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The Foreign Hand

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The tradition-rich German fashion chain store Wehmeyer (founded in 1950 by Paul Wehmeyer) went into bankruptcy in mid-2008. Rajive Ranjan, 45, owner of Techno Lifestyle, a global apparel procurement company with operations across Asia, Europe and USA providing private label brands to major apparel retailers, acquired the insolvent chain with Wehmeyer Lifestyle GmbH in November 2008.

Over the past year, Ranjan has been occupied with successfully transforming Wehmeyer, which he says has a unique positioning between competitors who offer only own brands — such as C&A or H&M — and monobrand stores.

Over the next two years, Ranjan plans to invest up to Euro 15 million in order to modernise all Wehmeyer stores, with a new orange logo promoting freshness in the chain. Ranjan is aspiring to touch an annual turnover of Euro 100 million until 2010, starting with about Euro two million per store right now. In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing, he shares some of his business philosophies…

Indiaretailing (IR): It took courage to buy an insolvent retail chain in these times. What drove you and what makes you so sure that you can do it?

Rajive Ranjan (RR): I was certain that an entrepreneur-driven, hands-on approach, translating into better communication and high motivation would benefit Wehmeyer. And I am sure that strategy is the way to go in this business.

IR: What are the specific USPs of Wehmeyer stores?

RR: Brand loyalty, customer support and sourcing and the lynchpins on the Wehmeyer retail identity.

IR: What is the driving philosophy of retail operations at Wehmeyer?

RR: Offer good quality clothing at affordable prices along with friendly customer services.

IR: While taking your retail operation forward, what is the biggest learning from the current slowdown/recession?

RR: Focus the product at the customer at all times and use simple and clear communication.

IR: What is your personal vision when it comes to leading your retail team?

RR: Operational excellence and customer focus with transparent communication.

IR: Given the two schools of thought that are currently dominating the Indian retail industry — ‘aggressive expansion’ versus ‘slow but steady expansion’ — what would be your advice?

RR: Slow but steady expansion.

IR: Your comment on the expression ‘Powerful Retailer’. According to you, which are the three most ‘powerful retailers’ in the world and why.

RR: H&M for its capability to consistently deliver trendy fashion at reasonable prices, Zara for its response speed, and “Abercrombie & Fitch for its rich experience in fashion retail.

IR: Do you have plans in the future to take your business to India?

RR: The first priority is stabilisation of operations at Wehmeyer. We will examine opportunities in India only after three years or so.

IR: Are there opportunities for Indian fashion brands in Europe in the future?

RR: Definitely. The outlook is very good for luxury brands. However, mass market brands will need much more time and will need to focus on quality before they are ready for Europe.

IR: In which other ways can you share your experience with Indian retail?

RR: We are very open to start cooperation with Indian schools. Our knowhow in retail and floor management can offer valuable contributions for the Indian retail market as well.

*For whole interview please refer to IMAGES Retail magazine of Sept’ 09

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