Dubai: Gautam Singhania wants to stitch you up nice and good.
The Chairman of Raymond — India’s textile and men’s apparel label — was never going to be content with the 1,200 plus standalone stores that bear the name in just about every city in the country. Singhania is out for a different sort of scaling up.
We wanted to take the made-to-measure concept a few notches higher — and not just with the suits. If it’s clubwear or ethnic and even down to the shoes, the Atelier will have it done. We felt the Indian market for an ultra high-end offering wasn’t tapped to the fullest extent.”
- Gautam Singhania (left) | Chairman of Raymond
Raymond has just debuted a super-luxury retail concept, Atelier, at its flagship store in Mumbai. The store comes with a sumptuously appointed lounge where the well-heeled can indulge in a spot of relaxation or tuck into an extensively curated menu. The Atelier occupies all of 8,000 square feet, including 2,000 square feet set aside for the shopping part.
But just don’t go looking for the store — access is strictly — and the emphasis is very much on the strictly — “By Invitation” only. And if you are the sort likely to ask about the price range, then the Atelier is definitely not for you.
A bit of London’s Mayfair and Savile Row rolled into one? Singhania says they don’t even come close.
“We wanted to take the made-to-measure concept a few notches higher — and not just with the suits,” said Singhania. “If it’s clubwear or ethnic and even down to the shoes, the Atelier will have it done. We felt the Indian market for an ultra high-end offering wasn’t tapped to the fullest extent.
“It was a concept I had and where I was involved from start to finish. And we went to concept to completion in 45 days. The one in Mumbai is the first and we could take it elsewhere. All the big Indian cities, of course.”
Would that mean it could even move beyond India and show up in a city like Dubai, where super-luxury customised to the minutest detail is well and truly entrenched? “Why not?” counters Singhania. “The first store we did ourselves, because we are experimenting. It wasn’t something that was done before anywhere.
“You don’t go into a premium menswear store and also ask for caviar and sushi. We are giving you that experience.”
But will such a concept ever make money for the company? “Eventually it will,” the Chairman added. “But initially it’s all about packaging an experience. These are early days, but the typical shopper who comes to the Atelier would pick up eight to ten outfits in one go.
“Future Atelier locations needn’t even be on the high-street. It’s not a shopping destination, but a destination store by itself. It could even be on the 10th floor of a building … because these are by appointment only.”
Raymond’s go-upmarket strategy could play well within India’s changing retail landscape. Earlier this year, India finally allowed overseas businesses to have full ownership of single-brand stores in the country. In particular, the luxury end could end up being the biggest beneficiary, with labels no longer having to bother about having an Indian partner.
For Raymonds, inarguably among the Top 20 brands of Indian origin and with group revenues of $926 million (Dh3.4 billion), its first steps into super-luxury could, as Singhania says, pay off later.
But he is also not letting go of new store opportunities for the mother brand. “We will have new stores opening somewhere in India at the rate of nearly one a day this year and keep adding to the ones that are there,” he added. “We are there in online, but it’s only 1-2 per cent of overall sales. If we end up at 5 per cent, that’s good. We’ve got our hands full.”
Singhania’s no stranger to Abu Dhabi roads
That Gautam Singhania has a passion for the fast and the furious is well documented. He achieved a podium finish at the World Ferrari Finals (Finali Mondiali) held in Abu Dhabi in December of 2014. And there was also a double win in the NGK racing series at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The brand that he is most synonymous with — Raymond — is equally at home in the UAE and Gulf markets. There are 23 of these standalone outlets and with more to come.
But with India’s retail spread being so much bigger, does he need overseas markets to pull their weight for Raymond? “More than anything, I believe our customers want us here,” said Singhania. “We came into this market because it has a large Indian population and already familiar with the brand.
“We don’t have an issue with the weak rupee — in fact we are net exporters, sending out twice as much as our import requirements.”