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Gautam Singhania Writes: From Textiles to Realty, Raymond Grew With the Nation

One of Raymond’s many privileges in its 98-year-old journey has been growing with and for India

Illustration: Saahil Bhatia

The year 2022 was a momentous one for India as it surpassed the UK as the fifth-largest economy in the world. As for the Raymond Group, it opened what is possibly its most ambitious chapter—the ceremonial handover of Raymond Realty’s maiden venture, Ten X Habitat. For a brand reckoned globally for its finest quality fabrics and menswear fashion, it is a reflection of foresight and a testimony to the enduring qualities of trust, quality and excellence that have propelled the group’s turnaround. One of Raymond’s many privileges in its 98-year-old journey has been growing with and for India. As our country embarks upon a journey of transformation, real estate has been identified as a key growth driver towards nation-building. I believe that this is the rise of a new-age India that is beaming with hope and proud of a new identity in a redefined world order.

Recalibrating for the Future

The inception of Raymond Realty marked the beginning of a new phase of growth for Raymond. The group now has two businesses—lifestyle and real estate—with contributions from engineering and denim businesses. The epicentre for the realty business is our verdant land in the heart of Thane.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region has been among India’s leading regions to witness highest property buying in recent times. The first of 900 apartments of Ten X Habitat, a 3,103-apartment complex at Pokhran Road, were made open for possession last December, two years ahead of the RERA deadline.

The other entity, Raymond Consumer Care, will continue to focus on lifestyle business, which has our legacy textiles business.

A Humble Beginning

Raymond started as a woollen mill in Thane, manufacturing coarse blankets, in 1925. It was the same year when India’s first-ever electric train chugged from Victoria Terminus to Kurla. Our destinies have somehow been intertwined. By the time India gained independence, it became a manufacturer of superior quality fabrics by embracing several technologies prevalent in those times. Soon after, J.K. Files and Engineering Ltd, one of the largest manufacturers of steel files, was established in 1949, and it continues to serve over 50 countries.

During the two decades post-independence, Raymond made its mark as a homegrown textile powerhouse. In 1958, it opened the first exclusive retail showroom in Ballard Estate in Mumbai, becoming the first brand to sell over-the-counter suiting. Our aspiration became one with our customers’—to give every man his perfect suit. Even after capturing the lion’s share of India’s suiting market, the aspiration of the brand and its customers endures.

Domestically, we have created a strong presence with our brands, such as Park Avenue, Raymond Ready to Wear, ColorPlus and the newly launched Ethnix by Raymond. Our B2B garmenting business that exports garments to leading retail brands in the US, Europe and Japan markets has immensely benefitted from the China +1 strategy.

Staying Resilient

Every champion needs a tough heart to stay one. Niki Lauda, arguably one of the world’s greatest inspirations, came with privileges. His family was wealthy enough to afford race cars. For Lauda, racing was his life, and he chose that lane despite his family’s disapproval. He broke free, took a loan and bought himself a Formula Two team. The following year, he made Formula One. Ferrari was then in a lean patch, and, as soon as Lauda was roped in, there was no stopping.

He took the track weeks after the 1976 Nürburgring crash that nearly killed him. Saddled in bandages and famously admitting to being petrified during the Italian Grand Prix, he finished fourth. By the end of the season, he was just a point behind the title holder and arguably his greatest rival, James Hunt. Not surprisingly, Lauda went on to win the championship the following year. His greatest win remains one of the finest margins in F1 history, where he bettered McLaren teammate Alain Prost by half a point.

Lauda, who literally rose from the ashes, is proof that chasing one’s dreams, taking risks and putting one’s money where one’s mouth is can be the greatest success mantra. I see a lot of Raymond’s story in Lauda’s.

The pandemic had hit our businesses hard. Sales from the traditional business—branded textiles, apparel, garmenting and high-value cotton shirting—took a heavy beating, as did the engineering and auto components businesses. The bottom line took a heavy beating. Undertaking cost-cutting measures, such as cutting down on excess inventory and number of stores, was not enough. Simply put, we needed a complete overhaul.

Last year, the decision to demerge the lifestyle business to Raymond Consumer Care as a separate listed B2C-focused lifestyle business proved to be a key move. Also, good times came with the pandemic waning. New enthusiasm to celebrate festivals and occasions with their near and dear ones saw people flocking our stores.

Already the world’s largest integrated textile company and exporting to over 60 countries, Raymond has more than 1,000 stores and a reach of above 20,000 points of sale across the nation. Today the brand is also making rapid strides across ecommerce marketplaces.

Educating the Youth

The success of any brand lies in giving back to the country. Shaping the youth of India with quality education is one of Raymond Group’s priorities. The first school established in 1968, Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School, is among India’s top schools, and this year, it produced  the top three rankers in the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education and the Indian School Certificate examinations. Today, with seven Singhania schools across the country, we are educating over 20,000 young Indians.

Our community building efforts through J.K. Trust and its rural initiatives, such as cattle breed improvement programmes, have contributed significantly in enhancing livelihoods.

Finding its Space

They say, fortunes favour the brave. Raymond has been braver than the bravest, much like the country it is born into. We have both come a long way as we have ignored the labels and focussed on building trusted brands. As India sets on its transformation path powered by self-reliance, innovative spirit and sustainability, Raymond centres itself as a brand by and for India. It is a name that Indians have made and will always have an endearing presence through their lives.

Gautam Hari Singhania is the chairman of the Raymond Group