Janet Prescott, fashion and fabrics editor of director-e had the opportunity to talk to the dynamic Group President and Chairman of Indian textile giant Raymond at Texworld, Mr Gautam Hari Singhania.
The conversation ranged over subjects such as globalisation, the importance of establishing working partnerships internationally and the direction in which Raymond is moving.
Incorporated in 1925 Raymond is the leading integrated producer of worsted suiting fabric in the world, with a capacity of 31 million metres of wool and wool blend fabrics. With a turnover of USD 600 million, the Raymond Group offers end to end solutions for fabric and garments. The Group has six state of the art textile plant and four garment factories in India and Europe. Recently the group has partnered European manufacturers of carded woollens, shirting fabrics and speciality denim.
Mr Gautam Hari Singhania, group president and chairman of Raymond International
"Our current textile strategy was formulated five years ago, to develop both our textiles, and our large apparel business With 31 million metres of worsted fabric being produced per annum for example, we decided on a one stop solution, both horizontally and vertically."
Joint ventures were identified as the answer to the need to expand into different markets. Accordingly, a joint venture has been established on woollens with Fedora, Honneger for shirting and UCO for denim, where millions of metres of denim are created. 'This is the modern integrated solution" explains Mr Singhania. There is also a new design venture under development in Italy.
The company is constantly looking for growth and considering how to create further partnerships. On a global scale, Raymond sees partnerships for growth as a crucial element of trading as a global player. Important names such as GAP and Hugo Boss are also partners. Raymond is now operating in three continent; India, the US and Europe, with Belgium, Romania, and Italy manufacturing capabilities in place.
Mr Singhania is sanguine about the challenge faced from China. "Many companies have gone to China but have chosen to come eventually to India, where there is expert knowledge about technicalities, we speak English, and the system is not centralised. Most importantly, we are a democracy"
One thing he is very keen to stress "Raymond has never been a commodity player, quality is our theme, and we are moving up the value chain. People have said that you can make volume or value but you cannot do both, but that is not true: with Honneger, we produce 11 million metres of top quality fabric.
State of the art machinery and technology has been an important driver of the continuing Raymond Group expansion, but Mr Singhania stresses the prime importance of design:
"Anybody can buy equipment, but the design factor is more difficult. We place great importance on our partnership with the design studio in Italy, the Milan based Gruppo Gambaiti. " He stresses that the important point is to have the right mind set to produce the intangible quality of style, explaining the situation in terms of some recent architectural projects in the Middle East. "You can create a physical Venice but not a spiritual Venice", he smiles
The domestic Indian market is very big and growing fast, with an appetite for new brands, especially womenswear brands. The middle class in India, with enhanced purchasing power, is growing rapidly. Enhanced distribution means that there are now 400 plus Raymond shops in India alone. Investing in retail is a move which has seen 25 shops also established in the middle East.
Mr Singhania admits that some of the infrastructure in India is still a weakness, but stresses that special economic zones and excise zones are changing that situation rapidly, with private investment leading the pace in Bombay and Delhi.
"The rate of change is enormous, two years ago we could not predict what is happening today, and the pace of change is irreversible.
"Continuing investment in machinery, a skilled technical workforce and factors such as the prices of wool, which have been very stable for the past 18 months, have all contributed to the fact that we are leading players in the field."
During Texworld Raymond Ltd. announced the renewal of its contract with Konaka & Co. Ltd, one of the largest menswear retailers in Japan and Lims International Co. Ltd., a significant garment sourcing and manufacturing firm from Japan and a close associate of Konaka.
The renewal follows the successful completion of the two-year tenure of the original contrac. This dedicated a part of the capacity of men’s suits at Raymond’s formal men’s suits manufacturing plant, Silver Spark Apparel Ltd in Bangalore for manufacturing and supplying half canvas men’s suits to Konaka.
The quantity of suits that will be supplied will be up to 150,000 suits a year, just a measure of the vast field on which this still expanding global player competes.