Ruslan Kogan: Young, rich and growing two businesses. Fast.

Melbourne’s Ruslan Kogan is not your typical businessman. He wears hoodies and trainers and retains a healthy dose of boyish charm. But don’t mistake this for naivety or immaturity because when it comes to business, he is smarter than most.

Ruslan KoganThis year, he is the first person ever to have two businesses (Kogan Technologies and Milan Direct) in BRW’s Fast Starters list. And 2010 will be the second year Kogan, who is worth around $16 million, has appeared in BRW’s Young Rich list. And he’s still three years off turning 30.

The idea for Kogan Technologies, an online consumer electronics store, was born while he was a student. Coming to the end of his business degree at Monash University in 2003, he chose to spend a semester in Miami, Florida. Here, students were furnishing their dorms with goods they bought online and had delivered to their door, while he’d been buying things across town and struggling home with them on the bus. Worse still, he was paying more.

E-commerce was still in its infancy in Australia, but Kogan could see the potential. The opportunity to pass on massive savings by importing cheaper goods from China and then cutting out the middlemen (warehousing, logistics, distribution) and the overheads of a physical store, added up to a very attractive business model.

From humble beginnings

In 2006, he started Kogan Technologies as a one-man show from his parents’ garage. He didn’t actually have any money to buy stock so he put televisions up for pre-sale on eBay. His prices were too good not to take a risk on, and people soon snapped them up, enabling him to pay for his first container to be shipped from China. Too easy. Until eBay closed down his account that is, leaving him with half a container of unsold TVs and no way to pay for them to be delivered. Thanks to friends rallying around and taking out credit cards for him, he rustled up the $40,000 needed and the rest is history.

Kogan Technologies’ strength is in its very lean business model. Even now there are only 15 staff. Kogan brand goods, which now include hi-def camcorders, blu-ray players and more, are manufactured in China, loaded into containers, unloaded at their warehouse in Melbourne where shipping labels are attached before they’re out the door again and direct to the customer’s home.

[Next: From electronics to Eames chairs]