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Jockey: Thunder Down Under

Vishal Krishna, Businessworld

Bangalore, November 12, 2013

If the Rs 1,000-crore Page Industries, the Bangalore-based manufacturer and distributor of international innerwear brand Jockey is in the spotlight today, it’s because of a strategic move it made four years ago.

Sunder Genomal, managing director, Page Industries, introduced a women’s innerwear line, marking his entry into the $1.7-billion segment. He backed this up with a ramping up of Page Industries’ retail presence from 18,000 to 23,000 outlets over the next three years. The women’s range received a push-up, with over 100 styles on offer.

That appears to have paid off as the women’s range alone contributes 25 per cent to the company’s topline. Interestingly, about 45 per cent of the company’s sales comes from tier-3 cities. And that requires greater reach and availability of products on demand. To cater to this, Genomal reached out to some of India’s biggest e-tailers. Though e-tail sales — largely through Myntra, Jabong and Shoppers Stop — comprise less than 1 per cent of Page Industries’ revenues, they help tackle the bigger issue of customer dissonance with the brand when it’s not available despite the consumer’s ability to pay.

Page Industries was set up two decades ago with the purpose of manufacturing and distributing Jockey products in India. In the boardroom, you cannot but notice that the walls are lined with awards. Most are for best manufacturing and retail practices, but there is one award that stands out. Amid catalogues of the latest lingerie collections, there stands a large silver trophy in the shape of briefs. It is in recognition of Page Industries’ excellence in design and style.

In 20 years, Genomal has managed to make the brand synonymous with premium innerwear and has gone on to garner a marketshare of some 5 per cent. Leaders Maxwell Industries (VIP) and Rupa each enjoy a 15 per cent share of the organised innerwear market.

However, the Indian market continues to be dominated by the unorganised segment. The lower and mid-market segments form 86 per cent of the industry. According to Technopak, a retail consultancy, the size of the innerwear market in India is $2.9 billion; the category is also growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12 per cent and is expected to reach $5.1 billion by 2017.

“Corporate governance makes a company successful in the long run for both the promoters and the management,” says 58-year-old Genomal. He adds that a lot of his learnings were from his school days in the Philippines where his family held the franchise for the Jockey brand for five decades. “You need to create and maintain relationships if you are to be a long-term player. You need people who can also execute and believe in your vision,” he says.

In addition to Jockey, Page Industries is also the master franchisee of Speedo, a swimwear brand, with 12 stores across the country. It is also available through 730 retailers. Rival Maxwell Industries currently has over 110,000 distributors and sells through 550 retail outlets.

“Jockey has been a sought-after brand because of its style, fit, its representation of a young urban India and, most importantly, for being an aspirational brand,” says Devangshu Dutta, CEO of Third Eyesight, a retail consultancy.

Genomal has emerged number one in BW | Businessworld’s rankings of the Most ‘Value’able CEOs in the small companies (Rs 500 crore-Rs 1,499 crore) category largely on account of his modest compensation package of Rs 1.1 crore. He has achieved a 101 per cent CAGR on sales over two years. His closest competitor, P. Kaniappan of Wabco India, an automobile ancillary, has delivered around 47 per cent CAGR. However, Genomal is modest: “There are so many inputs like employee relations in the corporate structure that cannot be put down in numbers.”

“My goal as a leader is to ensure an environment and a culture founded on mutual respect, where everyone’s contribution is important, regardless of the rank or type of job,” he adds. The MD says such an environment instills a sense of bonding and belonging, not just as employees but as members of a family.

Finally, for Genomal, it boils down to passion. He loves golf and his BMW, but they aren’t the sole drivers for him aspiring to be the best. He got into the game to create an industry that stands the test of time.

(Sourced from Businessworld issue dated 2 December 2013.)

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