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Building a new leaguenews
Venkatachari Jagannathan
25 October 2000

The only numbers that Mr. Sriram Srinivasan (45), managing director, Indus League Clothing Ltd., would willingly part with will be the collar and hip sizes of the shirts/trousers made by his company!

sriram srinivasanYou will find the lips of this B.Tech (Mechanical Engineering) graduate from IIT Chennai, sealed when it comes to numbers like the company's equity, share holding pattern, the bid amount for Madura Coats Ltd.'s garment brands. He is also reticent on the initial problems faced by him while establishing his brands Indigo Nation, Scullers and Ironwood in the market.

Today, Mr Srinivasan and his expert brand builders have succeeded in finding a niche for their brands in the Rs 6,400 crore readymade garments market, despite the presence of well known names like Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Byford and Peter England. Interestingly, this team built these brands while at Madura Garments, the apparels division of Madura Coats.

Within six months of launching its three brands, Indus League has clocked a turnover of Rs 26 crore and aims to quadruple that figure this fiscal.

The man who built foreign brands in India while at Madura Coats is now busy establishing his own brands overseas. According to Mr Srinivasan, exports account for 10-12 per cent of the company's total turnover. Indus League has six franchisees in the Gulf and two more are planned this year. That aside, the company has a franchisee in Colombo.

Looking back

Starting his career as a management trainee in Madura Coats, Mr Srinivasan volunteered for a posting in Calcutta. The reason? "The knowledge of Bengali and I thought that after a short stint in Calcutta, I could return to Bangalore." But from Calcutta, Mr Srinivasan was transferred to Guwahati.

"Working in Guwahati was a memorable experience. At that time, the Assam student movement was at its peak. Curfews and bandhs were common. The police would take away private cars for its use under the pretext of public emergency for a week or so. It was amusing and also frustrating to see your car driven around the city by strangers for purposes other than public emergency," he recalls.

From Guwahati, Mr Srinivasan was transferred to Hyderabad in 1984. It was only in 1986 that he got his desired posting in Bangalore. In 1988, when Madura Coats decided to venture into the garments business, Mr Srinivasan was moved to the garments division. "Initially, we launched normal ready-to-wear garments," he says.

But the real challenge started a year later when Madura Coats launched Louis Philippe, the first international ready-to-wear shirt brand in India. Soon, other brands followed in quick succession.

In fact, the growth of these brands signaled the growth of the readymade garments industry in the country. Along with the brands, Mr Srinivasan too grew within the organisation and, finally, headed the garments division.

Having spent more than one-and-a-half decades at Madura Coats, and in search of further challenges, Mr Srinivasan joined Texmaco -- part of the Polysindo group -- as president, licensing and manufacturing.

The economic crisis and fall in the Indonesian Rupiah saw the Polysindo group in troubled waters. Several Indian executives employed in the group returned home. And Mr Srinivasan too took the wise decision of quitting Indonesia.

Building a new league

Back home, Mr Srinivasan joined Mafatlal Industries Ltd. as president, garments division, for a brief period before deciding to strike out on his own. "I saw a vacant slot in the readymade garment segment and decided to fill it," he explains.

He contacted his former juniors Fazle Naqvi, V. Uday Kumar and K.K.Pant at Madura Coats who, thrilled at the idea of promoting new brands that would be their own, decided to quit their jobs and join Mr Srinivasan to promote Indus League.

indigo nationThe small team soon expanded to eight in number when M.S.S. Jalaludin, Arun Sirdeshmukh, Rachna Aggarwal and Vineeth Nair -- all of whom had a stint at Madura Coats at one time or another -- joined Indus League.

At a time when venture capital was an unknown happening in the garments industry, Mr Srinivasan found two venture capitalists in the form of San Francisco-headquartered Draper International and Dalmia group, for his idea. His idea is to build brands and not factories. Convinced about the business plan and by Mr Srinivasan and his team's reputation the two venture funds invested Rs 15 crore.

Tying up good units for outsourcing the merchandise, Indus League launched its three menswear brands in late September 1999. "I have to be globally competitive and source my requirements from various places. I don't want to be burdened with mills," says Mr Srinivasan.

Building his own brands

A boost to Mr Srinivasan's brand building effort came when ICICI Venture invested a sizeable sum after valuing the three brands at Rs 50 crore, three months after the brands were launched.

Mr Srinivasan believes brand differentiation is what will help him win out in the market place. "I believe in value proposition." His aim is to provide the consumer fashionable wear, of good quality, at the right value, and excellent service. He elaborates, "Our endeavour is to deliver merchandise to young global citizens."

Mr Srinivasan doesn't like to slot his brands in any one segment based on their price. "I am giving a wardrobe for a global citizen," is his constant refrain. According to him, Indus League has budgeted Rs 20 crore towards marketing and brand building exercise.

Women's wear on the anvil

With his menswear gaining good market acceptance, Mr Srinivasan is now planning to launch womenswear. As Scullers menswear is already finding good acceptance amongst the fairer sex, Indus League is all set to leverage that by launching women's western wear under the same brand name.

"Kidswear is a commodity market though the potential is huge. We foresee a shift towards simple dress," Mr Srinivasan opines.

Distribution

Speaking about his distribution network, Mr Srinivasan is more in favour of the franchisee model than having his own exclusive stores. Nevertheless, Indus League has two of its own exclusive stores, one each in Chennai and Bangalore, and several franchisee outlets. The garments are also available at all the major multi-brand stores across the country.

According to Mr Srinivasan, retailers are enabled to place their orders directly at the warehouse, thereby eliminating delivery delays. "We will be soon developing a B2C site," he concludes.


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Building a new league