Interview: Gautam Singhania, President and CEO, Raymond

Diversified Raymond Group, one of the nation’s leading fabric and branded fashion retailers, has been going through a tough time during the pandemic and resulting restrictions. However, with the return to normal, the group’s consolidated revenue increased to 6,348 crore in FY22 from 3,648 crore in the previous year. In its outlook for the current fiscal year, the company said it expects profitable growth momentum. Gautam Hari SinghaniaChairman and Chief Executive Officer, Raymond, speaks to Nayan Dave on the group’s performance and its plans for the future. Extracts.

How do you rate Raymond’s performance over the past year?

I think basically the first quarter of last fiscal year was very Covid-focused. Markets remained closed during the first quarter due to the second wave of Covid. There were literally no sales. But once things opened up, we were able to improve our efficiency, which translated into good sales. In addition, cost control initiatives have enabled us to improve our overall performance. Markets are now fully open. The buoyancy is also there. Although international markets are still affected by Covid in some places, including the United States, we are looking forward to a good season ahead.

What has been the impact of international investors who embarked on the China Plus One strategy?
International buyers are gradually turning away from China after the pandemic. This change has a positive impact on India. Buyers are looking to India as an alternative to China in all segments. For Raymond too, this is a positive sign. We are seeing an increase in exports. Every month we add new foreign customers.

How is the performance on the textile front?
We constantly focus on product development. Our ranges of shirts and suits are constantly evolving with our customers in mind. To attract new customers, we continuously launch new, younger products, especially clothes.

Going forward, which segments will drive growth?
Any new verticals, whether it’s ethnic apparel, home or apparel, will drive growth for us.

How is the company tackling retail challenges?
I think there is an opportunity in retail for our different brands; each brand has its own strategy. We are in the continuous process of gradually improving our presence in the retail space. Omnichannels will exist. We will stay and play in both places. During the pandemic, everything has gone digital. Now everything becomes physical again. We continue to balance the two.

In the next few days, will your ratio between physical stores and online stores change?
I don’t think the current mix will change in the next few days for us. At present, over 90% of our stores are physical and will be so in the near future.

What is your expansion strategy in the real estate segment? What prompted Raymond to foray into real estate and how do you think he is performing compared to his competitors?
The strategy is to create the best product at the best price in the best locations. The strategy is to satisfy the customers. To this end, we also engage in joint development to improve quality and execution capability through our real estate arm, Ten X Realty. As we have our own land in Thane, Maharashtra, we decided to venture into the real estate business. Although we are new to the industry, we have become the No. 1 property developer in the Thane market in just three years.

The company has also entered the edtech segment. How do you see things going here?

To be in education is to contribute to nation building. It is a very good social objective. The edtech segment helps us reach far more people and remote places. It’s the future. We have announced an offline school in Tirupati. Three more physical schools will open in Thane in June next year. With this, there would be over 40,000 students in our portfolio by the next fiscal year. We are also entering the online education space through our Quest+ platform, which offers courses spanning academic and skill-based programs.

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