Marwar - - Contents - Text Joseph Rozario

Don­ear In­dus­tries Ltd has rid­den the winds of change to emerge stronger and bet­ter pre­pared for the fu­ture. With the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Grasim Bhi­wani Tex­tiles Ltd and OCM Woollen Mills, the brand now looks poised for bet­ter times un­der its dy­namic manag­ing di­rec­tor, Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal.

For a brand that dates back to a time when tai­lored cloth­ing was de rigueur for fash­ion con­scious men, Don­ear has rid­den the winds of change to emerge stronger and bet­ter pre­pared for the fu­ture. With the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Grasim Bhi­wani Tex­tiles Ltd and OCM Woollen Mills, the brand looks poised to take on the men’s fash­ion fir­ma­ment by storm un­der its dy­namic manag­ing di­rec­tor, Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal.

VISH­WANATH AGAR­WAL, THE MAN WHO TO­GETHER with his sons Ra­jen­dra and Ajay founded Don­ear In­dus­tries Ltd, is 79 years old now. De­spite his ad­vanced age, he re­mains con­nected with the busi­ness, though it is el­der son Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal who runs the show, with, of course, brother Ajay shoul­der­ing part of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The birth of a brand

Talk­ing about Don­ear’s in­cep­tion, Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal enu­mer­ates his fa­ther’s many pos­i­tive at­tributes, be­fore tak­ing us back to the year 1959, when Vish­wanath Agar­wal left home in Lak­sh­man­garh, Ra­jasthan to make his fu­ture in Bom­bay (now Mum­bai). In Bom­bay, he took to trad­ing in mul­muls (grey fab­ric used for mak­ing saris, dho­tis, etc), work­ing hard to sta­bilise the busi­ness, but only to lose it all in a dev­as­tat­ing fire in 1971. Start­ing anew, he got into a part­ner­ship to trade in Jiya­jeerao Cot­ton Mills’ newly in­tro­duced syn­thetic fab­rics in 1972-73, but not re­ally con­tent with be­ing a trader, in 1977 he coined the Don­ear brand name and took to small scale man­u­fac­tur­ing, backed by rented looms at Bhi­wandi (in Bom­bay).

Vish­wanath Agar­wal had no se­ri­ous plans to turn tex­tiles into a fam­ily busi­ness by in­duct­ing his sons into it, un­til an un­savoury in­ci­dent that called his tech­ni­cal knowl­edge of weav­ing into ques­tion had him change his mind. With that, he swore to turn his son Ra­jen­dra into a tex­tile en­gi­neer. Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal, on his part, agreed with­out de­mur, his only con­di­tion be­ing that he would put up a fac­tory and wouldn’t be just a trader.

With that, the aca­dem­i­cally bril­liant Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal pro­ceeded to Vic­to­ria Ju­bilee Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute in Bom­bay to do his BTech in tex­tile en­gi­neer­ing and then joined ranks with his fa­ther in Don­ear, af­ter pass­ing out with a gold medal.

Big-time busi­ness

In the mean­while, his fa­ther had bought the land for set­ting up a fac­tory, as he had promised—a one-acre plot at Mur­bad, in Ma­ha­rash­tra—which was pre­sented to Ra­jen­dra on the day he grad­u­ated. With that, Don­ear’s first plant, a polyester vis­cose fab­ric unit, came into be­ing at Mur­bad, set­ting the Agar­wals on the road to big-time busi­ness. The Agar­wals have main­tained an even keel since with Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal tak­ing con­trol of the pro­duc­tion, fi­nance, ad­min­is­tra­tion and HR side of the busi­ness as the manag­ing di­rec­tor of Don­ear In­dus­tries Ltd, and Ajay tak­ing over sales and mar­ket­ing, as the com­pany's ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. Along the jour­ney, they have also kept abreast of the dra­matic changes that the men’s fash­ion in­dus­try has un­der­gone over the decades.

Soon af­ter set­ting up the Mur­bad plant, the Agar­wals put up a sec­ond plant at Um­ber­goan, Gu­jarat, and then in 1989, a polyester tex­tile yarn plant at Sil­vassa. Th­ese were fol­lowed by a fab­ric unit at Sil­vassa in 1994 and a sec­ond fab­ric unit (also at Sil­vassa) in 1999. Whereas both th­ese fab­ric units are still run­ning, the polyester yarn unit turned out to be un­prof­itable and was shut down in 2004. Re­al­is­ing the im­por­tance of cot­ton fab­rics, the very next year the Agar­wal trio was back to the board­room weigh­ing

In 2009, Don­ear re­alised that

the fu­ture of the busi­ness lay in gar­ment­ing and re­tail­ing, and ac­cord­ingly in­tro­duced two new

brands that were in keep­ing with chang­ing mar­ket trends and cus­tomer pref­er­ences

op­tions about their next cot­ton fab­ric plant in Su­rat and also to chalk out their prod­uct strat­egy for the fu­ture. To make a dent in the mar­ket, they de­cided to in­vest heav­ily in a liq­uid am­mo­nia treat­ment plant which makes cot­ton fab­ric wrin­kle-re­sis­tant (of which only 16 had been in­stalled till then in the world), and to­day, look­ing back, Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal thanks him­self for it. “I thought that if I in­stall this liq­uid am­mo­nia ma­chine, then im­me­di­ately all the cus­tomers would take no­tice of me and treat me se­ri­ously; and to­day, true enough, al­most all brands in In­dia buy our fab­rics,” says Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal. Slow and steady wins the race For Don­ear, growth, how­ever, has been slow and steady, feels Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal, con­sid­er­ing that the com­pany is four decades old. The rea­son for this is the Agar­wals’ ex­tremely cal­cu­lated ap­proach to busi­ness. “By and large, we are con­ser­va­tive, be­cause our be­lief is that busi­ness should be done with ethics and slowly and steadily—and with very, very care­ful plan­ning. We don’t rush ba­si­cally,” says Agar­wal.

This mea­sured ap­proach to busi­ness may not have put Don­ear ahead of time, but has helped it be there just on time, feels Agar­wal. It has also helped them be trend­set­ters in the mar­ket, hav­ing started the prac­tice of send­ing com­pany sales of­fi­cers to­gether with dis­trib­u­tors to re­tail­ers—a ges­ture much ap­pre­ci­ated by re­tail­ers—and in­tro­duc­ing gift packs for fes­tive gift­ing. Both have been adopted by other fab­ric man­u­fac­tur­ers since. Plan­ning for the fu­ture In 2009, Don­ear re­alised that the fu­ture of the busi­ness lay in gar­ment­ing and re­tail­ing, and ac­cord­ingly in­tro­duced two new brands that were in keep­ing with chang­ing mar­ket trends and cus­tomer pref­er­ences: D’Cot and Don­ear NXG. While D’Cot (or Don­ear Cot­ton) of­fered a range of ca­sual and semi-for­mal cot­ton menswear, avail­able through ex­clu­sive brand out­lets, Don­ear NXG of­fered for­mal and semi-for­mal wear, re­tailed through multi-brand out­lets.

Don­ear NXG, in­ci­den­tally, is now headed by Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal’s son, Rahul Agar­wal, who joined the fam­ily busi­ness six years ago, af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Bab­son Col­lege, USA. Start­ing with D’Cot, he went on to work in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties, in­clud­ing over­see­ing the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of Don­ear’s head of­fice in And­heri, Mum­bai and Don­ear’s Su­rat plant, which is a fully equipped, state-ofthe-art fa­cil­ity for yarn dye­ing, weav­ing, pro­cess­ing and pack­ag­ing.

Com­ple­ment­ing him is his cousin Surya, Ajay Agar­wal’s son, who has joined the busi­ness just this year, af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity, USA. Surya al­ready seems to be very strong on the op­er­a­tions side of the busi­ness and the duo com­ple­ments each other and holds

prom­ise as the next gen­er­a­tion of the Agar­wals, just as their fa­thers have be­fore them.

Grow­ing in­or­gan­i­cally

Don­ear’s biggest spurt of growth in­ter­est­ingly has come close on the heels of the next gen­er­a­tion step­ping in. Ear­lier this year, it has ac­quired two very pres­ti­gious com­pa­nies: Grasim Bhi­wani Tex­tiles Ltd (GBTL), a poly-vis­cose fab­rics sub­sidiary of Grasim In­dus­tries; and OCM Woollen Mills, a re­puted woollen and worsted fab­rics man­u­fac­turer. Apart from pro­vid­ing mar­ket­ing syn­er­gies and added pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties, th­ese ac­qui­si­tions have widened Don­ear’s prod­uct port­fo­lio to in­clude of­fer­ings in ev­ery seg­ment. Ear­lier, Don­ear was cater­ing to mostly the mid­dle-class, but with th­ese ac­qui­si­tions, it has the com­plete prod­uct range to cater to high-in­come as well as mid­dle-in­come groups.

With this, Don­ear’s prod­uct port­fo­lio now boasts the en­tire gamut of menswear, be it ca­su­als, semi-for­mals or for­mals and also the en­tire range of fab­rics such

as cot­ton, polyester vis­cose, terry rayon, cot­ton wool, poly wool, all wool, etc. Most of th­ese are mar­keted in In­dia through an ex­ten­sive net­work of 290 whole­salers and 12,000 re­tail­ers and the rest is ex­ported. While Don­ear ex­ports 10 per cent of its pro­duce, GBTL ex­ports half of its pro­duc­tion. So where does all this put Don­ear vis-à-vis its con­tem­po­raries? “In the branded seg­ment, we are among the top three play­ers af­ter Ray­mond and Si­yaram,” says Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal. And where do you fore­see Don­ear go­ing in the next five years? “Our aim is to grow by min­i­mum 100 per cent; it may reach 200 per cent also,” he replies.

The fu­ture

Whether this am­bi­tious tar­get will be achieved, the fu­ture will tell. But bear­ing in mind that Don­ear has been named among the ‘70 Most Trusted Power Brands’ at the re­cently held Power Brands Mum­bai Sum­mit (which is counted among the most pres­ti­gious awards for brand po­si­tion­ing and recog­ni­tion) and that there are now three gen­er­a­tions of Agar­wals to take the group’s in­ter­ests fur­ther, Don­ear cer­tainly seems headed for bet­ter times.

Ear­lier, cater­ing Don­ear to mostly was the mid­dle- class, but with th­ese ac­qui­si­tions, it has

the com­plete prod­uct range to cater to high­in­come as well as mid­dle

in­come groups

Left: Don­ear's state-of-the-art pro­cess­ing unit in Su­rat Bot­tom (from left): Rahul Agar­wal (son of Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal) and Surya Agar­wal (son of Ajay Agar­wal)

Top (from left): Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal (Manag­ing Di­rec­tor, Don­ear In­dus­tries Ltd) with brother Ajay Agar­wal (Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Don­ear In­dus­tries Ltd)

Ra­jen­dra Agar­wal, MD, Don­ear In­dus­tries Ltd

Clock­wise from top, left: Fab­rics from Don­ear Suit­ing; Don­ear Cot­ton Shirt­ing; Don­ear's Su­rat Plant

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