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Oct 29, 2007, 12.45 PM | Source: CNBC-TV18

Arun Alagappan wants TI Cycles to race ahead

Parry’s building is part of Chennai’s corporate history. This building called the Dare House was built in 1927. This is where we are going to be meeting with Arun Alagappan. He is taking the Murugappa Group family legacy forward.

Arun Alagappan wants TI Cycles to race ahead

Parry’s building is part of Chennai’s corporate history. This building called the Dare House was built in 1927. This is where we are going to be meeting with Arun Alagappan . He is taking the Murugappa Group family legacy forward.


One of the key driving forces in a 100-year old family business, the conglomerate of 29 companies and more than USD 1 billion in revenue, is 31-year-old Arun Alagappan. Murugappa Group is one of India’s biggest industrial houses. The Murugappa Group has interests in engineering, abrasives, fertilisers, finance, bio products and sanitary ware. After a brief stint with GE Capital , Arun decided that adding value to the family business should be his focus. So, Arun started his career in 1999 with Murugappa Group Company, EID Parry.


Arun Alagappan is 31 years old and heads the Sports Retail ventures for TI Cycles of India . He desires to see sports retail format as one of the largest in India in the next five years.


Excerpts from CNBC-TV18’s exclusive interview with Arun Alagappan:


Arun Alagappan: Well, I think it was an exciting task so to say, because we are a 100-year-old group, started out in 1904. So, I think it was more looking forward to the excitement of taking a 100-year-old group forward.


Anchor: So, you were obviously treated differently when you joined in 1999. But it was better because you were not at the corporate headquarters in that sense, is it?


Alagappan: Yes. The good thing was that my uncle got me to join at the factory, and that is away from Madras and I was living there. But the good thing is that you get to mix with a lot of people, you get your hands dirty, it was quite a good experience.


Anchor: And you did literally get your hands dirty?


Alagappan: Yes, that is called glazing. I glazed the sanitaryware, yes.

Anchor: You have made sanitary wear glamorous, you decommoditized it in a sense.


Alagappan: Yes, surely exactly you have got the point, basically what I am trying to say is that for example, tiles have become a commodity, whereas sanitary wear is still a brand. Your bathroom has become so important to you and this is a change the Group made in 1992-1993 itself, by calling bathrooms - glamour rooms and then we have shifted the brand experience totally in a last seven-eight years.


Now Arun is heading the retail’s edition for one of the group’s other businesses TI Cycles of India. Its fitness and not mobility that is driving Arun cycle brands. Always on the lookout for new acquisitions, the group is assembling a colourful position in the world.


Alagappan: That is not all we are doing at TI Cycles, we are really moving the company in a different space, saying that we will go into the infant categories; we will move into basic mobility of other things.


Anchor: How soon are we going to see all these plans being rolled out?


Alagappan: We are at the planning stage and we are looking at export retail, which is something which is both passion for the people at TI Cycles to take and put forward retail into sports because that is the logical move so we are looking at that. You will see us actually in action in next six months.


Anchor: What kind of a market opportunity you are actually sitting on?


Alagappan: The market opportunity is huge. If you look at the fitness category, the home fitness category right now is about 350 crore and what we are saying is this segment is going to move up in the next five years.


Anchor: I believe you are also looking at getting into sport infrastructure yourself?


Alagappan: Initially sports retail and the larger one is sports infrastructure.


Anchor: How would you generate revenues from something like that?


Alagappan: You need places to play, if you look at Decathlon in France they have created sports infrastructure where you can go there and play a game of tennis, volleyball and they sell products through their outlets and they believe in the same thing that they need to promote the infrastructure for people to actually get involved.


One of the first family businesses to be professionally managed; the reigns of the Murugappa Group are controlled by an outsider. This Arun hopes will help the company gallop into the big league. 


He is certainly putting in the hours and starting at the crack of dawn, this youngster believes that life is about racing over obstacles in style.  






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