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Stitching together a fortified identity

Stitching together a fortified identity
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Three years ago, Raymond’s management decided it was time to reinvent the brand. The reason was simple. Raymond had a long legacy to lean back on – it has been around for over 90 years. But to remain relevant to ‘The Complete Man’, it had to shift its focus from being product-oriented to customer-centric. After all, the sartorial tastes of the contemporary male had undergone a sea-change to include ethnic wear as well as accessories including bags, shoes, belts and cufflinks.

Talking about this, Mohit Dhanjal, Director-Retail for Raymond Apparel explained that the company saw a huge benefits in shifting from providing products to a becoming a full wardrobe solution partner for the modern-day man. “Seeing the sizable opportunity in new product categories, we first entered the shoes and leather accessories domain. Apart from that, seeing the prospects in traditional Indian wear, we tied up with KVIC for khadi and in April, 2018, launched khadi as a separate segment in our stores.” The tremendous potential of this category and the rising demand for ethnic attire saw the brand get deeper into ceremonial clothing and customised tailoring.

SOLVING TRADITIONAL CHALLENGES

To stay ahead of the times, Raymond decided to make further inroads into the country by establishing its base across smaller cities, have a robust omnichannel presence not just for its end-customers but also its franchisee partners, and a nimble supply chain network. A digital transformation was needed to strengthen its supply chain and also enable its franchisees to remain nimble enough to keep pace with evolving business trends.

Traditionally, fabric and garment retailers visit companies that sell direct to them or wholesalers, look at swatch cards to place orders, following which goods are manufactured. Raymond decided to snip this strip and launched a mobile app in November 2018, which allows its retailers to access its fabric inventory.

“Retailers no longer need to come to our office or visit an agent or a wholesaler. They can see the fabric options from their digital devices, sitting at their retail store, and place orders,” Dhanjal explained. Within two months of the launch, over 2000 retailers downloaded this app and are using it to place their orders regularly.

Additionally, when it comes to supply chain, the conventional model is to forecast for six months and then work backwards. However, the optimal way is to understand what a consumer wants today and provide it to him tomorrow. Raymond has been working to reduce the time taken from design to display.

“We are trying to reduce our timelines from design to getting the product on to consumers and are seeing good progress. Soon, we will launch initiatives where we will show how we have re-engineered the supply chain,” Dhanjal added.

TRAINING HUBS

By the end of FY 2018-19, the apparel major hopes to have 1300 stores pan-India, which will include 985 Raymond shops, 300 exclusive brand stores for brands like Park Avenue,  Colorplus and Parx, as well as the Mini TRS outlets. 60% of these will be franchisee-owned, so it has constant engagement with its partners to find ways to stay ahead of the curve.

Interestingly, Dhanjal revealed that based on feedback received from its franchisees as well as internal findings, Raymond did some value engineering on its business processes. A few years ago, it set up five tailor training schools in various parts of the country, to create the next generation of professional tailors.

“Many of our partners told us that students from these colleges were filling gaps that existed in the fabric stitching system. However, many of them were unable to create a specialized garment on their own, but could be part of a garment factory. On investigating this feedback, we found it to be true. In 10 years, we had trained 2500 people and only 500 had joined the mainstream tailoring profession,” Dhanjal stated.

Raymond went back to the drawing board to revaluate its training strategy. Three years later, it created a more robust tailoring ecosystem and in 2018, it reached out to over 20,000 tailors and upskilled them.

“Instead of creating new tailors, we identified over 10 lakh tailors in the country who were in the profession but were facing challenges, because they did not have enough skilling opportunities to improve their trade. We decided to revive the tailoring community to make it a self-sustaining ecosystem. Two years ago, we launched a Center of Excellence, which is a knowledge house for all things related to tailoring,” Dhanjal explained. Staying true to its digital transformation plans, Raymond also created an online app that tailors can download to access videos about new tailoring methods, latest trends and ways to improve their workflows.

This talent pool of tailors has also helped the company, especially at a time when it is ramping up its Mini TRS network. When Raymond introduced the first Mini TRS in 2016, it assumed it would sell about 80% fabric and 20% apparel. However, after setting up the first 100 stores, it observed that almost 25% to 30% business contribution came from apparel sale, which made it realise the need for having a strong tailoring network.

“Consumers expect Mini TRS to be a one-stop shop solution. When they buy fabric, they want to get it tailored at the store itself. So every time, we open a Mini TRS outlet, we link to one of our 38 tailoring hubs across the country,” Dhanjal said. However, to keep pace with the demand, plans are afoot to open 12 more hubs within the next three months.

Raymond has always believed in investing ahead of its time to stay future-ready. While it will continue to focus on agility, digital orientation, and integrated supply chain, it has also set its sights on global expansion to have a well-rounded value proposition.

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