1930 was a year the world suffered a traumatic depression. Companies across the globe began closing down. In UK and in India the textile industry in particular was in trouble. At about this time, Mahatma Gandhi championed the Swadeshi Movement and at his call, people from all India began boycotting fine and superfine fabrics, which had so far been imported from England. In the midst of this depression one family saw opportunity. The Lalbhais reasoned that the demand for fine and superfine fabrics still existed. And any Indian company that met this demand would surely prosper. The three brothers, Kasturbhai, Narottambhai and Chimanbhai decided to put up a mill to produce this superfine fabric. Next they looked around for state-of-the-art machinery that could produce such high quality fabric. Their search ended in England. The best technology of that time was acquired at a most attractive price. And a company called Arvind Limited was born. Arvind lost no time in establishing its position as one of India’s leading super-fine fabric manufacturers for the domestic market. Arvind’s adoption of new-age fabrics has seen the Company emerge as one of the largest denim manufacturers in the world now, while also bringing it global recognition for the manufacture of shirting, khakhi and knitted fabrics. Finally, the Company’s direction and rapid growth in the branded apparel and retail business along with a more recent involvement in the growing of organic cotton, has consolidated its presence through the apparel value chain. Mr Sanjay S Lalbhai is the Chairman and Managing Director of the Company. He is a Science Graduate with a Master's degree in Business Management. Following the rich and checkered tradition, he leads the third generation of the Lalbhai family in the business and who has over a quarter century of experience leading the company to its present stature. He also holds directorships in Arvind Spinning Ltd., Mauritius, Amol Decalite Limited, Mahindra Gujarat Tractor Limited, Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited, Arvind Worldwide Inc., USA, Arvind Worldwide (M) Inc. and Arvind Overseas (M) Ltd. Mr Lalbhai also heads Sharda Trust – Arvind’s CSR vehicle, and recently has been elected to steering committee of GCCI making himself a private figure to public figure. Appearing on Face2Face for second time in a tele-talk with our correspondent and editor Ms Madhu Soni, Mr Sanjay Lalbhai shares more about recent developments in Denim and at
Mr Lalbhai, it is a great pleasure to host one more talk with you. Recently, you’ve been elected to steering committee of GCCI. We extend our best wishes for your new role. Can you share some points from your wished agenda?
Thank you so much. Well, it’s pretty early to discuss anything about agenda for, as you too know, it’s only around two weeks that I have been entrusted responsibilities. And so, I am still in the process of understanding things better.
Sir, Arvind’s roots traces to 1930 – a 70 years of long tradition in textiles! How has Arvind re-engineered itself from a company during Swadeshi (Protectionism) era to today’s era of Globalization?
Major change came when we embarked on Denim fabrics. We were the first company to bring denim into this country. Before that we were womens-wear domestic player. We were the leading composite textile mills in India. Very successful! But, because the powerlooms had started creating very fierce competition, we worked on a new strategy, and worked out that we need to go for global kind of product category like Denim, to change our focus from domestic market to global market, and to bring about a different lifestyle into India. So that was the major change. Before Swadeshi movement, we were a domestic player; subsequent to that we have become a global player with product categories which are globally accepted.
In its earlier corporate years, we notice that Arvind had interest in diversified fields other than textiles. What made it choose textiles for continued focus over others? Was it success of Denim in late 80s?
Well, we have always been dominant in textiles. The other sectors were some experimenting kind of joint ventures that we tried our hands upon, and disinvested them gradually on evaluating their less profitability proportion. Still now, we have interest in diversification. As you know, recently, we have made strategic change and renamed our corporate title from Arvind Mills to Arvind Ltd; this was to denote our very major interest in diversified sectors viz brands and retail, real estate and engineering, and telecom. So, we are definitely a diversified company but still textile remains to be more than 60% of our business. However, in gradual period, we see our activities in it to be confined to 30%, and more in other businesses.
Moreover, as I told earlier too, we thought of switching over to international product category which was definitely- Denim!
Mr Lalbhai, you have also brought in for the first time in Indian textiles a renowned management consultant- Mckinsey. What has been your experience with it?
At that time, we were considering a dive into paper, cement, steel, refinery and telecom businesses. It was Mckinsey that suggested us to focus on Textiles and refrain from diversification. They suggested us to hold back those plans. It was of course a golden piece of advice, and good experience to work with.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.