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Raymond: The saga of an Indian world leader

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Over the last century, change has been a constant parameter in India; the entire nation and its people have grown from strength to strength on all frontiers. And, in Indian fashion, is there is a major that best exemplifies this essence? It is indeed the Raymond Group.

Raymond is not a just a mere brand name in India; it’s as much a part of every Indian’s life as their pre-eminent embodiment of The Complete Man. Sure, there are other textile majors, but none come close, let alone compare, to Raymond’s ability to make a name that symbolizes trust, and then further to a brand that spans the value chain from fabrics to ready-to-wear. The brand has indeed embossed marks of unmatched credence amongst generations spanning the common man as well as the most discerning global nomad.

Raymond’s legacy dates back almost 92 years to the year 1925, when it was a small woolen mill, by the name of Raymond Woollen Mills in Thane, that used to manufacture coarse woolen blankets and modest quantities of low-priced woolen fabrics.

In 1944, Lala Kailashpat Singhania took over the mill. He set up a new manufacturing unit called JK Files in 1950 for making indigenous engineering files. Convinced that the new set up had a potential to snowball into something infinitely promising, the company concentrated on what was to become a recurring pattern in the years to follow — modernisation of machinery and infrastructure.

By 1958, Raymond became the first company to blend polyester with wool and introduced ‘Terool’. Terool turned out to be a breakthrough in the wool industry, providing a lightweight fabric that was made for cool and comfortable wear, and Raymond soon forayed into retail by opening the first exclusive retail showroom in King’s Corner, Ballard Estate in Mumbai, the very same year. The rest, as we know is history.

The Kings of Worsted Wool

Raymond, today, is regarded as the global leader in wool. It is the world’s largest producer of worsted suiting fabrics commanding over 60 per cent market share in India. It is also among the few companies in the world, that is fully integrated to manufacture worsted fabrics, wool and wool blended fabrics. Few companies globally have such a diverse product range of nearly 20,000 varieties of worsted suiting to cater to customers across age groups, occasions and styles. The company’s suiting fabrics ranges from 80s to 250s. The company has also mastered the art of producing super fine suitings and blending polyester with specialty fibers like Cashmere, Angora, Alpaca, etc. Raymond also converts these fabrics into suits, trousers and apparels that are exported to over 55 countries in the world; including European Union, USA, Canada, Japan and Australia under the various retail brands of the company.

Not just apparel, Raymond is also the largest producer of woolen blankets in the country and offers the widest range of woolen blankets and pashmina shawls. Made from pure and regenerated wool and cashmere, these are produced in an array of colours and designs in plains, dobbies and jacquards.

Manufacturing Muscle

Raymond has always stayed ahead of the game and the way forward was through modernisation of machinery and infrastructure. In the early 60s, the company earmarked total replacement of machinery with sophisticated machinery and since then modernization has become a way of life at Raymond.

Then, in 1979, a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility was set up at Jalgaon, Maharashtra to meet the increasing demand for worsted woolen fabrics. Then in 1980, Dr. Vijaypat Singhania, an AMP alumnus from Harvard and a high flier in spirit and deed, took over the reins as the Chairman of Raymond. The Jalgaon plant was soon followed by another plant in Chhindwara that was set up in 1991. The new plant was a state-of-the-art integrated manufacturing facility located 57 kilometers from away from Nagpur. Built on 100 acres of land, the plant produces premium pure wool, wool blended and polyester viscose suiting. This plant has achieved a record production capacity of 14.65 million meters, giving it the distinction of being the single largest integrated worsted suiting unit in the world.

Subsequently, in 2006, Raymond launched the famous Vapi Plant, the world’s largest integrated composite textile mill to date. Raymond has increased its worsted suiting capacity by 14 million meters, as part of the second developmental phase of the Vapi plant. Modeled to meet international standards, the Vapi plant has been set up on 112 acres of lush green land with hi-tech machinery such as warping equipment from Switzerland, weaving machines from Belgium, finishing machines, automatic drawing-in and other machines from Italy. These three facilities together employ approximate 6,000 people and working on a combined manufacturing capacity of 38 million meters of fabric per annum.

Leading by Research and Development

The Raymond Group’s trend setting innovations can chiefly be attributed to its in-house research and development team, whose innovations have become milestones in the worsted suitings industry. Raymond holds the distinction of creating the world’s finest worsted suiting fabric from the finest wool ever produced in the world – the Super 250s fabric made of 11.4-micron wool.

“What makes it special is the fact that this fabric is made of wool that is only 11.4 micron thick (a micron is a millionth of a meter). This is approximately a fifth of the diameter of a human hair. This fibre comes from a breed of Australian Merino sheep that are renowned for their fine fleece. The quality is fare better than normal suit fabric. This is the lightest fibre with which a suit can be made. The suit fabrics of Super 250s may cost up to Rs 3 lakhs per meter,” says VP – Manufacturing, Raymond Ltd, Harish K Chatterjee.

Power House Performance

From being the first company to introduce a poly-wool blend in India to creating the world’s finest suiting fabric, the Super 250s made from the superfine 11.4-micron wool, Raymond has been a trailblazer since day-one.

Now led by Gautam Singhania, the group closed FY17 with revenues of Rs 5,509 crore registering EBIDTA margins of 7.7 per cent. 80 per cent of the Group’s business comes from domestic market which encompasses business interests ranging from textiles, fabrics, apparel manufacturing, fashion brand retailing to engineering, prophylactics and international businesses.

As of today, Raymond has retail shops selling fabrics, apparel and fashion brands. Its apparel and textiles business network have 20,000 touch points in 600 cities and towns reaching consumers through ~160 wholesalers, 3,300 MBOs, 800 large format stores and a chain of over 1,000 exclusive stores.

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