Nothing Can Bring More Pleasure Than Starting A New Business

Updated: May 24 2003, 05:30am hrs
Urvi Piramal, the executive vice-chairperson of Piramal Holdings Ltd has left her imprint on the Indian retail map. When Crossroads came up near Haji Ali in Mumbai in August 1999, it was not just a dream come true for Ms Piramal, but also a result of a tremendous amount of hardwork and thought spanned over a period of over three years.

Ms Piramal who had put her interests in retailing in the backdrop, once she became a mother, was pulled back into taking more interest in their family business in 1984, following the premature death of her husband. At that time, however, the Piramal group had no exposure to the retailing business and Ms Piramal was involved with the groups traditional textiles business, Morarjee Mills. The group then, had a brand called Sajilee sarees which drew Ms Piramals attention. I looked after designing and marketing of this brand and we converted it from a wholesale to a semi-wholesale set-up, says she.

Urvi Piramal
Around 1986, Ms Piramal also got involved with the glass manufacturing business. The five to six years she spent in handling the glass business was an invigorating learning experience. When the Piramals took over Gujarat Glass it was a mere Rs 4 crore company that has grown to nearly Rs 200 crore now. Ms Piramal recalls the time when the unit at Kosambi in Gujarat had no office or toilets for women. She then realised the need for proper infrastructure at all their units.

After shifting all manufacturing activities of the group pharmaceuticals company Roche to Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh, the Piramals had, at their disposal, three buildings in the heart of Mumbai. By 1995-96, the group started exploring what could be done, to derive maximum value from a property like it. As a first step, Ms Piramal appointed management consultants McKinsey and subsequently KSA Technopak to do a feasibility study. The study revealed the demand for organised retailing and conceived a world-class mall.

Since then, Ms Piramal has not looked back. From ensuring that every single facility was in line with international standards, Ms Piramal has been personally involved with every process. Crossroads has been a great learning experience. We have set a benchmark for malls in the country. And we have also learned from our mistakes, says Ms Piramal.

Once the work for Crossroads was in progress, Ms Piramal conceived the idea of setting up a departmental store during one of her trips to Nashik. McKinsey was immediately appointed and that is how Pyramyd The Megastore came into existence.

Ms Piramal had been involved with the groups pharma retailing stores after she had completed her graduation from St Xaviers College in Mumbai, in 1972. Ms Piramal believes that this experience had come in handy while setting up Pyramyd. Today, Pyramyd takes up a lot more of Ms Piramals time as it is a faster growing business than Crossroads. Crossroads and Pyramyd are two entirely different lines of business and each requires different skill sets, she says.

Ms Piramal has chalked out aggressive plans to grow both the lines of business. While the second Crossroads at Nariman Point in Mumbai is expected to be ready for shoppers by the third quarter of this year, there is one coming up at Pune as well. Pyramyd, which has witnessed faster growth, has a store in Pune and another few coming up soon in Pune, Nagpur and Mumbai.

Nothing can bring more pleasure than starting a new business. When Pyramyd took off it was like holding your baby in your arms for the first time, says Ms Piramal. Ms Piramal believes that it was her commitment and hardwork that enabled her to put to rest all apprehensions expressed by people, when she started working with the groups textiles business.

Today Ms Piramal is dreaming of becoming a significant player in the retailing industry. She is currently focussed on developing Crossroads and Pyramyd into major brands in western India. I dont believe in expanding haphazardly. We intend to saturate a particular market first, she says.

Ms Piramal is also passionately involved with wildlife conservation. She has recently formed a Wild Life Conservation Trust along with her brother in-law and Chairman of Nicholas Piramal, Mr Ajay Piramal and Mr Hemendra Kothari, Chairman of DSP Merrill Lynch to save tigers. She escapes into the wilderness whenever she finds time is currently developing a part of Maharashtra like the Ranthambore forests. Be it business, philanthropy or sheer household responsibilities, her mantra for success is a firm sense of commitment and an eye for details.