Tale of a Landmark

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The Landmark books and music store promoted in 1987 by Ms Hemu Ramaiah as, perhaps, the first of its kind as a large format store on a busy thoroughfare of Chennai had become, as its name suggests, a destination store for scores of the city’s citizens.

It has today expanded to be a chain of 13 large stores, seven hotel book stores and five airport stores, a far cry from what it started out as.

The retail chain’s range has expanded beyond books and music to toys, gaming, technology products and even home stores. In August of 2005, Ms Ramaiah’s brother, Mr Natraj Ramaiah, and one of the main promoters of the chain, sold his 76 per cent stake in an all-cash deal for Rs 104 crore to the Tatas-owned Trent Ltd.

At that point of time, Ms Ramaiah held the balance 24 per cent in Landmark and continued to be CEO till May 2008 when Trent bought out her entire stake for an undisclosed sum. She exited the company as well to establish a retail and design consultancy.

At the time Landmark was taken over in 2005, it had sales of Rs 95 crore and four large stores across Chennai and Bangalore, along with a joint venture with the Emami Group in Kolkata for a similar store.

From two cities then, the chain has expanded to nine cities and covers two lakh sq feet of retail space with revenues of Rs 196 crore. Now, as a venture advisor to TVS Capital Funds, Mr Gopal Srinivasan, Chairman of the Fund, says Ms Ramaiah’s knowledge of retail would be tapped to expand Landmark in a big way. Asked why the Fund had invested in a Tata group company and not a smaller enterprise, an official said that several unlisted Tata group companies had opted for private equity before a public offer as it was a faster and more cost-efficient way to expand. Temasek’s investment in Tata Sky is held up as one example.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

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