami, all the students would buy a few things online every week.”
Still, although he might have recognised early on e-commerce’s identity as the distinct future of retail, he is quick to suggest assumptions that he hates more traditional ‘brick and mortar’ retail models are off the mark.
“Yes, I think there are many parts of the retail industry where e-commerce is by far and away the most efficient way to get customers the product they need, at the best possible price, delivered right to their door without them having to lift a finger,” Kogan offers, “But traditional retail has its place and will always be around, just in a different shape to what it is today.”
The clear passion Ruslan Kogan has for the future of online retail has seen him celebrate success time and time again since his launch of Kogan.com in 2006, transitioning from selling LCD televisions constructed for him in Chinese factories – undercutting the exorbitant prices of traditional retailers by more than half in the process – to quickly expanding to retail in the UK market by 2010. By October of this same year, Kogan.com had a reported yearly revenue of more than $12 million, even as the young company’s founder and CEO still hadn’t turned 30 years old.
Kogan.com founder/CEO Ruslan Kogan enjoys a long list of personal achievements, routinely named one of the most influential people in tech and commerce.
Only two years later, in July 2012, the retailer reported its then highest single day sales record exceeding $1 million – achieving in a single day more than eight percent of what it had taken them a full year to earn only two years previous. Five years later, Kogan.com reported FY17 revenue of more than $289 million, an increase greater than 2308 percent higher than its yearly revenue as of October 2010.
Most recently, Kogan.com reported FY22 results of more than $1.1 billion in gross sales, celebrating a compound annual growth rate of 23.6 percent from FY20 only two years beforehand. And Ruslan Kogan, the man behind it all? The financials pale in comparison to the relationships the online retailer has been able to develop with consumers.
“We’ve been going for 16 years, and we’ve achieved a lot of big milestones,” says Kogan, “But what matters more than any of that is that Aussie shoppers have voted us the Best Online Retailer five times in a row at the online retail version of the Oscars.”
But for the man who was an internet millionaire by his late 20s, not everything comes quite so naturally as retail success seems to. When asked what one skill he might like to master, Kogan offers a quick response, but his failing to master it already is not for lack of trying.
“[I’d like to master] how to slow cook the perfect brisket every time. I love slow cooking on my kamado grill and I often attempt the 14 hour brisket. There’s lots of variables to it and I’m struggling to perfect it – sometimes it’s perfect, sometimes it’s pretty good,” Kogan says, “Sometimes I can tell from the quantum of leftovers just how much I stuffed it up.”
While his kitchen hobby may offer the often outspoken Kogan a chance to wind down, and a source of humbling amidst a run of seemingly endless successes, it certainly isn’t long before Kogan returns his hyper focus to the future. And the future is where Kogan squarely has his sights. Asked if he were to have a time machine where and when he might travel to, Kogan offers a glimpse into the optimism and drive that has helped to make him such an entrepreneurial success.
“Tomorrow,” Kogan says, “The world keeps getting better every single day.”
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