RAYMOND – A rich fine blend of fine fabric and ideal vision that crossed nine decades

 

The Raymond Group was incorporated in 1925 and within a span of a few years, transformed from being an Indian textile major to a global conglomerate. In its endeavor to keep nurturing quality and leadership, Raymond always choose the path untaken – from being the first in 1959 to introduce a polywool blend in India to creating the world’s finest suiting fabric the Super 250s made from the superfine 11.4 micron wool.

Mr. Harish Kumar Chatterjee, Vice President – Manufacturing

Today, the Raymond group is vertically and horizontally integrated to provide customers total textile solutions. Few companies globally have such a diverse product range of nearly 20,000 varieties of worsted suiting to cater to customers across age groups, occasions and styles. Raymond manufactures for the world the finest fabrics – from wool to wool-blended worsted suiting to specialty ring denims as well as high value shirting.

Raymond is a brand name that reminds us of a textile culture so unique and great that it has been the top player in this industry since its inception in 1925. It has made its mark as a superior brand in the Indian textile industry and has also emerged as a global conglomerate.

The company started as a manufacturer of woollen items like blankets and jackets in the typical old woollen machinery-based set-up at Thane in Mumbai with a small capacity of 7,000 – 10,000 meters of fabric per day. But the ambition of the owners was much bigger. From the very beginning, they had a modern outlook and time and again they changed a lot of machinery in order to keep abreast of the ongoing globalization and modernization.

The second unit of the brand was set up at Jalgaon where production of poly / wool fabric began. A third unit was established in Chhindwara in 1990 with a few old and new machines. It had a production capacity of 50 thousand meters per day. The fourth unit, set up at Vapi in 2005, had all modern and imported machinery, from wool scouring to weaving and processing, or as is said “from sheep’s back to man’s back”. It has a production capacity of 75 thousand meters of fabric per day. Although the Thane unit was closed down in 2010, the other three remaining plans still command a production capacity of 1,30,000 meters per day.

The Chhindwara and Vapi units of the brand are fully modernized and equipped with the latest and most efficient machinery required for production of wool and poly / wool fabrics. The grey wool and grey polyester is bought from the market, and wool scouring, wool combing, wool and polyester recombing, spinning, weaving, finishing and folding are all done at the plant itself. The finished goods are also warehoused there.

Raymond, proving itself as a brand of quality, uses only Australian wool for its products as this wool is considered the best in the world. The fabrics manufactured vary from 50 per cent wool and polyester blend to 100 per cent wool-based fabric. It also varies from 120 count fabric to 24 count fabrics. A special 250 count fabric was also made at the Vapi plant, which was the finest fabric in the world, made to be sold both in the domestic and international markets as well.

The best machines available in the world are used by Raymond to produce fabrics like the Andar scouring machine, NSC combing machine, Bellini dyeing machine, Zinser ring frames in spinning, as well as Picanol rapier looms for weaving. The brand overall owns eight Picanol air jets, used for specific poly viscose fabric, and 500 rapiers. It also owns 546 spindle ring frames at all the plants combined. The Vapi plant is the most modernized and has all imported machinery, including the ones used for fabric processing and finishing.

The brand also maintains its sources of captive power at the Chhindwara and Vapi units. The Chhindwara unit has its own power plant, which costs the least, whereas the Vapi unit has a gas plant. Alternative sources of energy like windmills and solar panels used by the company are for lighting purposes, and are not meant for operating machinery.

Raymond recently invested a huge amount in a readymade garments manufacturing unit in Ethiopia. The fabric is exported from India, which after processing would be sold to the American and European markets.

Commenting on the plant, Mr. Harish Kumar Chatterjee, Vice President – Manufacturing, said: “The investment is the most economical one, and the Ethiopian Government is very supportive in terms of providing subsidies, etc. Further, Ethiopia, being closer to the US and Europe, makes transportation easier and cheaper.”

Although the wool and poly / wool business is not growing rapidly, Raymond is not only surviving in the market since last nine decades but also has a huge 60 per cent market share in worsted suiting in India. It is one of the largest integrated manufacturers of worsted fabric in the world. The Raymond brand is the biggest player in this industry, the main reason being the variety and quality of the fabric it manufactures, other reasons are also there like dying competition, monopoly of the brand in the Indian market, etc. The industry is growing at the rate of 7 per cent to 8 per cent per year which will insure the maintenance of the strong hold of the brand on the market, but may not allow loopholes for the other players to emerge.

The company also has spare lands of about 30-40 acres which can be utilised for production capacity expansion. The plan of modernization for the brand is the same as before – being the first to introduce new and innovative strategies and machinery in the market.

“We are always the initiators of innovation in the Indian market. There are textile exhibitions like India ITME, ITMA and other international shows where at least 40 to 45 participants are always from Raymond. We ensure if any new technology/process is observed there that should be definitely tested and implemented in our plants. Recently we changed all the old looms in the Chhindwara plant with the latest Picanol rapier looms”, said Mr. Chatterjee. As the market is growing and the machinery is becoming more innovation driven, Raymond today is in the best form to keep up with the change.

The GST implementation has its impact on manufacturing and selling alike, but Raymond, as an integrated unit, stands strong and firm. According to Mr. Chatterjee, the company will not face much difficulty even though the market is going through a tough phase. The company is well organized and prepared for the change, there have been workshops and discussions on the topic of GST and there won’t be many changes as far as the brand is concerned, although as far as small producers are concerned, their share of the market will decline and they will eventually vanish.

The growth philosophy

Said Mr. Chatterjee: “Whatever you produce, produce the best, and at the best possible price”. The brand not only stands for quality products, and it has been made sure by the management that the products turn out to be very cost effective. The best kind of raw material being used and the best possible machinery in the plants take care of these factors.

Customer satisfaction is the key to success for every brand, and so is followed at Raymond. The issue of price seeming to be very high is a common problem amongst brands and to solve that, the brand’s marketing team is working very hard, they are trying to make people understand the difference between the cheaper poly-viscose and the poly / wool fabric and they are also displaying various items and products that will help them to educate the customers about the fabrics even more.

Just like the strength of a country lies in its people, the strength of a company lies in its workforce, and Raymond has successfully maintained a huge workforce over the years. “The best thing about this brand is its manufacturing setup and people have been here for many years”, said Mr. Chatterjee in his interview “we are mentally satisfied here and people are empowered to do their work freely. There is no bureaucracy and then it is a professionally managed company. The rules are common for all and not vary from ‘lala to lala ka special admi’ the rewards are performance based and the company is performance oriented” the company, specifically in the manufacturing department has 93 per cent senior employees having experience of almost thirty years or more. Mr. Harish Kumar Chatterjee himself is one of those people, as he has been with the company for three decades.

According to him, if an employee has worked with the company for more than five years, that person will not be able to leave because of the culture that exists at Raymond, the work satisfaction and growth they get here is not found anywhere else. Also the employees that had left before have tried to come back to the brand and have been taken back as well. “Raymond is like a mother company for India in the poly/wool manufacturing sector”, he added.

Since the last 92 years, Raymond has been a brand that has existed and held power in a market that is ever growing and changing faster than the weather. One of the USP’s that made the brand as big as it is today is the quality of the products being sold in the domestic and export market. The wool used is best quality Australian wool, all machines are high tech and the leaders are ambitious and are working on bringing the change as well as coping with it. They are continuously involved in a process of innovation and experimentation in order to bring about the best in the produced fabrics and are also simultaneously creating a market to sell the same.

Another factor that gives Raymond a competitive edge in the market is its variety of products and fabrics. According to Mr. Chatterjee, one can just imagine a fabric and it can be created by the brand, which is one thing customers are most attracted to “you can just go to any Raymond store and any kind of fabric, any color any shade, any blend, and any quality you desire you’ll get there”, he added.

The third thing that makes Raymond a dominant brand is the culture that exists among the brand and its employees. As Mr. Harish Chatterjee mentioned: “The company has a very strong culture. All the employees work here as a family, there is no hierarchy and no bureaucracy amongst the leaders and the workers, hence there is a lot of work satisfaction which is also one of the many reasons people don’t want to leave the brand, and which has made the brand internally strong enough to survive and grow in a market where all the other producers are dying”.

Raymond’s Mission for 2025

According to Mr. Harish Chatterjee, Raymond as a brand will be the biggest brand in the Indian market for poly / wool by the year 2025, “we will feed the entire world with the best quality of poly / wool”, he said, and with the level of modernization and the production capacity the brand possesses in the present time, this statement seems to be coming true.

Along with the changing market the production culture is changing as well. A lot of machinery produced nowadays is automated, largely due to labor shortage, which is also one of the advancements at Raymond. The brand, in its Chhindwara and Vapi units has a lot of fully automatic machinery. The Vapi plant has 1,280 workers and the Chhindwara plant has 3,200 workers still Vapi possesses double the production capacity than that of the Chhindwara plant. This is because of the fully automated machinery present there. From the biometric attendance checking system, to the kitchen and food making utility, everything is automatic. “The total power steam consumption, utility consumption, etc., all is monitored online, on every minute basis, everything is measured and controlled,” Mr. Chatterjee said. Because of this controlling monitoring and efficient utilization of resources all the three plants have received energy efficiency award thrice. Raymond textile manufacturing units are among the first textile manufacturing units in India to be accredited with Energy Management System 50001 – 2011.

Raymond has more than 20,000 design and colors of suiting fabric which makes it one of largest collection of designs and colors by single company. It was also listed as India’s most trusted apparel brand by The Brand Trust Report in 2015. Moving forward, blending in with the changing market conditions Raymond is sure to emerge as one of the biggest brand names to represent the Indian textile market in the near future.

 
 
 
 
 

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