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Interview with Rajendra Agarwal

Rajendra Agarwal
Rajendra Agarwal
Managing Director
Donear Group Companies
Donear Group Companies

Producing fabric for the nation
The late Vishawanath L Agarwal had been in the textile industry for several years. Apart from the established trading business, he also supported companies by being on their advisory board. During one such board meeting there was discord on strategic issues and this triggered the decision to start his own manufacturing facility leading to the founding of Donear Industries Ltd in 1979. The Group acquired both GBTL (formerly Grasim Bhiwani Textiles Limited) and OCM in 2017. OCM was established in 1924, GBTL in 1964. Rajendra Agarwal, managing director of Donear Group Companies, talks at length about his company and its wide portfolio of brands.

What was the impact of Covid in terms of sales, staff cutdown etc?

There was a significant impact on sales initially when the lockdown was first announced. Months into it however, the markets opened, and people started purchasing again especially pre-festival and pre-wedding seasons.

At Donear, we are very closely knit. We have tried to maintain a good operating workforce to propel the organisation forward. Layoffs that were slated pre-pandemic (related to performance) were carried out.

During the lockdown, the situation seemed grim - factories not operational and markets being closed. But within a few months, things began to pick up again. Currently, where we stand, the markets are beginning to open more and so we're extremely optimistic about the season ahead and resuming normalcy. And with the second wave, the uncertainty is back.

What is the USP of your products?

Donear Group endeavours to provide the best quality products in sync with new innovations. Based on colour, design, pattern, trend, seasonality, we have a very large range of products available for every occasion.

Our USP is our product range (blends, colours, designs), their price points, our distribution network, and our sales service.

Which are your major markets?

We cater across India with our products - so the Hindi speaking belt is a large market, as is the heartland or peninsular India, and the south of India as well.

What has your growth story been like in the last three years (excluding 2020)?

Donear has had an exemplary and inspirational journey. We have grown in leaps and bounds since then. Today, as one of the largest yarns and fashion fabrics companies, Donear has made inroads into the industry, producing 50 million metres annually. A journey that has been robust since its inception and has given opportunity to millions to dress impeccably. Most certainly, the cross-synergies have benefitted vendors, suppliers, customers, and other counterparts, strengthening the mutual relationships.

We at Donear Industries have always worked towards providing our customers with the highest quality fabrics that complement the wearer. Rather than restricting ourselves to traditional methods of manufacturing, we have incorporated latest technologies to provide the best to our customers.

Which other product categories do you plan to move into the future?

Innovation has always spearheaded everything we do. With the onset of the pandemic, we were the first in the country to launch anti-viral fabrics last April. We also did a very aggressive advertising campaign on this. The response to this breakthrough solution has been very promising and we are adding new collections to this range for 2021 as well.

From a product extension point of view, we got a lot of enquiries and started diversifying into PPE kits and even masks which were the need of the hour. They were quickly manufactured and pushed out into the market and are doing well.

Apart from which, we intend to keenly look at the apparel sector.

What is your market positioning?

We have a varied price range for our customers, from value-for-money to luxury offerings, making sure that there is something for everyone. Our brands span across value-for-money, affordable, discretionary spends to luxury - so we are completely tuned into what any potential customer wants.

What is the breakup of your product categories (sales wise) for the export market?

From an export point of view, we customise requirements for our clients but a bulk of it is for suits, followed by jackets and then trousers/ skirts.

Which are the categories the brand is into?

Menswear - fabric & apparel; Womenswear - fabric; PPE kits; Accessories - shawls, mufflers, ties.

Which are the brands stocked across each category?

We are primarily a fabric manufacturer and have a wide range of brands and sub-brands of products under various categories. A prominent few are Donear, Vestito, Ferrino Mizzoni, Eurico, Graviera, Grado by GBTL, Grado by OCM, OCM, Siena, Moda Biella, Ferrara and so on.  Donear NXG & D'Cot (retailed mainly through EBOs) are two brands which are part of the apparel segment.

What are the steps towards brand building?

Each of our brands has a unique identity with a unique TG. Therefore, each of them has a separate and dedicated strategy. We have a varied marketing mix, led by below the line (BTL) activities and then mainline and digital follow.

Our channels to reach our TG through advertising efforts is driven through various touch points such as TV, print, digital, hoardings and local promotions. We are engaging in intense in-shop branding at wholesale and retail level for high brand visibility. Apart from that we have a strong presence on the mainlines through strategic sponsorships like we did for various brands by associating with prominent brand ambassadors from the Hindi film fraternity, sponsoring Kaun Banega Crorepati on Sony TV, Headlines on ABP News, ABP Majha, Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai and IPL through Sun Risers Hyderabad.

If you are looking for vendors, what are the top 3 qualities you are looking at beyond the givens of quality, lead time, compliance, etc?

1.Whether they are passionate about the industry they're in - to know about the new trends, new research and keep themselves up to date.

2.Whether they are attuned to constantly keep innovating and developing new and out of the box things.

3. That they are youthful and energetic to take on tasks.

Which category sells the most?

The menswear category is the biggest piece of the pie. Our fabrics across brands range from cottons to fine PV to TR to worsteds and wool blends. Truly, something for every climate and for everyone. Most of our brands have been part of the market for many years and have become household names.

Who are your target audience?

Our target audience (TG) is anyone from all over the country, whether it's a 25-year-old in Kashmir or a 60-year-old in Kanyakumari - we have products (and price points) suited for the length and breadth of the nation.

Where are your manufacturing facilities based at?

As a group, we have 4 manufacturing units - 
  • 2 for Donear in Surat and Silvaasa producing primarily fine cottons and polyviscose
  • 1 for OCM in Amritsar producing primarily worsteds
  • 1 for GBTL (formerly Grasim Bhiwani Textiles Limited) in Bhiwani producing primarily polyviscose
We source raw material based on certain standards and then all other processes are done in house.

What is the annual production capacity?

50 million metres annually.

What are the price points for each product category?

Since we endeavour to showcase only the best quality products, our product pricing is completely competitive, and market driven. We have a varied price range for our customers, from value-for-money to luxury offerings, making sure that there is something for everyone.

The group's range is diverse and brand specific. A broad view can be assumed that it starts at a MRP of 200 per metre and scales all the way up to a MRP of 8000 per metre (if not more).

The mid-range segment with MRP of 400-900 per metre fares the best for us for PV and poly wools.

What is your retail presence like?

In the domestic market, our robust and dedicated network helps strengthen our presence across the length and breadth of the country. We have a very large retail footprint through our trade partners and are present across many metros, cities, towns, and villages.

We are known for our products overseas as well with an established presence across Americas, EMEA and APAC.

For fabrics, the distribution model is primarily through multi brand outlets (MBOs). For the apparel brand, D'Cot, the group has an established presence of 206 enterprise brand outlets (EBOs) and 7 company owned EBOs pan-India. We are present in over 75000 MBOs across the country across all group brands.

How is the supply chain expected to change with increasing digitisation, AI, VR etc? And how is this going to impact the business of sourcing?

We have been up to date with technologies. To streamline operations at our respective manufacturing units, we are really cutting down on the error percentages. Overall, if companies adopt new machinery, sync it up to advanced ERP systems, a lot of time lag between inter-department coordination can be reduced. With communication and remote collaboration becoming possible, teams can efficiently forward or backward integrate and efficiently control knowledge sharing so that there is higher productivity of teams and smooth and transparent workflow.

What kind of machinery does your manufacturing facility boast of?

We have always taken pride in having the best-in-class machinery - be it for any process - spinning, dyeing, weaving, finishing, quality control and so on. Our team is always on the lookout for new machinery that can either make processes smarter or products / production better.

How much is spent on machine up-gradation and maintenance annually?

A sizeable amount from Opex is spent on machinery and in servicing.

Sustainability and circularity are the buzzwords today. How do you incorporate them into your product lines? What are your long-term sustainability goals?

All our products follow the concept of circular economy -- we are constantly finding new ways to improve the value chain to lessen our carbon footprint and promote sustainability and drive innovation. We have effluent plants set up to help with water treatment apart from other ongoing activities to stay sustainable.

We would like to become a brand synonymous with sustainability. We have already worked on many products with completely sustainable solutions and have abided by smart checks at all points across the value chain. (PC)
This article was first published in the February 2021 edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 13/05/2021

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.

This interview was first published in the Feb 2021 edition of the print magazine