Diversified group Raymond, one of the country’s leading branded fabric and fashion retailers, went through a tough period during the pandemic and resultant restrictions. However, with the return to normalcy, the group’s consolidated revenue went up to `6,348 crore in FY22 from `3,648 crore the year before. In its outlook for the current fiscal, the company has said it expects a profitable growth momentum. Gautam Hari Singhania, chairman and managing director, Raymond, speaks to Nayan Dave about the group’s performance and plans going forward. Excerpts.
How do you view Raymond’s performance over the last one year?
I think fundamentally, the first quarter of the last fiscal was very much Covid-driven. Markets remained closed during the first quarter due to the second wave of Covid. There were literally no sales. But after things opened up, we were able to improve our efficiency, which translated into good sales. Besides, cost control initiatives helped us improve our overall performance. Markets have now completely opened up. Buoyancy is also there. Although international markets are still affected by Covid at some places, including the US, we are looking forward to a good season ahead.
What has been the impact of international investors embarking on the China Plus One strategy?
International buyers are gradually shying away from China after the pandemic. This shift is having a positive impact on India. Buyers are looking towards India as China’s alternative across segments. For Raymond, too, it is a positive sign. We are experiencing an increase in exports. Every month we are adding new overseas customers.
How is the performance on the textile front?
We continuously focus on product development. Our shirting and suiting ranges are constantly evolving keeping our customers in mind. To attract new customers, we continuously launch new and younger looking products, especially apparel.
Going forward, which segments will drive growth?
All new verticals, whether it is ethnic wear, home or apparel, will drive the growth for us.
How is the company approaching the challenges on the retail front?
I think there is an opportunity in retail for our various brands; each brand has its own strategy. We are in the continuous process to gradually enhance our presence in the retail space. Omni-channels will exist. We will stay and play in both places. During the pandemic, everything went digital. Now again everything is going physical. We continue to balance both.
In the coming days, will your ratio between physical and online stores change?
I don’t think the current mix will change in the coming days for us. At present, more than 90% of our stores are physical and it will continue to be so in the near future.
What is your strategy for expansion in the realty segment? What prompted Raymond to foray into real estate and how do you think it is performing against competitors?
The strategy is to create the best product at the best price at the best locations. The strategy is to deliver customer delight. For this purpose, we are also going into joint development to improve quality and execution capability through our realty arm, Ten X Realty. As we have our own land in Thane in Maharashtra, we decided to foray into the real estate business. Despite being new to the business, we have become the No. 1 real estate developer in the Thane market in just three years.
The company has entered the edtech segment too. How do you see things panning out here?
Being in education means contributing to the building of the nation. It’s a very good social objective. The edtech segment helps us reach many more people and remote places. It is the future. We have announced one offline school in Tirupati. Three more physical schools are coming up in Thane in June next year. With this, there would be more than 40,000 students in our portfolio by the next financial year. We are also in the process of penetrating into the online education space through our Quest+ platform, which offers courses that cover academic and skill-based programmes.