Did you know that Raymond’s creativity led to the creation of a separate category in the Guinness Book of World Records? It put together the world’s largest suit from its own sapphire polywool fabric — measuring 64 feet in height and weighing 200 kg!
The company, which began by manufacturing coarse woollen blankets, has evolved into one of the most successful producers of refined fabric in the world today.
The story goes that in 1925, the Wadia Woollen Mills was set up in Thane, then an undeveloped area in the outskirts of Bombay (now Mumbai), to manufacture clothes for Indian soldiers. This was taken over by ED Sassoon & Co and renamed Raymond Woollen Mills after its directors. The mill continued to produce coarse woollen blankets and low-priced wool fabrics.
In the 1940s, the well-established JK Group, founded by Juggilal Singhania and his son Kamlapat Singhania, entered the picture. It was then run by the grandson of the former, Kailashpat Singhania. Though the group’s main focus was on chemicals, he had been looking around to invest in a textile concern, especially in the Bombay area. In 1944, the JK Group acquired the Raymond Woollen Mills.
The company’s name was retained but Kailashpat had greater ambitions. He invested in technology throughout the next decade and upgraded the product line to produce new wool grades and colours. A research and development unit was set up to experiment with innovative wool blends and fabrics. The result was visible in 1958 when Terool, a wool-blended yarn, was launched.
The same year, Raymond entered the retail market with its first showroom at JK Building, King’s Corner in Mumbai. Exactly a decade later, another breakthrough was made when a new, lightweight fabric, Trovine, was launched in the market. A subsidiary, Raymond Apparel, was set up in 1969, and marked the beginning of the brand’s march to the top in readymade clothing.
Along the way, the company also expanded its operations abroad, to Kenya and Mauritius.
In the 1980s, under the leadership of the multifaceted Vijaypat Singhania, the company evolved into a modern, industrial unit. More manufacturing facilities were added, and the company went on to become one of the world’s top three producers of worsted fabric.
From chess king to complete man
The Park Avenue label was introduced in 1985; more fabric blends and varieties were launched by Raymond’s R&D department in the 1990s. By 2003-2004, Raymond had become one of only three manufacturers in the world capable of producing the Super 210 and Super 220 grades of wool.
Raymond also diversified into other businesses, such as cement, industrial tools, automobile components, steel and aviation. But its core business was textiles. The entrance of the next generation in Gautam Singhania saw Raymond refocusing on the same, especially on high-quality ring denim, which was in great demand globally.
With more investments, acquisitions (ColorPlus) and launch of ready-to-wear brands (Be), the company was well on its way to claiming the top spot in the textile scene in India. Not all the ventures lasted the course; the ones that were unsuccessful were quietly dropped.
It is a matter of interest that Raymond succeeded in capturing the hearts of all generations. This is largely due to its advertising and marketing strategies. The brand was promoted as the perfect product for the man who cared not just about his appearance but also his relationship with the people around him. It projected the male of the species as not just a clothes horse but also as a sensitive, caring man of good breeding.
The motifs changed over the decades from the ‘chess king’ to the ‘ordinary man’ to the ‘common man’ and the ‘complete man’, but the message was clear, as the 1980s ‘guide to the well-dressed male’ campaign proved: the man who wore Raymond was dependable. The signature tune was introduced in the same decade and has enabled instant brand recall among the public.
Other campaigns are the ‘Raymond Model Hunt’ via Facebook, the ‘Drive for Passion’ and recently the # TailorYourStyle digital push.
Innovation is backbone
Innovation is the backbone of Raymond. The R&D team has consistently come up with new and fine blends: the Renaissance Collection (merino wool, polyester and specialty fibres), the Chairman’s Collection ( fine merino wool and cashmere), Applause (easy care wool), and polyester wool + PV Lycra suiting. With above 4,500 designs and more than 20,000 patterns incorporating blends of linen, angora, lycra, silk, polyester and cashmere with wool, the company has gone beyond expectations.
The readymade juggernaut may have unsettled Raymond, but the company has developed a method of fighting back. In 2018, it launched a visualisation mirror that enables the customer to see himself on a screen in a variety of styles, guiding the buyer to his choice of fabric. This is in addition to its own brands in the ready-to-wear apparel segment.
Raymond’s products are available at over 1,000 exclusive stores across 350+ cities in India and there are about 20,000 points of sale. It has recently opened more than 300 mini-TRS (The Raymond Shop) outlets in tier 4 and 5 markets. It entered the e-commerce space with raymondnext.com .
Today, Raymond’s covers textiles, apparel, FMCG products and engineering. The company’s turnover in 2018-19 was more than ₹6,500 crore, of which branded textiles accounted for about 46 per cent and branded apparel for 24 per cent. It exports its products to more than 55 countries globally and is one of the leaders in the denim space.
The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world, but even here, Raymond managed to make a difference through the launch of an eco-friendly fabric Ecovera, comprising waste PET bottles and utilising biofuels and energy-efficient methods. Raymond has also made fabric from banana fibre and created stain- and UV-resistant fabrics.
A list of awards won by Raymond across textiles, apparel and retail would fill several pages — the ‘Most Admired Textile Brand’, the ‘Most Trusted Brand’, ‘Superbrand’, the ‘Most Admired Company’, ‘Most Innovative Retailer’ awards to name a few.
The group’s CSR thrust covers several initiatives, including cattle-rearing, cattle breed improvement programmes, agriculture, imparting of tailoring skills through setting up of tailoring hubs across India to empower the youth and creating a pool of master tailors, setting up schools to impart education, the opening of rehabilitation centres for under-privileged children and tribals, and offering vocational training courses.