MAN ON A MIS­SION

Marwar - - Contents - Text Ri­tus­mita Biswas Pho­to­graphs Sayan­tan Sarkar

Yashovard­han Gupta, the young and dy­namic CEO of Torero Cor­po­ra­tion Pri­vate Lim­ited, be­lieves in a dis­rup­tive busi­ness model. His com­pany is a global li­censee for lux­ury brands with spe­cial­i­sa­tion in world-class leather ac­ces­sories that are of­fered at af­ford­able price points to con­sumers.

Yashovard­han Gupta, the young and dy­namic CEO of Torero Cor­po­ra­tion Pri­vate Lim­ited, be­lieves in a dis­rup­tive busi­ness model. His com­pany is a global li­censee for lux­ury brands with spe­cial­i­sa­tion in world-class leather ac­ces­sories that are of­fered at af­ford­able price points to con­sumers. He de­scribes him­self as a sol­dier of the coun­try. “While a sol­dier guards the bor­der and serves the coun­try, I strive to gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment for thousands in In­dia and guar­an­tee them a de­cent liveli­hood. As an en­tre­pre­neur, I work not for my own per­sonal goals, but with the am­bi­tion of do­ing some­thing that ben­e­fits my moth­er­land,” he says.

Meet Yashovard­han Gupta. He is the young and dy­namic CEO of Torero Cor­po­ra­tion Pri­vate Lim­ited, the ex­clu­sive world­wide li­censee of Cross’s leather ac­ces­sory busi­ness, which is in­volved in man­u­fac­tur­ing world-class prod­ucts and ex­port­ing them to over 40 coun­tries.

Shap­ing up for the fu­ture

Yashovard­han Gupta be­longs to the Panchu­dala vil­lage in Ra­jasthan. His mother hails from Jhunjhunu. His an­ces­tral sur­name is Har­nathka, which was changed to Gupta three gen­er­a­tions ago.

The en­tre­pre­neur grad­u­ated in com­puter sci­ence and ac­quired an MBA from the In­dian School of Busi­ness, Hy­der­abad. He then com­menced his cor­po­rate train­ing un­der Naveen Jin­dal, the chair­man and MD of Jin­dal Steel & Power Lim­ited. He was re­spon­si­ble for for­mu­lat­ing growth strate­gies for the group, a $18 bil­lion con­glom­er­ate. Yashovard­han says, “I learnt a lot. The time I was train­ing un­der Mr Jin­dal was an en­light­en­ing pe­riod.” Then, in 2009, he took up the reins of his fa­ther Ra­jesh Gupta’s com­pany, Metropoli Fash­ions.

Ra­jesh Gupta had al­ways been an in­spi­ra­tion to his son. He had shifted from Kan­pur to Kolkata in 1985, and started Metropoli Fash­ions in 1988. Though the com­pany suf­fered a brief set­back due to a huge de­fault from a US im­porter, it got back on its feet in no time. By 1991, it had be­gun as­so­ci­at­ing with global brands such as Hugo Boss, Cer­ruti and DKNY and had man­aged to se­cure a part­ner­ship with Mar­ro­quine­ria. Even to­day, it re­mains one of the most re­puted man­u­fac­tur­ers and ex­porters of leather ac­ces­sories in the re­gion.

Upon join­ing Metropoli Fash­ions, Yashovard­han Gupta’s modern out­look and pro­fes­sional train­ing kicked in. He no­ticed the ab­sence of an or­gan­ised busi­ness strat­egy in the 2,500 em­ployee com­pany. Nei­ther the pro­cesses nor the IT sys­tem was up-to-date or scal­able. Solv­ing these is­sues would in­volve not only re­vamp­ing the technology but also fir­ing old staff and hir­ing new, more ef­fi­cient peo­ple to re­place them.

The in­cep­tion of Torero

Since a com­plete re­vamp of Metropoli Fash­ions was im­pos­si­ble due to in­ter­nal re­sis­tance, Yashovard­han was bent on build­ing some­thing new by lev­er­ag­ing the com­pe­ten­cies of his fa­ther’s com­pany. He says, “I wanted to change the in­dus­try. For that we needed a com­pany with a dif­fer­ent and modern work cul­ture and a new thought process. At Torero, we have a dis­rup­tive busi­ness model. That was the idea. It would have been dif­fi­cult to do the same within an old com­pany.”

His fa­ther’s strug­gle to build his own busi­ness em­pire also en­cour­aged him to take the plunge and ful­fil his dream of mak­ing a name for him­self in the cor­po­rate world. Thus, Torero was born on 12.12.12. Yashovard­han be­came ob­ses­sive to the point that he did not take a sin­gle hol­i­day for four years, fo­cus­ing only on build­ing the com­pany. He spent the time work­ing round-the-clock, vis­it­ing and pitch­ing ideas to var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional brands. But things did not go his way ini­tially.

The strug­gle

Yashovard­han was un­able to bring in much busi­ness from his in­ter­na­tional tours and meet­ings with prob­a­ble clients. Then he re­alised that a struc­tured ap­proach was needed to iden­tify a new part­ner. He be­gan look­ing for a com­pany with an al­ready es­tab­lished name, even if it was not recog­nised as a lux­ury brand.

En­ter Cross, a US-based leather ac­ces­sories com­pany that was es­tab­lished in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land, in 1846. The com­pany was look­ing to ex­pand its leather ac­ces­sories busi­ness and Yashovard­han took ad­van­tage of this op­por­tu­nity. Af­ter mul­ti­ple vis­its to the Cross head­quar­ters and other of­fices to con­vince the board,

he was even­tu­ally able to suc­cess­fully en­dow his Torero Group with an ex­clu­sive long-term li­cence for the brand name. He says, “Both my weak­ness and strength lie in the fact that I can get ob­ses­sive. If I want some­thing, I will get it. If not to­day, then ten years later, but I will get it.”

Re­defin­ing ‘Make in In­dia’

Yashovard­han had opted to take a dif­fer­ent route, but the think­ing be­hind it was log­i­cal and straight­for­ward. “At that time, In­dian com­pa­nies did not have the con­fi­dence to ac­quire an in­ter­na­tional brand. It was time to set up a com­pany that would not just man­u­fac­ture but also ac­quire li­cences for global brands. I have al­ways felt that if you are se­ri­ous about busi­ness, then you must have a large, solid busi­ness. That comes from ac­quir­ing a brand, part­ner­ing with a brand or cre­at­ing a re­ally large brand. I have never been in favour of cre­at­ing smaller brands,” he ex­plains.

At the same time, he was aware that when In­di­ans decide to buy a leather bag of good qual­ity, they never opt for an In­dian brand that is rel­a­tively new. He says, “They pre­fer a global brand, so I did not want to waste huge cap­i­tal in cre­at­ing an In­dian brand. I felt this was op­ti­mal use of cap­i­tal.”

To­day, the Torero group is giv­ing a shape to Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s ‘Make in In­dia’ cam­paign by be­com­ing one of the fastest-growing fash­ion houses in the coun­try. It has ac­quired li­cences for well-known global brands such as Cross, Vic­to­rio and Lucchino, Po­lice and Cos­mopoli­tan. These prod­ucts are made in In­dia, but cater to a global cus­tomer base. The group has al­most touched the $20 mil­lion mark in an­nual rev­enue and em­ploys 4,000 highly skilled work­ers, who help in man­u­fac­tur­ing prod­ucts that show­case ex­tra­or­di­nary crafts­man­ship.

Mar­ket pres­ence

With Varun Narayan, Yashovard­han’s friend from ISB as the cur­rent COO of Torero, and a $5 mil­lion turnover, the com­pany is ready­ing it­self for a 40% growth. And with the tie-up with Po­lice, which has in­vested $1.1 mil­lion to pen­e­trate the In­dian, UK, French and Span­ish mar­kets, this tar­get does not seem an im­pos­si­ble dream.

At present, Torero has more than 300 na­tional and around 1,200 in­ter­na­tional out­lets for its Po­lice and Cross brands, with Shop­pers Stop be­ing their ma­jor re­tail part­ner in In­dia. Its on­line sales part­ners in­clude e-com­merce giants such as Ama­zon, Flip­kart, Jabong and Myn­tra.

An in­spi­ra­tion

Yashovard­han’s hard work and vi­sion is also win­ning him recog­ni­tion in­ter­na­tion­ally. An ex­am­ple of this is get­ting a call from the pres­ti­gious MIT Sloan School of Man­age­ment to be a guest lec­turer on op­er­a­tions man­age­ment for MBA stu­dents, along­side global cor­po­rate giants such as Tesla founder Elon Musk. Torero also is the only In­dian com­pany to re­ceive the Red Dot De­sign Award for two years in a row, in 2015 and 2016 re­spec­tively.

Stay­ing grounded

This go-get­ter of the cor­po­rate world is a sim­ple man in his per­sonal life. A self-con­fessed geek, he spends his free time with his gang of friends, who are all bud­ding in­dus­tri­al­ists, tak­ing part in var­i­ous ad­ven­ture sports, win­ter sports and trekking, and play­ing board games and video games. He also en­joys be­ing around his chil­dren—Aarad­hya Gupta, who is 4, and Agastyavir Gupta, who is 2. Yashovard­han of­ten rem­i­nisces about his sim­ple yet fairy-tale child­hood. He re­mem­bers how his fa­ther rode a scooter in the early stages of his busi­ness and dropped him to school. He ap­pre­ci­ates Ra­jesh Gupta’s dili­gence and hard work, which even­tu­ally helped by giv­ing him a stand­ing in the leather world. His own suc­cess too has not made him com­pla­cent. He has not for­got­ten his hum­ble roots. Even to­day, his fa­ther con­tin­ues to be his role model and in­spires him to move for­ward in life.

Lastly, talk­ing about the fu­ture, he says, “The fu­ture of In­dian busi­ness will de­pend on re­mov­ing the de­pen­dency of busi­nesses on brand li­cences, while still main­tain­ing classy de­signs and valu­able op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency.”

Be­low left: (L-R) Aakan­sha Gupta, Ra­jesh Gupta, Yashovard­han Gupta and Sarita Gupta Be­low right: Ra­jesh Gupta and Yashovard­han Gupta with Torero’s prod­ucts

Top left and top right: Work in progress at Torero Cor­po­ra­tion’s leather fac­tory in Kolkata

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