The problem with interviewing Raju Shroff is that you know he’s going to be wearing a better suit than you. And he can probably tell exactly how much you paid for yours.
But then nobody should expect anything less: the boss of the textile giant Regal Group has been at the heart of the industry for nearly three decades, and now oversees the entire operation set up by his legendary father, Vasu Shroff. And it is some operation: retailing, wholesaling, indenting and stitching.
Just for good measure, there is a technology company, a real estate investments operations and even talk of one day going into events management. Little wonder most experts put a $500m plus valuation on the empire started from scratch.
“To me now it is all about success and achievement, money is a secondary motive. It is about doing something great, something big and something special. And I think we are doing all three,” says Raju Shroff.
Few would argue with that. Around 600 wholesalers are constantly battling for a chunk of a $3bn textiles import market in the Middle East, though by most measures, Shroff’s Regal Group is the leader of the pack, with 210 of the company’s 350 employees dedicated to textiles. With a big say in retailing, distribution, indenting and stitching, the group has successfully cornered the entire supply chain of the industry, and apart from manufacturing, is involved in just about every aspect. It has fourteen retail stores in Dubai, six separate distribution outlets and three divisions of indenting for Europe, Asia and India/China. A massive expansion of its retail outlets across the GCC, including the so-far-untapped Saudi Arabian market is on the cards in the coming years, and after taking a few hits during the recession, Shroff is confident that the worst is over.
“We were here during the good times and like many people made the most of it. Our businesses grew by 30 percent between 2004 and 2008. Yes, it dipped after that but by last year it was jumping again. In certain pockets, such as retail things have stabilised, though we have been more cautious in our distribution and wholesale businesses. Don’t forget we sell all around the region, so in places like Libya, Tunisia, Iran and Syria, where there is obviously an element of risk, we have held back,” he says.
Shroff adds: “Apart from manufacturing we do everything. When we do our own purchases we go to a factory in India, China or Europe, we decide on the fabric and we create — we outsource most of it, we have designers in France and South Korea. We outsource the material and design, and we import it into our wholesale division. Our skill is choosing the right designs and products.”
Right now, growth is the key. The retailing side accounts for around a third of the Regal Group’s revenues, but Shroff admits the focus in the past few years has been very much on distribution. That is changing, with new retail outlets planned for Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait, on top of the Doha store which was opened in December last year.
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