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GHCL declares retail foray with camouflaged plans

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“People claim to do a lot, but manage to do only some; we are not saying much, but we will do, and you’ll get to know that soon,” is how Sanjay Dalmia, chairman, Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Limited (GHCL), answered most of the media queries while announcing the company’s retail plans.

However, Dalmia did share a few facts, saying, “The company will open its exclusive stores through the franchise route and will have a pan-India presence soon. In addition to the metros, we will definitely go to the tier II and III towns and also penetrate the rural market. The focus is not just on selling, but also on educating the customer about this segment. We were the one to introduce the ‘bed in the bag’ concept in the West, and what we are bringing to India is the ‘home in the bag’ concept, whereby we will bring together everything that is required in the home. Our plan is to develop a vertically integrated home textiles capability encompassing all aspects of product delivery, from raw material to retail. We are starting with home furnishings, but will also have artefacts, furniture, cutlery and all other goods minus food items in our stores.”

Nor the investments for the venture, neither the specific date of opening the first store, and not even the brand/store name were disclosed by Dalmia.

However, an official close to the developments told Indiaretailing: “The first store will open around Diwali as it is the festive season, and the expected location for the same will be the NCR region itself. Later, the company will move to other metros in the first phase and then to smaller towns in the second. The target is to establish a pan-India presence in a couple of years. We have substantial investments in reserve and can stand whatever any other retail biggie may be investing. The products retailed here will be similar to those present in the Rosebys retail stores in the United Kingdom. These products will cater to the classes as well as the masses.”

The official also disclosed that the company has strong sourcing bases in China, Pakistan and India, and will be able to source cheaper products that will help in giving value-for-money to consumers.

Talking about products, Dalmia highlighted the issue of organic cotton, claiming, “We are in talks with farmers for our backward integration plans. Just growing organic cotton does not solve the purpose. The processes that cotton goes through till the making of yarn should be chemical-free, and that is what we are looking at. We will have such organic, chemical-free products in our stores.”

When asked if GHCL is looking at any mergers or acquisitions in India, the official refused to comment, only saying that “we shall not miss out on an opportunity.”

GHCL already has a retail experience through its UK-based retail chain Rosebys. Rosebys has more than 300 stores and over one million square feet of retail space across the country.

The company is in the process of taking the Rosebys brand to other Eastern European countries. Significantly, the presence of Rosebys CEO Mark Dyson at the media conference in New Delhi suggests that Rosebys is most likely the brand hitting the Indian market. Dyson’s comment, “Rosebys in UK has been a part of the gradual evolvement of the retail sector there; we will combine that experience to lead the Indian home textiles retail market,” adds on to the speculations.

Other than Rosebys, GHCL’s acquisitions in the home textile arena include three US-based companies – Dan River, which was acquired in December 2005; HW Baker in December 2006; and Best Manufacturing Group in February 2007.


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