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Raymond’s Gautam Singhania: As promoter, I will not step back totally

Gautam Hari Singhania on the growth metrics he is watching keenly, Indian weddings, and why he'll never fully step away though he has been hiring professional managers for Raymond's businesses.

February 23, 2023 / 09:12 PM IST
Gautam Hari Singhania, Chairman and Managing Director, Raymond Ltd.

Gautam Hari Singhania, Chairman and Managing Director, Raymond Ltd.

Meetings with Gautam Hari Singhania usually happen at the Atelier at JK Tower on Warden Rd, in Mumbai, where he both resides and works out of. It’s also the skyscraper that houses the flagship apparel store for Raymond Ltd, the country’s largest textile manufacturer, where he is Chairman and Managing Director. This January, however, the meeting is on the 13th floor where there’s a conference room designed for high-powered board meetings.

It's kitted out in sync with what one would expect at a business house built on lifestyle. The boardroom table is long, broad and made of a large slab of heavily veined blue-grey marble. On each side are some half a dozen leather-wrapped chairs in an unusual colour - Grecian Blue.

On-table accompaniments include crystal water glasses, tissue boxes, note-pads and so on. In front of the chair at the head of the table are an assortment of approximately dozen neatly stacked pens, markers, scotch-tape, yellow sticky notes, visiting cards, desk-stapler, calculator, and paper puncher. There’s also a mask in plastic wrapping and a couple small bottles of sanitiser. Singhania, dressed in a monogrammed T-shirt and track pants, is busy.

The wedding season rebounded in full swing, which means sales of his suits and ethnic wear are soaring, as his real estate business. Raymond's new clothes lines last year included Technostretch series in suitings, Ultimo Black in suitings, Regio Italia in suiting and shirting fabric, Stain free Chinos from ColorPlus, and Smart Ethnix by Raymond.

He’s also inducted a new CEO and board members at Raymond, namely Atul Singh, executive vice chairman (designate); Amit Agarwal, group CFO; Sunil Kataria, CEO, Lifestyle Business; Harmohan Sahni, CEO, Raymond Realty; Debjit Rudra, CEO, FMCG Business; and K.N. Murty, board member (designate).

Is this part of the plan to step back entirely and become a pure promoter, so to speak?

“So to be honest, I think, three, four years when I did step back totally, then we had a bit of a disaster. So I don't think as a promoter, I will ever step back totally,” he says. “I want to set up the best governance, the best accountability structure, so that the mistakes made in the past don't happen again. I think at some level, I was to blame for whatever mistakes happened because I'm also the one who gets the glory for the good that happens. But we won’t repeat the same mistakes.”

“I will continue to remain involved in the business on a day-to-day basis. But we are professionalizing all of it,” Singhania explains.

The windows of the boardroom offer a helicopter-view of the booming construction in full swing; the infrastructure around the Breach Candy Club, and highways criss-crossing over the seafront of the city. Car-sales have been booming as well, all pointing to a bright economic forecast for the likes of Raymond.

Singhania agrees but highlights what he sees as the real metric to watch: “We have also had growth in two-wheelers, which is really a big indicator. The fact that two-wheeler sales have gone up shows the progression from cycle to motorcycle. If I go to my factories, compared to 15 years ago and see the motorcycle versus cycle share, today it's mostly motorcycles. Because finance is available, and the guy's got a job. So, he can come to me, get a job, go and get financed for a house, a car or a motorcycle,” he says. “So when the cycle moves to the motorcycle, for me, is more relevant than the motorcycle moving up to the car because the motorcycle is really the belly of the market.”

The other strong indicator, at least for apparel, is when the number of marriages increases. "Yes, it's a very good wedding season. And I think it continues to be as 32 lakh weddings are expected this quarter. So we're looking forward to it," Singhania adds. For now, that's sufficient cause for celebration.

Pavan Lall is a senior journalist based in Mumbai.
first published: Feb 12, 2023 10:14 am